Wednesday, 25 May 2011

An Asian Bride's Shopping Experience - Summaya Darr, Imani Studio, Burooj and Je Roche

I often receive emails from brides-to-be and fashion fans wanting advice on where to go in search of their dream wedding outfits. I try to be as helpful as possible, but sometimes I find it difficult to advice because I've only ever bought the one bridal dress and that was three years ago!! One blog reader, who is getting married this year, has very kindly let me share her wedding shopping experience with you:

I am getting married and like every bride is focusing on buying the perfect dress to fit the type of wedding and budget. Everyone has an idea but it's putting that into action and committing to something.

Where to start
Firstly I did some research online, first stop was the Asian Fashion Blog which I always use to see what is currently happening in the world of Asian fashion. From here I found out about the Asian Wedding Exhibition in London and decided that as everything would be under one roof I would give it a try. The exhibition on its own was not worth it for me personally as majority of the exhibitors were from down south (although some would travel) for example wedding cakes – you wouldn’t order a cake from London if you live 3 hours away, when there are plenty of quality cake shops in your own city! Anyway the catwalk was very useful and gave me a chance to speak to the designers as well as get to see the clothes up close and personal, and how they would look when moving in them as well as when light hits them etc. I went away with useful ideas and designs.

I also found the e-magazine very useful (and free to use) to find out the latest looks and designs and get a feel of whats “in” and what I want including the addresses for the boutiques etc. I also started sketching styles that I liked and took cuttings from magazines of outfits that I narrowed down.

Lastly I Googled "Asian designers in the UK" but unfortunately this produced the least quality research as most Asian designers haven’t mastered online yet, although I understand designers dont want to put their outfits for everyone to copy, sometimes they should try and hit the right balance between hiding them so they aren’t copied VS showing them to potential buyers that dont want to travel to 3- 4 hours only to realise the designers style is not what they are looking for!

Summaya Dar
I had some luck and found a new designer who I had seen in the Asiana Magazine called Summaya Darr. Her outfits seemed original and reasonably priced so I contacted her initially by web and then by phone. She responded promptly and professionally which is always a good sign.

We arranged to meet up in Manchester as she was up here for a meeting, Summaya bought along some of her samples – she was really friendly and down to earth, and the clothes were nice, she said that the material can change as these were sample pieces. The embroidery on all the samples was pretty much the same and unfortunately not what I was looking for although I could suggest changes to this as well. She was helpful in suggesting changes and colours etc so I went away with a positive vibe from her.

I think she does have original ideas and can work with the client, but I also think that she is new and will need to gain more experience. She has got a new collection coming out (all red) so I think she will definitely improve and only get better and better with each collection. Since my first visit I have since seen her new collection and really liked it, I personally wasn’t looking for red so it wasn’t for me but she is evolving!

I would have actually commissioned a design from her if a few factors were on our side (mainly her location – she is from London so it's going a bit far to place my orders) I do think I will get something made by her in the near future and wish her luck :)

Imani Studio
Whilst in Manchester I decided to make the best use of my time and arranged to have a look at what else this city had to offer. I made a trip to Imani Studio – it is amazing and you can tell the quality in the work and the material but to be fair the prices reflected this!
Whatever price I thought would be reasonable for an outfit, the actual cost ended up being much much more. For example if I saw something that I thought at the most would be £2000-£2500, the actual price was something like £3500!

I didn’t leave my heart in that shop as I liked some outfits but they were more classic pieces that other shops are now imitating (if you compared the designer versions with the copies you could tell the difference) but on their own the imitations would still look nice at half the price. I think the only thing that makes me sway to designers rather than “shops ” pretending to do the same thing is the cut of the outfit. I would buy a classic party piece from Imani as I would see it as an investment and could wear it more than once (so definitely will go there again!)

Afterwards we went to Wilmslow road. I was surprised as I thought they would have more clothes shops in Manchester especially on this road but there were only a handful (maybe im so used to Birmingham and their end to end stores). Anyway I went into Burooj and picked up a couple of reasonably prices party outfits within 5 minutes of being in the store (so that’s always a good sign).
We asked to see the bridal outfits but was told that it was appointment only...however they said if we waited they might fit us between clients. We waited about 30 minutes and would have given up if it wasn’t for the outfits in the window display that interested me. A tip for for brides to be: if there is a boutique you want to check out, especially if you are travelling far, book an appointment so that you get to see the collection and have their undivided attention. If there are a couple of places you want to go to in the same city then always give yourself 2 hours between appointments, but do take into account travel time from one place to the next.

So we finally went upstairs into a cosy room that had unique and amazing outfits...opulent is the word I would use, the embroidery, material and designs all were unique. Heavily focused on Pakistani fashion of long tops and flowy ghararas and shararas and full skirts – the entire look was glamour, sophistication, opulent and rich.

Overall I loved nearly every piece that I saw (bearing in mind we were rushing as he had another booked client coming in)...the prices were reasonable for what you are getting – something unique and different as opposed to the over the top bling bling same old lengha, same full on embroidery everywhere else (prices were from £1200 upwards (which is normal everywhere else).
When I first visited Burooj my wedding was planned as a small family affair (in a restaurant no more than 50 guests) so the opulence of the outfits were a bit too much and I was also working within a budget because of it being a small event.

Anyway the guy serving quickly sketched me an outfit design – as I liked something and his sketch showed changes to the neckline, colour, bottoms, scarf etc. I was impressed with this as you can visualise it pretty quickly and know whether they understood what’s in your mind. He gave me a final price and I would have happily ordered there and then if I was having a big wedding.
They need 8 weeks to have your order ready which was also didn't fit in with the timeframes I was working to.

I would recommend this place for outfit choice/uniqueness, quality, prices and designer backing (they are using a famous fashion house in Pakistan Chinyere (I think is what its called). I dont know how they are after you place an order (which is normally where the Asians fall down). I bought an outfit from Jaan southall...bad experience and would never order from him again – would buy off the rack but not risk ordering as quality finish and time it took for outfit to actually arrive was all bad! (that’s another story)

Je Roche
Ok so a week later when the wedding had moved further forward – I found a youtube video of a Je Roche catwalk show. The first time I was in Manchester I went in to Je Roche but it was busy so I didn't speak to assistant. I looked at the party/casual collection and thought this is it...they dont have bridals and left (partly because my friend was about to pass out with hunger).
After I saw the catwalk show I really liked the designs and contacted them to make an appointment the following day. As soon as I told her the type of wedding (small) and budget she said she had the perfect outfit in mind for me. When I arrived she had just popped out (as I was running late) so while I was waiting for her I tried on an outfit (the first green one that opens her collection in the catwalk show) – it is stunning. I would have changed a couple of minor things like added sleeves and a scarf...but the price tag was in the £2k range. It’s really nice seeing outfits close up – hers were definitely beautiful (they are by a designer called Zainab Sajid).
Anyway when Roshi came she showed me the correct outfit which fitted like a glove, however it was wrong colour (navy blue) and not exactly bridal (more party wear although price tag was £850). Anyway for a bit more money I added more work on the scarf, then Roshi suggested a few design changes. I was also changing the colour of the outfit so she also helped me decide this as well. She said it would be ready in 3 weeks so I left excited.

2 weeks later: I receive a call saying my outfit had arrived, I was shocked and impressed as normally this does not happen; whatever time the boutique says, you usually have to put in a buffer of a couple of weeks in case of delivery issues, but this is the first time I have had an outfit commissioned that arrived before the delivery date! I wasn’t expecting it to arrive so soon I couldn’t go and pick it up until the following week, I was so excited and was just thinking what an amazing service...and then it all went down-hill!

1 week later: I went to collect the outfit and like every bride you feel excited and nervous and just hope it's everything you want it to be. The first time I saw the outfit I could breathe a sigh of relief it was beautiful and looked amazing and glamorous. I tried it on and loved it so I was happy. However through my excitement I didn’t realise a few things with it (luckily I had taken my sister and friend). Another tip for any brides-to-be: I would recommend you take people that will voice what they think. My sister and friend pointed out a few things, such as the sharara that went with it was wrong shade and wrong material, the sleeves were baggy and the scarf had a red piping which you could see underneath the border of the white duppatta.

The shop assistant tried to fob off these points in a very causal way by saying things like they must have used this material instead for the Sharara due to not finding the correct colour in that material (jamavar) and they wanted to give a clean finish and the scarf is meant to look like that...I initially also brushed off these "small" things until my sister noticed that the lining used underneath the scarf was a different shade compared to the duppatta and top! The assistant realised she couldn’t brush such an obvious difference therefore she contacted the boutique owner Roshi, who immediately said it was the wrong bottoms (first question – do they not check the deliveries against the order form, have they never heard of quality control?)
The owner arrived and said it would be sent back, at which point I mentioned the sleeves also needing lining and fitting. I Waited another 2 weeks and was contacted to say that the outfit had arrived. I have to say I did like the idea of having Roshi's mobile number, so I could text her, and feel like she was at the other side of the phone, and she did respond within reasonable time. At this point I asked her to make sure there were no problems with the outfit as I didn't have time to keep returning, she said this would be done. (Another point to remember is make sure where you decide to purchase your dress from is within reasonable travelling distance because you most likely will have to make several trips and if you take into account time and travel expenses and sometimes relying on other people to go with you then it all adds up and may not be worth the stress VS something else closer to home!)

So I went again last week and this time the top had marks on it! The trousers were STILL not the correct material (although they were in the correct shade) and the sleeves were still loose!! I wasn’t happy, and again I was being fobbed off by the assistant until I asked to speak to Roshi (who wasn’t there at the time). I mentioned over the phone about the problems, and she said they would get the outfit dry cleaned but I would have to come back for it! (it's things like this that a bride to be does not need, you are already stressed out about the rest of the arrangements, and the dress – most important thing is still not right). They then suggested to the assistant to use a damp cloth to check whether the marks could be removed (later on said they were only dust marks – again ever heard of quality control and checking the item before the customer arrives ESPECIALLY when I made a point of asking them to do this).
They said they could send the trousers back again, but at this point I had had enough, I gave in and said I would keep them as I had no time left, but I told them I would not be paying for the trousers, they discounted £30 which personally I didn’t think was good enough but I was so stressed out that all I wanted to do was leave (this is normal which is why you should give yourself as much time as possible so that if mistakes occur you are not accepting them due to time constraints. I sometimes get an impression that the shopkeepers use things like this against you knowing you don't have the time).

Sadly, it doesn’t finish there, after I paid I didn’t even receive a protective cover for the outfit, they had run out so instead I got a stripey market stall bag that not even my local fabric shop uses anymore and the worst thing was how the outfit was packed. At this point I was so angry, it just spoilt the entire experience and even though no one else will notice the few glitches with the outfit – I will and that’s what counts and is annoying.

I’m sure other people have nice experiences, but it takes YOUR bad experience for you to form an opinion about a place and I am just disappointed that it ended the way it did and I didn’t feel any effort was being put into fixing the problem. It started off really good and Roshi seems really nice, unfortunately being nice does not change my experience with them.

I think my final piece of advice for brides to be is where possible is use people and places that you have personal recommendations for as the risk of things going wrong will be lower than picking a place from a magazine. The ideal end result is for you to be happy on your very special day in an outfit that you are comfortable in and you are happy with. It’s YOUR day and its going to give you life long memories. The experience of buying that perfect dress should be fun and exciting and amazing from the start (when you look through magazines) to the end when you are finally wearing your dream dress to mark the beginning of a new chapter in your life.

Looking back it is easy to get emotional and upset and angry like I felt when things were going wrong, but at the end of the day I do have a beautiful dress that overall I am happy with (although it has a few glitches which hopefully no one else will notice lol) but if anything I hope others can learn from my experience and use my advice to make your experience easy, stress-free and enjoyable! :o)

Kind regards

An Asian Bride to Be in 2011


  1. couture libaas25 May 2011 at 22:27

    omg god i feel so sorry for u if u paid n ordered in advance it shud be perfect its a boutique not a corner shop i had these experiences i bought 4 outfits in total then finally i got my perfect outfits dats why now i design my own outfits and sell them but no boutique gud luk wid wedding xx

  2. Well, I would like to say this is uncommon, but the fact is it is not not. Asian Boutiques are so well known for their lack of customer service, after care and general exageration when it comes to delivery times. I was a bride to be myself not so long ago and the experience I had was not dissimilar to Bride To Be 2011.

    To be brutally honest, most of the boutique owners/designers that I came across during my own wedding shopping trips were ruthlessly unscrupulous and would spout me any kind of BS if it meant I was willing to put down a deposit and pay several thousand for an outfit that would be made abroad, somewhere other than where they stated (I was being told Pakistan butit was clear from the kaam and the quality of the kaam it clearly wasn't), get shipped back to the uk unstitched, and get stitched up here by one of their relatives all the while appearing to be authentically made by experienced tailors and the finest kaamwalas in Karachi.

  3. you are right - there are some asian businesses that are not prfessional at all, and dont feel guilt that their lack of skills which they are aware of will spoil someone's most important day in life. monica

  4. UPDATE 2 months later:

    I was just reading through this and wanted to provide an update it.

    The dress was a hit (even with the few minor glitches with the outfit. By the time it came to me wearing it i had forgotten there were any issues with it and they never occurred to me during the day nor did anyone else notice.

    Now that i have the wedding pictures i realise that as long as the end result is good and you have an amazing day the rest of the pre stress fades away and what i went through doesnt feel as acute as it did when i originally wrote this review and in the big picture are only minor inconvieniences (obviously at the time they appear major for a bride to be).

    Anyway what you are left with is an album that have picture perfect memories - and thats what you will remember in the years to come, nothing else will matter :o)

    lots of love Asian Bride 2011

  5. Get lost Jeroche are amazing


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