Pocket-sized happiness: Rent-a-gown service weds budgets to bliss

In Karachi there is no problem that a little recycling can’t solve.

Express September 09, 2011

KARACHI: The cheapest Pronuptia Paris wedding dress would normally cost $400, which comes to about Rs35,000, shipping costs not included. But what if you’re a bride in Karachi and this option is as feasible as booking a Birkin on a school teacher’s budget?

The beauty of living in a third world country like Pakistan is that necessity breeds invention, the invention of solutions that circumvent circumstance. The result is Moni Bridal of Azam Basti in DHA Phase I where you can rent your wedding gown for as little as $30.

The business is run by Sarah Shahid, who has been providing Karachi’s brides a solution for nearly 10 years. “[My brother] buys the dresses from places like Holland, New Zealand and the UK and with the revenue we generate, we pay him back,” she explained. “The shop rent is Rs40,000 and we rarely go into losses once our fixed costs are paid off.”

Shahid unwraps the protective plastic coating on one gown that is available for Rs4,500 a night.

Her customers have a choice of about 60 gowns that rent from Rs2,500 to Rs20,000.

Karachi’s Christians have other options as well if they want to buy their dress. Brands such as the bespoke La Belle Epoque, Alfred Angelo and Pronuptia Paris for less than Rs3,000 at the famous LightHouse market that does big business in imported clothes, albeit secondhand.

“We import these clothes from everywhere,” explains wholesaler Zahoor Khan. “Since wedding gowns are in demand in neighbouring countries, we also get them from America, France, Canada, Brazil and some European countries where people use them once and then sell them for low prices.”

It seems to be a win-win situation. “This is not just a business, but a million-dollar industry where you get a dress for 100 rupees and sell it for Rs1,000,” remarks Khan. His only lament is the new taxes they have to pay. A small price, perhaps for the young woman who can’t find Prada in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th,  2011.


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