I have noticed that in the last ten years or so people have really begun to prefer designer wear and brands rather than no labels. Gone are the days, when you would go to the market with your mom and shop for fabric, bail, and dupatta coloring. For some it's too much effort to take time out of their busy schedule and go to markets and shop for each aspect of an outfit and then drop it off to a darzi to get stitched together. When I was younger and had the stamina to walk through stuffy, ill-lit markets in Karachi, I would love looking through an endless display of fabrics and embellishments. However, as I get older, I appreciate going to a known brand, spending a couple of hours there and coming out with a handful of outfits. No fuss no muss.
It's a common concept to think that these branded clothes are far more expensive than what you can make in the market. Although, it's partly true, I feel like you can get away with bargain prices if you shop during the sale season. Market prices are much cheaper, but if you want to avoid a heat stroke, then shop at some branded stores where there is an AC.
For this post, I had to do some thinking. I wanted to focus on Pakistani and international brands (since western wear is becoming more common in Pakistan) that are affordable for those busy people, faint-hearted people. The following brands, in my opinion offer the best in trends in doable prices. A common Pakistani man or woman may not be able to afford them, but, compared to the prices of designer wear, which seems like outright gluttony, these seem like an affordable and chic options.
So here goes:
Khaadi: Khaadi has been around for some 18+ years. I first heard about this store when I visited Karachi in 2001. It was a couple of years old by then and very popular in the Clifton/Defense crowd. My uncle and aunt took us to Park Towers and we strolled into the store. The first thing I noticed was the color and embroidery. Khaadi, as the name suggests, revives a lot of traditional embroidery and patterns in modern cuts. In 2001, it was a little expensive so all I got was an orange, embroidered duppatta. I made a plain, black suit for it from the market. Today at Khaadi with even the markets being not so cheap, you can buy kurtas, pants, handbags, accessories, and formal wear at slightly higher prices, but without the hassle. Still a favorite among the brands in Pakistan, I highly recommend Khaadi for your shopping needs.
Agha Noor: Ok. I learned about Agha Noor when I was in Karachi in 2015. I am not sure when it was established, but it seems like (at least in Karachi) a new phenomenon. According to my aunt, people get there early in the morning as it opens and by the end of the day the stock in the entire store is sold out. She isn't lying. I experienced this myself when I visited one of their many branches in Karachi (Dolmen Mall Clifton). We visited them in the evening or late afternoon and literally the entire store had a hoard of crowd, but 10 pieces of clothing hanging. Very frustrating! The prices are affordable so it's really cool to get trendy stuff from there.
Sapphire: Sapphire is a Lahore brand that has made its way to Karachi as well. It is an offshoot of the much successful Khadhija Shah's Elan, which is more couture wear and bridal wear. Sapphire is probably the most expensive of the three options, but stuff here is really cute and there is much attention to the details. When I visited their store in Dolman Mall Tariq Road back in 2015, the pret wear trends were crazy over digital prints-especially of animals and birds. Sapphire doesn't hold back on these types of motifs in their pret wear. What stood out to me at the store were their pants. The pants there were the most intricately detailed than I had ever seen. Check out the store only if you want to purchase relatively expensive pret wear.
Other brands not mentioned, but are worth checking out are Gul Ahmed, Nishat Linen and not to mention the ever-popular Sana Safinaz.
In this post, I have focused on some western brands as well. Some I shop at regularly. If you ever are traveling or online and are lost where to shop, then do consider these brands.
Anthropologie: is like the Ensemble of US. Different design houses, some prominent, some emerging are curated and selected by Anthropologie and sold at their stores. They sell everything from jewelry, clothes, shoes to furniture and dinnerware. The options at Anthropologie are very eclectic and bohemian in my opinion. There are some creative pieces, which you won't find in any other stores such as Gap or J. Crew. The skirts, shirts and every selection of item there is very feminine and has a Parisian feel to them.
Banana Republic: During my twenties I fell in love with Banana Republic. I spent my childhood and teens wearing hand-me-downs and Gap so when I got my career aligned, I invested in some cute professional clothes from Banana Republic and always got compliments. Banana Republic is known for its two or three color scheme. They stick to beige, black, and white with random colors in there somewhere. Their holiday collection consists of shiny and glittery sequins tops, but primarily the color palette is the same. If you like neutral colors, then this place will be a shopping heaven. I say for work wear this place is the place to check out.
Zara's: I first learned about Zara's in Austria. I had heard of brands such as Mango and Zara's being famous in Europe so it was cool to see them in person. Everything ran small and the currency was in Euro's so my sister bought clothes, while I just oogled at the clothes. So it was quite a pleasant surprise when I learned that Zara's opened in San Francisco and then in a mall close to me in San Jose. Like Banana Republic and Anthropologie, Zara's has a great website that you can shop on. Their clothes are trendy and affordable, just mind the sizes when purchasing as mentioned before.
Asos's: I just learned about this website on a fashion blog I follow. I think this brand is based in the UK, but the website is also managed in US. The shopping experience seems seamless and the prices are in dollars! I haven't bought anything from this website yet, but will do in the near future. It gives a H&M and Forever 21 vibe, so if you are around that age group and love that style, then do look into this brand.
Other's not mentioned are Forever 21, H&M, and Top Shop for young adults and for more professional attire, do look into Mango's.