Love from Karachi and Lahore

Published: May 19, 2013
Designers and retailers talk about the difference between the fashion choices in both cities. DESIGN: SAMRA AAMIR.

Designers and retailers talk about the difference between the fashion choices in both cities. DESIGN: SAMRA AAMIR.


The never ending rivalry between the cities of Karachi and Lahore (read: a clash of inflated egos) permeates pretty much every aspect of art and culture. Comparisons between “their payas” and “our fine-dining” have been done and dusted, and the conversation has now turned to something new and exciting. The recently-held PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week saw Lahore get up from its seat for its designers, while Karachi nodded and raved about its own. There were whispers in the crowd about how different each city’s palette and philosophy is when it comes to fashion. The Express Tribune talks to the movers and shakers of the fashion industry about their take on the Karachi-Lahore divide.

For some, it’s all the same

Some designers chose the diplomatic path and preferred not to fuel the fire by refraining from picking sides. Maheen Karim and Misha Lakhani, who recently showed at fashion week, say there is not much difference between the cities when it comes to taste, and that designers are equally strong.

Misha Lakhani

Misha feels the cities provide a great mix. “It’s impossible to generalise because you’re comparing mammoth-sized cities, not villages,” she says.

The designer, whose drapes and sophisticated pieces were a runway hit, believes that cities cannot really define the variations in taste. “I think it comes down to personality type and lifestyle more than city.”

The tale of two different cities

Some experienced designers clearly identified the distinction between the city of lights and the city of culture and heritage.

Zahir Rahimtoola

“It is ‘different strokes for different folks’” says CEO of the multi-designer store Labels. “Karachi being a metropolitan city has a big mix in clothing sensibilities. Having said this, Karachi women tend to go for less ornate clothing relying more on the fit of their garment and their total look.”

More or less drama?

It is often said that Lahori designers play up the drama and enjoy making a statement, while the Karachi fashionistas are criticised for being understated and bland. Shehla Chatoor and HSY give us their verdicts below:

Shehla Chatoor

The Karachi-based designer, who is known for her luxury prêt wear, says “I do not believe in a lot of drama. The outfits and accessories are more important. I feel the biggest difference is that Lahore is more opulent and colourful and Karachi is more subdued. They also differ in the way the outfits are embellished.”

Maheen Karim

“There is no Lahore and Karachi divide when it comes to design,” says Maheen, adding that both cities have talented Western and Eastern wear designers. “Karachi may want less embroidery but it’s more willing to experiment. But I have recently seen that huge change in Lahoris, who enjoy a more universal silhouette.”

Khadija Shah

Elan’s Khadijah Shah feels that Lahore-based designers have a more classic and traditional take on fashion. “They go to great depths to add detail to their creations but are a little less experimental with regard to silhouettes,” she says. “Karachi is more of a cosmopolitan city and allows designers the opportunity to be more avant-garde with their approach, especially in terms of cuts and silhouettes.”

The brain behind Elan’s success adds, “I do feel that people from Karachi are more comfortable baring skin whereas Lahoris tend to be a bit more conservative.”


The internationally-acclaimed designer, who is known for drama-packed finales at fashion weeks, kept it safe. “Every designer has a different fan following. Some designers are known for their over-the-top statements and unusual theatrics while others are well-known to bring in the crowd and put an amazing show.”

Our verdict

  • With its rich culture and deep-rooted heritage, 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.
  • The difference, ultimately, fades when it comes to socialite fashion: the fashion-savvy are always willing to experiment, be it Karachi, Lahore or Timbuktu!

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2013.                    

Like Life & Style on Facebook for the latest in fashion, gossip and entertainment.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (12)

  • Shaami
    May 19, 2013 - 9:35PM

    I dont know above Designers but my Fashion Designer known as Rafiq Darzi is the best in the world and he can stitch the clothes in the best manner. Bye the way he was asking me that what is the difference in a Darzi and a Fashion Designer!!!!.


  • Chachu
    May 19, 2013 - 10:03PM

    @Shaami: When you sell clothes to rich then you are known as fashion designer but when someone sell clothes to lower middle class then they are known as darzis. Just like rich used to eat from restaurants and hotels while poor eat from dhabas and chaabri walas. Another example is that rich eat high class burgers and pizzas while middle class eat aloo walay naan and anday walay bun kebab.


  • Ali tanoli
    May 19, 2013 - 10:13PM

    diff is simple Rich vs Poor…. hahahaha


  • Samir
    May 20, 2013 - 12:10AM

    Burger and bun-kabab difference


  • Sarfaraz Abbasi
    May 20, 2013 - 12:13AM

    In a country like Pakistan, where there are several pending problems to deal with affecting mainly poor people. Let’s be brave enough to accept that we are one of the poorest countries in the world, and talking about understanding excelling in fashion-industry or cosmopolitan etc remain far from being our concern at this moment of anguish and calamity.

    Pakistan is not represented by two cities Lahore or Karachi, but each village and city of the Pakistan, irrespective of their size and progress.


  • Asif Butt
    May 20, 2013 - 4:19AM

    There you have it.
    Elements of proof to support the tendency as to why ET is PTI biased.
    Care for burger , anyone ?…


  • nimra
    May 20, 2013 - 6:29AM

    @Sarfaraz Abbas
    Spot on! Don’t know wheres this world going to.. Height of ignorance!


  • May 20, 2013 - 11:57AM

    East or West “HSY” is Best.


  • islooboy
    May 20, 2013 - 5:56PM

    what aboutisloo fashion seen i mean lhr and khi are oversaturated isloo is still virgin soil many overseas pakistanis visit isloo only


  • Stranger
    May 21, 2013 - 3:49PM

    @Shaami: Darji is a tailor who will stich the clothes as per your order. A designer will sit with you and explain to you and talk to you about which designs will look good on you.
    @islooboy – Err what is the point that you are trying to make honey. Be coherent love.


  • Dildarpakistan
    Jun 7, 2013 - 3:31AM

    Designer v Darzi = they can both copy well


  • Jul 8, 2013 - 6:43PM

    work all designr copying


More in Fashion