Published in Nov-Dec 2022
When I was 11 years old, I bought a locally made, musky cologne for my dad’s birthday, because the shopkeeper suggested it was “bohat zabardast” and, more importantly, within the budget of an 11-year-old. However, my dad later confessed he was not going to use it because it was “do number” and may contain harmful chemicals. During the same period, my mom decided that instead of Kellogg’s Froot Loops, we should try Fauji Foods’ Frootooz, a similar local cereal brand – and it was quite unpalatable from what my taste buds remember.
Following such incidents, I began to assume that other than food at restaurants and eastern wear, local products were typically low-quality and cheap. So, from a young age, I was attuned to believing that Pakistani products were inferior to imported brands.
It wasn’t until Covid-19 that I began to shop locally due to the restrictions on imported products (and sheer boredom). From skincare and clothes to candles and artificial jewellery, I indulged my compulsive shopping habit by tapping on the most random Instagram ads. And it was through this random browsing that I, and others, found topquality and desirable homegrown brands, such as Genie (for jeans) and Colish (for candles), which have ended up attracting customers due to their high-quality products, minimalist packaging and innovation. Today, there is an even higher awareness for, and an increase in the number of, smallscale local brands in the country.
So, for this issue of Aurora, and Pakistan’s 75th birth year, I decided to shop only for locally-made products. I was not disappointed.
Since I am always on the lookout for breathable casual t-shirts for Karachi weather, I gave in to my sister-in-law’s ravings about Khaadi’s new western wear collection. After purchasing about six trendy new T-shirts (over two weeks), I have to say that not only were the prices easy on the wallet (Rs 990 to 1,990), but the fabric was long-lasting and the designs don’t shout ‘tacky’ (as is the case with other clothing brands that sell flimsy T-shirts saying things like “FBI: Female Body Inspector”). Although I am still not a fan of Khaadi’s eastern wear, the brand has done a brilliant job with executing western wear, including long dresses and jumpsuits that are the right mix of ‘modest’ and chic.
Next, I was out of sunscreen and decided to look up local skincare brands. After a so-so experience with Conatural’s facewash during Covid-19, I decided to give another local brand a try – Hira Ali, because I kept seeing ads for it. The store website was easy to navigate and contained detailed information about the products – Sun of a Beach Sunscreen – and it even had a smooth application.But the volume of liquid in the sunscreen bottle was far too little for the cost (Rs 2,000 for 50 ml as compared to Rs 4,000 for a 150 ml imported brand). I have since added the sunscreen to my cart a couple of times, but COD as the only payment option holds me back from tapping on ‘buy’ – not the friendliest payment option in today’s age.
Other than investing time and money in female-centric products, I decided to explore men’s shoes for my husband’s birthday. I decided to skip asking a friend in the UK to bring him slip-on formal shoes and instead drove down to good ol’ English Boot House (EBH). While the displays were quite ‘vintage’ (old-school glass cabinets, ‘on sale’ shoes clumsily piled on a table) and the store a bit grimy, the variety of real leather shoes available was on a par with Zara, Dune and Next. While leaving the store with not just a snazzy pair of slip-on formal shoes but also two belts, I did think about the fact that while the older generation is familiar with EBH (it doesn’t advertise), how popular would the store be for the younger generation – if only they advertised.
In brief, I am convinced that our local clothing and skincare segments in particular are mostly up to par in terms of product quality, packaging and costeffectiveness. However, I am still on the hunt for good products in the local perfume and cereal category. Perhaps for my next shopping excursion, I will research local cereal brands and invest in a Pakistani perfume.