As the citizens of Karachi bundle up in anticipation of the chilly winds from the North, Pakistan’s high street fashion brands are preparing for the weather by decking their storefronts with their latest winter collections – an uninspiring array of earth tones and some pops of colour (evidently playing it safe at the risk of seeming too garish).
While the baggy and oversized aesthetic is here to stay for the unforeseeable future, no one could have predicted the significant hike in winter fashion prices this year. A decent looking sweater will cost you anything from 3500-5000 PKR upwards, and don’t even get me started on the winter coats! The only item that seems to have remained within bounds of the Pakistani middle class is the good ol’ denim jacket – which depending on where you’re planning on getting one from, will cost you anywhere from 1800-3000 PKR.
The Catch-22 Of Fast Fashion
Now you might be wondering, why did the prices increase so drastically within the course of a year (not that they were any better last year, but this year everything is twice as expensive)?
The most obvious reason staring us right in the face is Covid and the lockdown that followed. Like most things Covid ruined for us, it resulted in many people losing their jobs which decreased their spending in an effort to save money. And obviously, one of the first things to go included unnecessary spending on fast fashion.
However, with the world on its way to recovery we also saw a drastic increase in the price of raw materials and that has naturally factored into the increased cost of winter fashion this year. Plus it isn’t only the cost of raw material that we’re paying for when we buy a sweater, we’re also paying for all the costs of getting the product to us – design, marketing, store rent, cost of capital, staff costs, the added risk of holding inventory, etc.
Nonetheless, that still doesn’t justify the fact that everything is significantly overpriced this year. Especially because it’s not like these brands are paying their factory workers a livable wage?
We’re all too familiar with the rising exploitation of factory garment workers both nationally and internationally and how everything from the working conditions, to the right to unionize, is questionable at best. So essentially, at the end of the day, while prices need to reflect the time spent making a product, it isn’t justifiable if it’s not benefitting the people that worked hard to produce it.
Twitter Is Outraged
Naturally, Pakistanis aren’t having any of it. Many have voiced their concerns and outrage over these insane winter fashion prices. This is what a few Twitter users had to say:
Are Brands Prioritizing Profits Over Their Customers?
However, the questions remain: who is the target audience for these high street brands? Are they trying to shift their demographic from the middle to the upper class? But then, doesn’t the Pakistani upper class already have access to better quality (and better looking) options abroad that they can import or buy on their excursions? Why would they be interested in purchasing mediocre, local knockoffs? Moreover, do brands realize they’re putting their once-loyal consumers in a corner where they have to decide to either switch to an alternative (like thrifting or DIYs) or justify and save for a piece of clothing that won’t even last them the next couple of years?
While I may not know the answers to those questions yet, the only thing I’m sure of at the moment is that I, for one, will not be buying a “made in China” sweater this year when I can easily source one that’s locally made and hopefully has more personality to it. Though I might have to pay slightly more for it, I’ll know that I’m helping the local economy flourish, it’ll last me a long time because it won’t be poorly mass-produced and I’ll be paying for all the love and hard work that went into making it.