Dhaka's title as a shopper's paradise, especially to people living abroad, has been under serious threat for some time now. What with soaring prices and no-nonsense legal codes making it impossible for businesses to carry on under usual trading techniques, choices are indeed very measly. What's available is not likable and what's likable is not affordable.
Even if you do get around the prices, with Eid just around the corner, the risks of formula clothing lines that fast become uniforms is displeasingly high. As is the case with most successful products in a small-overpopulated country, when something does well, it becomes the entire nation's punch line.
High end boutiques bring out their lines with just one or two replicas of the same piece but as already mentioned, a double coincidence of availability is nearly impossible to come by. So this year, boycott the uniforms and opt for a look that is entirely and solely yours. With embellishments as per your liking and fabrics slightly unorthodox, here's how you should go about it.
The walkway leading up to Prabartana, although leaving a lot to be desired, has a map of Bangladesh in one of the staircase landings that usually makes the gloomy escalation worth the climb. On the legend of the map are sewn scraps of cloth used to depict the production origins of each these materials. And in that one map, you have everything that Prabartana stands for: promotion of the indigenous.
Aside their sari, ready-made fatua and salwar kameez collection, a key factor as to why Prabartana commands such high mention is the shop's unique ability to cater to partywear just as well as it does to clothes for normal use. On the third floor of their premises, Prabartana houses its impressive stock of khadi, endi, cotton and taat materials. And the colours and quality that they have on offer makes this store one of the first and most important to visit with reference to off-beat materials.
Although some of the materials are displayed coupled with matching dupattas, the choice is all yours in the sense that nothing on this floor is sold in sets or pairs. Roll upon roll of material is presented in a self-service manner leaving customers the liberty to mix, match, colour-coordinate or contrast according to their liking. Their options of khadi and endi and cotton, priced at Tk 100 and Tk 200 and Tk120-150 respectively, come in a visually pleasing colour palette of everything from the usuals of red, black, white and blue to the finer shades of mauve, teal, lilac, brick-red, parrot-green, turquoise and so on. Their line of taat, although available in fewer shades, is worth a browse, especially for those interested in casual wear.
Sopura Silk Mills Ltd.
Quite unlike the former, Sopura Silk Mills Ltd. Is ideal for shoppers looking for materials for slightly dressier causes. Fit for formal and eveningwear, this store houses a variety of silks in different specifications such as dupion silk (Tk 400-450), endi silk (Tk 275), balaka silk (Tk 250-300) and crepe silk ranging between Tk 325 and Tk 375. Their fabrics are made in their own production house in Cantonment and they pride themselves in being manufacturers of 100% natural silk. Sopura's materials usually come in bold shades and deep textures with prominent feature of colours such as maroon, golden, green and magenta, although pastels are available as well.
In addition to their variations of silk, Sopura silk also has on offer a range of fabrics in muslin, which can be used either for salwar kameez sets or for saris. Their collection of plain muslins or one-colour muslins cost between Tk 110 and Tk 150 while the muslins with self-stripes are priced slightly higher at Tk 160. Most notably however, is their new addition of muslin with thin horizontal lines of either golden or silver zari that ask for about Tk 175 per metre- not too unfair a deal for recreating the impact Rekha had in Silsila.
Sopura Silk has become a trusted name for silk since they began their operation some nine to ten years ago and over the course of the decade, they have come to run three Dhaka branches in Gulshan, Dhanmondi and Shantinagar and two others in Chittagong and Sylhet.
Chadni Chawk, Gausia, etc.
The same trouble getting there, the same amount of dirt and grime and the same complaints of manhandling; and yet, through the ages and through the generations Chadni Chawk, New Market and Gausia retain their appeal to women of such different age groups and even more different backgrounds.
Whatever changes in taste and trend the rest of the city may be suffering, some evergreen pieces last, if nowhere else, then at least on the dusty, crammed up shelves of closet-sized stores in Chadni Chawk. Be it lace, muslin, cotton or tissue, the chances of stumbling upon rolls of these materials are higher than you might care to think. Lace has become nearly extinct and the best you can hope for is colour-distorted materials in one or two unrecognisable shades but the likes of muslin have come back in full force.
The star new attraction however, are pieces that go by the names of cotton katan which feel more or less like cotton (in softer, and more refined textures) but have a glaze about them that would make them worthy of wear to any social gathering.
True that Pride is more commonly known for its lines of reasonably priced, comfort-prioritising saris, but they do have a small yet useful collection of cotton thaan materials. Also reasonably priced, this small section of their product line is only available in some of their branches and usually made in light and soothing hues. These fabrics are suitable for those who opt to get their saris block printed by order, because of the comfort factor, the convenience and the lightness of material, for the elderly who find it difficult to pull off saris with heavily worked borders or intricately worked patterns.
There's a simple formula for exclusiveness; materials slightly off beat and embellishments wholly unique. This year, have a blast being yourself!
By Subhi Shama Reehu
Photo: Zahedul I Khan
Special thanks to Prabartana, Sopura Silk Mills Ltd.