I didn’t grow up in a particularly fashion-conscious setting. Sure, my mum liked to dress us in nice clothes, but I don’t think she ever went out of her way to do it. Like most desi kids, the clothes my siblings and I wore were functional, durable and – most importantly – affordable.
So my memory of what I wore as a child is a blur of largely nondescript looks – but the one thing I have never been able to forget is a little nugget of fashion wisdom that has stayed with me since I was 6.
I still have this mental image of an impossibly stylish lady – well-coiffured and well-manicured – talking about the value of real leather and its importance in a wardrobe, extolling the virtues of a leather jacket. An “investment piece”, I believe she called it, as she swished her perfectly curled hair and modelled the creamy black creation she wore.
This curly haired lady in the leather jacket was the epitome of style. The perfect leather jacket was now my holy grail. I have been looking for it ever since.
Living in Dubai, I have so many choices at my disposal: everything from high-street stores to haute couture brands. Being a true desi, though, I scoffed at the idea of paying an exorbitant amount for something that is made in my own country for a fraction of the price.
I hail from Pakistan, one of the leading leather garment manufacturers in the world. You might think I would be spoilt for choice when I’m there. You couldn’t be more wrong. Just like our mangoes and our rice, the best of our leather products are labelled “export quality” and shipped off to foreign countries. The natives end up with second best. And that second best is nothing to write home about.
Over the years, I have made trips to many, many shops both in Dubai and in Karachi in search of that perfect leather jacket that doesn’t cost as much as a second-hand car. Nothing ever clicked.
This weekend, I decided to go for professional help (or peer pressure, depending on how you look at it). I had been gifted a session with a personal shopper and I decided to use it to find the perfect leather jacket. Normally, I’m the one telling people what clothes to buy, but this time the tables were turned. I’ll be honest: it was difficult to take someone else’s advice. She dragged me to a shop I normally would never go into. “Trust me,” she said. “I know that what you want is in here.”
I reluctantly followed her in. I had sent her multiple pictures of my wardrobe and myself, to give her an idea of what I like to wear and how. I was hoping that this is where it would pay off.
She dragged me by the elbow and planted me in front of a mannequin. A mannequin wearing the most exquisite leather jacket I have ever seen. This was it. This was the one. I had to have it. I took a whiff of the buttery leather smell and I was 6 again, looking at that stylish, curly haired lady. Only, this time, the lady in the leather jacket was me. I gladly paid Dh800 for the jacket I had been looking for all my life.
I took it out of the tissue wrapping at home, to take in that gorgeous smell again, and for the first time, my eyes met the tiny print on the label – and I laughed and laughed till my belly ached.
It said “Made in Pakistan”.
The writer is an honest-to-goodness Desi living in Dubai.