It Suits Us Better

Pakistani Suit

Indian designers haven’t done much to re-energise the ubiquitous Desi Salwar Suit. But its got an elegant makover with inspiration from across the border.

Remember that seminal cinematic moment is Jab We Met, when Kareena Kapoor, wearing a Patiala Style Salwar and Long T-Shirt, jumps off a train? That outfit, which launched a style tsunami? But that was seven years ago, which in fashion parlance, might as well be a millenia. The salwar suit style train has since left the Patiala station and is now halting in Pakistan.

Because women in India are now wearing something that’s loosly called the Pakistani suit and its changed the Indian salwar suit mould entirely. This particluar style typically includes an ankle length kurta with deep side slits, worn with pant style salwar, usually edged with lace. The pakistani suit got fame in 2012, after a successful exhibit, Lifestyle Pakistan – a first of its kind premium exhibition held in Delhi that year. Shocasing apparels, textiles, design, furniture, jewellery and art, the exhibition gathered a huge response and initated a chain reaction to what was to become one of the biggest salwar suit trends in the coming years.

Mission Domination

The managers of Libas Impex, a clothing and apparel store in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi, one of the biggest salwar suit markets in the country, tell us that Pakistani style suits make for almost 30 percent of all sales – a sizable chunk in a  market that is dominated by heavy net churidaar suits and flouncy Anarkali style kurtas.

“The suit is typically made in fabric called lawn, which till recently was only exported from Pakistan”, one of the store employees told us. “Now vairations of lawn are available in Surat and other fabrics like cotton satin, chiffon and mulmul are being employed for the suit.”

The Indian fashion market, which till recently divided its focus between ornate wedding-worthy Indian wear and trendy western wear, rarely gave women adequately stylish choices for casual yet traditional clothes like saris and suits. Even the big Indian designers rarely experiment with the silhouette. The result? There have only been a few radical style innnovations, barring Bollywood’s occassional takes on the matter [Bunty and Bubli – short kurti and salwar; Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya and Dil Toh Pagal Hai – skin fitting churidaar salwar, chiffon kurtas].

The Pakistani design industry, on the other hand, focussed keenly on stylish Asian clothes {including mostly salwar suits}, leading to fresh trends and several style inventions over the years. “That’s why,” Pervez Lala, CEO of the one of oldest Pakistani lifestyle brands, Lala {it was extablished in 1948}, told us over the phone from Lahore,” “the Indian market is now hankering for Pakistani designs.”

“One of the reasons these suits got so popular in India is because their styling was completely fresh, unlike any other style seen in the Indian market,” says Lala. “Also since 2012, efforts have been made to improve bilateral trade, which has led to a profileration of Pakistani fashion in India.”

With an eye on the Middle Eastern market, Pakistani suit fashion strive to be more global than ethnic, a quality which adds to their appeal in India.

What’s Different?

  1. Kurta: Voluminous, typically ankle-length with deep side slits.
  2. Salwar: Pant-style, with wide cuff ends and often lined with lace, unlike the Indian style which tapers narrowly
  3. Material: Originally made in lawn, it now comes in variations of mulmul, chiffon and cotton satin.
  4. Silhouette: Loose, flowy and flattering all body shapes.

Forgiving Silhouettes

Apart from its crisp silhouette, this style is extremely form flattering for the average Asian woman, unlike the Anarkali or the Paitala that only looks good on the skinny. Shurti Sancheti, who showcased the collection of Pakistani suits in her recent outing at the Lakme Fashion Week, says the Pakistani style provides ease of movement and more comfort than other suits.
“The kurta here falls straight and hides ungainly bulges that a tight shirt kurta openly reveals,” she explains. “And the style is not only contemporary, but versatile. It can transform from daywear to a night ensemble easily, due to the grace of its cut. And the delicate lace pajamas that resemble wide legged pants and plazzos suits the typical Indian broad hips more than the ruffled Patiala salwar does.”

Adapted by designers like Sancheti and Vandy Mehra, Pakistani suits are now available in Indian handloom textiles like chikan, with indigenious embroidery and prints.

Fashion Forward

Several Pakistani designers, have set up shop in Delhi and Mumbai, including the Pakistani Fashion Design Council and independent designers like Shaila Chatoor, Huma Naseer, Manika Singla and Riyaz Gangji. According to Chatoor, Pakistani fashion has always found favour in India. Over email, she recalled her first collection for Bridal Asia in 2004, which reportedly sold out in less than two hours.

“Pakistani fashion is visibly different from the Indian market in terms of cuts and subdued colour palette,” says Chatoor. “Also, in Pakistan, we still wear a lot of eastern wear during the day unlike in India. So the designers have to offer trendier alternatives to western wear, which results in experimentation with cuts, silhouettes and embroideries.”

This is a wake up call for Indian designers to explore the largely ignored casual Indian wear market. Or we will have no choice but to take a train to Pakistan.



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