Sana’s Favorite Budget-Friendly Brands

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Hi Guys! Even though I mostly focus on designer brands and labels, I thought it would be fun to include Pakistani brand labels because I love them so much.

I have noticed that in the last ten years or so people have really begun to prefer designer wear and brands. Gone are the days when you would go to the market with your mom and shop for fabric, bail (decorative edging), and dupatta coloring. These days the process requires too much effort. Even for me, taking the time to go to markets and shop for each aspect of one outfit and then having to drop it off to a darzi to get it all stitched together seem inconvenient and not worth the time from my short vacation. 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 got older, I find myself appreciating brands because they require a couple of hours and you come out with a handful of outfits. No fuss no muss.

It’s a common concept to think that branded clothes in malls are far more expensive than what you get stitched on your own. This may be true for people living in Pakistan who know the secrets for great shopping, but for people like us, I find the whole haggling part to be too stressful.  You can also save money by shopping during the sale season.

For this post, I had to do some thinking. I wanted to focus on Pakistani and international brands (since I wear both) that are affordable.  The following brands, in my opinion, offer the best in trends and in prices.  A common Pakistani man or woman may not be able to afford them, but compared to prices of designer wear that seem outright outrageous, these seem like affordable and chic options.

So here goes:

Khaadi

Khaadi (See HERE) has been around in Pakistan 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 among the Clifton/Defense crowd. My uncle and aunt took us to Park Towers and we casually strolled into the store, wondering what is in store for us. The first thing I noticed was the colors and weaving of the fine fabric and the embroidery on it. Everything looked very traditional and the quality was superb. Khaadi, as the name suggests, revives a lot of traditional embroidery and patterns with modern cuts. In 2001, it was a little expensive so all I got was an embroidered orange dupatta. I made a plain, black suit to go with it from the market. Today at Khaadi, you can buy kurtas, unstitched suits, embroidered pants and handbags, accessories, and formal wear at slightly higher prices, but without the hassle of shopping in those stuffy markets. A perennial favorite among the brands in Pakistan, I highly recommend Khaadi for your shopping needs.

Agha Noor

Ok. I learned about Agha Noor (See HERE) when I visited Karachi in 2015. I am not sure when the fashion label was established, but it seemed like (at least in Karachi) the newest craze. According to my aunt, people get there early in the afternoon when it opens and by the end of each day, the entire stock of the store is sold out. She wasn’t exaggerating. I saw this myself when I visited one of many Agha Noor branches in Karachi (Dolmen Mall Clifton). We were there in the evening or late afternoon and literally, the entire store was crowded and surrounding ten kurtas hanging. It was very frustrating for me! But if you ask beforehand when the new stock comes and go early enough to snatch your favorite trendy pieces, know the prices are super affordable.

Sapphire

Sapphire (See HERE) is a brand based in Lahore that made its way to Karachi in 2015. At the time, the head designer behind the affordable Sapphire brand was Elan’s Khadhija Shah. Sapphire is probably the most expensive of the three options mentioned here, but the items here are really cute, comfortable, detailed-oriented, and of excellent quality. When I visited their store in Dolman Mall Tariq Road, the masses were going crazy over Sapphire’s digital prints-especially those including animals and birds. Each collection boasting over 100+ designs is unique, trendy, and unlike any other collections in the past. Each design in the store also comes in various sizes fitting any body type within the 0-14 dress size. What stands out to me are their pants. Sapphire pants carry the most intricately detailed pants I have ever seen. Check out the store only if you want to purchase relatively expensive pret wear.

Other non-designer brands not mentioned here, but are worth checking out are Gul Ahmed, Nishat Linen, and Threadz.

Anthropologie

Anthropologie (See HERE) is like the Ensemble of United States. Different designers and brands, some prominent, some emerging, are curated and selected by Anthropologie and sold at their stores. They sell everything from jewelry, clothes, shoes to furniture, bedding, and kitchenware. The options at Anthropologie are very eclectic, yet all have a bohemian feel. Most of the items here are creatively designed pieces, which you won’t find in any other stores such as Gap or J. Crew. The skirts, shirts, you name it, have a very feminine and a Parisian feel to them.

Banana Republic

In my twenties, I fell in love with Banana Republic (See HERE). I spent my childhood and teens wearing hand-me-downs and Gap clothes so when I got my career aligned, I invested in some cute professional clothes from Banana Republic that always got compliments. Banana Republic is known for its two or three color scheme. They stick to basic beige, blue, black, and white colors with random colors thrown in occasionally. Their holiday collection consists of shiny and glittery sequins tops, but primarily the color palette is the same all year long. If you like neutral colors then this place will be shopping heaven. I say for work-wear shopping, this place is the place to check out.

Zara’s

I first learned about Zara’s (See HERE) on one of my trips to Europe. I had heard of famous brands such as Mango and Zara’s in Europe, so it was cool to see their stores in person. Sadly, 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 from. Their clothes are trendy and affordable; you just have to mind the sizes when purchasing.

Asos’s

I learned about Asos’s website (See HERE) this year from a fashion blog I follow. I think this brand is based in the United Kingdom, but the website is also managed in the United States. I browsed their US website version and it seems seamless and the prices are in dollars! I haven’t bought anything from this website yet but will do in the future. Their clothes give an H&M and Forever 21 vibe so if you are around that age group and love that type of clothing then check them out.

Other brands I am not particularly a fan of but are popular, are Forever 21, H&M, and Top Shop for young adults. For more professional and mature attire, do look into Mango’s (See HERE). Happy Shopping!