Karachi vs. Lahore Fashion “Noticings”

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The friendly and maybe not-so-friendly rivalry between Lahore and Karachi has been going on forever it seems. When I was a child growing up in Pakistan, I would hear comparisons about a Pakistani and a Pakistani-immigrant (Muhajers they called them). Today, that mentality of us vs. them has become more respectable and is present between the two metropolitan cities. It is not limited to just one aspect or two, but covers everything from food, culture to fashion. So today we will discuss the billion dollar (or rupee) question: Which city offers the best in fashion for its residents?

In the 80’s and 90’s, I could spot a stark difference. I remember having conversations with my sister about this. Lahore fashion was all about colors and having multiple combinations in one outfit. It was not uncommon to spot an outfit with 2-3 bright color schemes. In Karachi, it was the opposite-less was more. They opted for sleeker silhouettes with 1-2 color schemes. Today, I see that Lahoris have adopted Karachi’s aesthetic sense and offer less color combinations in clothes-they even experiment with pastels. Karachi on the other hand have taken a page out of the Lahori style book and started wearing bright, beautiful color combinations at weddings, especially Mehndis (pre-wedding party).

Karachi daily wear fashion has no boundaries to it and is more experimental. From high heels to flip flops, whether you are talking about the high end malls like Dolmen, or the infinite number of shops near Tariq road, you find everyone buying everything. Before the 2000’s you couldn’t say that about Lahore. While Lahore was touted to be the cultural hub of Pakistan, it lagged behind in fashion. I remember seeing photos of Lahori women wearing bright colors with big embroidery motives. However, through the years I see less and less difference in the two cities. Through my research I began to see a common trend among the two cities. Karachi seems to have a large mix of clothing tastes. Women tend to experiment more with their individual sensibilities and designer aesthetics. They do get attracted to less ornate clothing relying more on the fit and cut of the garment. Lahori’s on the other hand are more conservative and traditional.

From reading the above observations, it is not surprising to learn Lahoris play up the drama in traditional wear and enjoy making a statement, while the Karachi fashionistas are criticized for being understated and bland. Lahori’s like to play up their designer couture, while Karachi likes to showcase their designer accessories such as handbags.

Even designers design according to each city’s aesthetic demands. Lahore-based designers have a more classic, conservative and traditional take on fashion. For example, it is really common to see gota work in Lahori or chunri (see here) formal wear. They go to great depths to add detail to their creations, but are a little less experimental with regard to silhouettes. Karachi designers are more avant-garde with their approach, especially in terms of cuts and silhouettes.

Before there was a prominent difference with Karachi being more cutting edge and Lahore reviving traditional handwork. Now I see little difference.

Differences
1. Experiment with modern cuts and silhouettes. Lahoris Misha Lakhani, Kamiar Roknhi, Umar Sayeed are traditional while I can think of only Bunto Kazmi in Karachi as retaining the traditional flair.
2. Lahori’s embroidery preferences include gota and large, heavy jewels stones work, while Karachi’s embroidery is filled with delicate Zardozi work with maybe Swarovski crystals.

Similarities
1. Both get inspiration from different art forms and Sub-continent history. Studio S. is inspired by art and artists in general, Elan from European artwork and Tena Durrani from architecture. Umar Sayeed and Kamiar Rokhni (Lahore) and Bunto Kazmi (Karachi) play up the Mughal vibes.
2. Selection of fabric is common as well as they are influenced by western fashion. For example: velvet, lawn, lace, net, etc.

In conclusion here is what I believe:

Lahori fashion remains traditional to the core whereas Karachi is heavily influenced from the minimalism of the West. Karachi’s aesthetics revolve around innovative cuts and Lahore has a tendency to rely more on embellishments for pizzazz. Any difference fades when it comes to socialite fashion: the fashion-savvy are always willing to experiment, be it Paris, New York or our Lahore or Karachi!

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