Your wedding is probably the biggest event of your adult life, right next to having kids or landing your first job. There are birthdays, graduations, but a girl dreams of her wedding all her life and finally when she meets “the one”, lives out her own fairy-tale. I was like those girls too. I didn’t plan my entire wedding out but always thought about where to do the shopping and what colors to wear. And like most life plans, the ideas of my dream wedding evolved as new trends rolled in and I formed my own personal style. And that is really okay. I think at the end of the day who the groom is matters. Once you meet “the one” then it is easier to narrow down the millions of choices of designers, styles, and colors to come up with a coherent vision together. If you are planning your wedding and shopping for your wedding events’ dresses, begin with my recommendations.
First of all, I want to say congratulations. This is a big moment in your life–a turning point where after a huge celebration, you become someone’s wife and have all the responsibilities the role entails. But of course the union needs to be celebrated and the bride needs to feel special. And that feeling begins with picking the perfect bridal attires. If you live outside Pakistan, you will be happy to learn that many Pakistani designers now have stockists internationally and have e-stores through which you can book your bridal outfits. However, if you are like me and want to experience a Pakistani version of “picking the dress (or dresses in this case)”, then you need to go to Pakistan. One of my favorite things about shopping in Pakistani boutiques and with designers is the refreshments they give you (if you are actually buying something). Expect some hot chai, and savory and sweet snacks to munch on during the shopping process in a boutique or designer store. Why? Because it can easily take a couple of hours to order and customize the design of your one bridal dress and you need to stay fresh and upbeat so you know exactly what you are getting.
Here are the top designers I recommend for each event.
The Bridal Shower
1. Shehla Chatoor: What I like about Shehla Chatoor’s designs is that they are the true amalgamation of the eastern and western aesthetics. She designs gowns, kimonos, and even jackets, but with beautiful prints and embroidery inspired from all over the world. I personally am not a big fan of her wedding attire, but her western-wear and fusion- wear is to die for. Knowing and judging her designs, I would highly recommend her for your bridal shower. Her cuts and silhouette are quite western and sleek so bridal showers are perfect occasions to don her designs.
2. Muse Luxe: Muse Luxe embroidery is one of the most unusual I have seen in Pakistan’s fashion industry. She uses a combination of sequins and freshwater pearls on all her western and eastern wear. Her motifs are quite artistic and stylized too. She is definitely for those brides that want to feel traditionally eastern during their wedding events. If your bridal shower has an eastern theme to it (as bridal showers are very western events in the first place) then Muse Luxe is definitely the designer to go to. They have western wear, but it’s nothing impressive.
1. Rano’s Heirlooms: When I first saw one of her designs on Ayesha Omer, I thought it was a bit Bunto Kazmi meets Lahore. Colorful combinations and traditional embroidery is her signature style. She uses paisley and other henna inspired motifs in her utterly “Lahori” designs. Loose frocks, flowing lenghas, ghararas and peshwas are silhouette styles of her choice. Mehndi is a colorful, traditional, and vibrant event and a bride needs to look just as colorful and vibrant as the decorations. Thus if you are looking for luxury with tradition and pops of colors for your mehndi look, look no further than Rano’s Heirlooms.
2. Wardha Saleem: Wardha Saleem is from Hyderabad, whose designs reflect her Sindhi background. I actually visited her studio in 2015 and was quite impressed with her work. She has a wide selection of cuts and silhouettes that are traditional and trendy. To me, her embroidery is what stands out. She incorporates animals, birds, the lotus flower, Mughal princesses, and other whimsical motifs that tell a story. The difference between Wardha Saleem and other designers are not just the splash of vibrant colors derived from her Sindhi background, but the intricate level of embroidery.
1. Farah Talib Aziz: Farah Talib Aziz designs are beautiful and she is quite popular for her Mehndi and Wedding Day designs but to me, they look too common. Her embroidery is beautiful, but the designs don’t stand out or apart from what other designers are offering. However, her chikankari pieces are exquisite. Traditionally, a Muslim bride wears white on her Nikkah day so if you have your Nikkah as a separate event, I recommend you go to Farah Talib Aziz and look into her chikankari work. She does lenghas, long kameezes, and peshwas with the most beautiful chikankari work. You can even be unique and add a pop of color in the dupatta.
2. Elan: Elan has a very unique embroidery style. The motifs are very western and the colors used are mostly pastels. Personally, I am not a big fan of their bright color combinations or anything they design in traditional bridal color. I guess it has something to do with the distinct nature of their embroidery designs. Some of my favorite pieces from Elan are in shades of metallic silver and shades of serene blue. So again, if you are going for light colors for your Nikkah, then look into Elan.
3. Nida Azwer: I learned about Nida Azwer about a year ago. Her mirror-wore kurtas and dupattas are to die for. If you want some fuss-free yet traditional look for your Nikkah day, then look into Nida Azwer. These mirror-work items are all hand-done and a more affordable option for that budget-loving bride. The mirror-work dupattas may feel heavy, but a good hairdresser can pin it securely in your hair. The entire look can look ethereal if done with minimal jewelry and the right makeup.
1. Bunto Kazmi: If you want to look like a Mughal princess on your Baraat Day then look no further than Bunto Kazmi. Her work demonstrates her very distinct personal style and you can spot a Bunto outfit from a mile away (at least I can). Although she does lighter colors, which are great for a valima event, I especially recommend her for your most important day–your Baraat. Unlike other designers, she sticks with a few color combinations with each outfit and sticks to designing farshi ghararas, which are so Baraat appropriate. She occasionally designs lenghas and ghararas with tukriyaan work (See HERE). I had the pleasure of seeing her embroidery in person and ladies, she is worth every penny. Her work is very intricate and “neat”, which she attributes to her meticulous eye. She creates one design for each bride so none of her brides look the same and she has been designing for over 35 years! Truly a special designer for a special bride!
2. Tena Durrani: Tena Durrani has very modern cuts and embroidery inspired by architecture and art in her bridals. Her bridals mostly consist of lenghas with different length cholis and long shirts. If you do not want to wear a gharara, but want an opulent modern lengha for your Baraat, then shop at Tena Durrani. If you are also looking for a budget-friendly premier designer outfit, then Tena Durrani should again be considered. She uses a lot of reds and pastels in her bridal designs so you have a wide selection to choose from.
3. Zara Shahjahan: Zara Shahjahan is a young and hip designer on the market. She is based in Lahore and is another budget-friendly designer. She uses a lot of lame in her designs so if you like the shiny glossy look then do look into her designs. I love her use of gota kinari work as well.
1. Layla Chatoor: I love Layla Chatoor’s work as it gives the appearance of being non-fussy and airy. To culminate your wedding events, how about following your festive, vibrant, and colorful wedding attire with something refreshing, new, and light. Honestly, Valima should be a low-key affair and different from your other events. Your guests are tired and I am sure your entire family along with your in-laws are exhausted. So how about opting for something outdoorsy to keep things fresh and fun? Instead of another indoor wedding with artificial lighting, think about having a day event or a sundowner outside where you use decor that accentuates nature? If you want that uncomplicated Valima event, the dress needs to match the mood. Layla Chatoor is definitely the designer that fits the mold. The pastel colors she uses, along with the non-heavy look of her embroidery is a winning combination for an outdoor Valima look.
There are other talented female designers I haven’t mentioned here like Feeha Jamshed (See HERE), Honey Waqar (See HERE), Zainab Chottani, Maheen Khan, Shameel Ansari, Sania Maskatiya (See HERE), Nida Azwer (See HERE) who are great choices. To me, a bride needs to make a personal connection with the designer when she is shopping for a wedding dress. If there is no connection, it leads to miscommunication, headaches, and heartbreaks. The designers I have mentioned above are designers that are special to me and designed dresses I can see myself getting married in. Happy Shopping!