And so, with these images as inspiration, I ventured into the world of Indian bridal wear shopping:
First stop: New Fashion Boutiqe, 6001 Fourteenth Ave., Unit B1, Markham, ON
New Fashion recently opened in the Markham & 14th area. It’s in the same plaza complex as the Shoppers Drug Mart, Food Basics, and Golden Groceries. My mom recommended I check it out, and I went there with her, my older sister, cousin, and 4-year-old niece (who was quickly bored). It’s a clean, well-organized store and, for the most part, products are well displayed. The service is also quite good. Unfortunately, the bridal wear selection was limited, though there were several nice pieces that guests to the wedding could wear. Outfits come in a range materials and prices: polyester saris for less than $100 to a designer anarkali suits costing $1200!!
Verdict: Definitely worth checking out, but not the place to go for bridalwear.
Second stop: Sartaj Fashions, 3300 McNiccol Ave., Unit # A3, Scarborough, ON
When it comes to Indian clothes stores in the east end of Toronto, we’ve got some slim pickings. Sartaj Fashions has been operating for over 10 years, and it’s got a decent collection and respectable prices. I’ve been to Sartajwith my mom several times in the past, and we’ve bought quite a few pieces from them.
They have some unique pieces and a large bridalwear section. Too bad I didn’t get to see any of it when I went there with my mom and honourarymaid of honour, A.
Sartaj is family-owned. Frequently, the husband and wife provide customer service. (I don’t know their names. ) Wife is friendlier than husband; usually, though, they are both quite accommodating. Unfortunately, their son–an early 2o’s-looking guy with a physique that screams indulged Punjabi son fed one too many ladoos–was manning fort. He was, without a doubt, the most obnoxious, arrogant salesman ever. Ever. Some of his quotable gems:
When I asked him about the typical cost of bridal wear, he said:
“Well it depends on your budget. We can’t make anything for $100.”
Um, wtf? I didn’t even mention my budget.
When I asked him to show some examples of bridal wear, he said:
“Come back when you’re serious, and then we’ll talk.”
Um, wtf? Why do you think I’m here?
Also, this guy was Canadian-born and raised, spoke perfect English. Myhonourary maid of honour is visibly not Indian. Early on in the conversation he stated:
“I’m just going to explain in Punjabi.”
Um, wtf? What’s my friend–chopped liver?
If my mom wasn’t there, I seriously would have given this idiotic guy a piece of my mind. He was so rude and unhelpful. And he kept talking about what a great designer he was, but showed nothing to prove it!!
Verdict: The place to go if you want asinine customer service.
Third stop: Saba Apparel
J and I met Maliha from Saba Apparel at the Suhaag Wedding Show in February. This lengha, paired with a matching purple sherwani, on display caught my eye:
The colour combination was unexpected, but striking! We immediately inquired about the look, and Maliha answered our questions with patience and interest! She has fabulous customer service skills, and I will lured by her motherly and friendly demeanour. She even laughed at Joe’s corny jokes. When I was ready to start looking for bridalwear, I contacted Maliha right away. She was attentive and prompt with her emails–a good sign.
J, my sisters, and I went to Maliha and her mother’s boutique on Good Friday. The boutique is located in the basement of the Mississauga house. It’s clean and well-organized. Maliha immediately greeted us in her warm, open way. Her mother, who started the company and designs the clothes, joined us as we browsed through their collection. Maliha’s mother is a hoot. She’s like a caricature of an older Indian mom: dolled up in a sari, short, stout, with a booming voice that’s not afraid to give orders.
We were there for 3 hours. 3 hours. I was hungry, dehydrated, and cranky by the end. Maliha and her mother have a lot of endurance!! They continued to show us outfit after outfit! They had several beautiful pieces. I tried on the lengha in the picture, but it was in a red and green combination. I was a little disappointed, though. It just didn’t suit me when I donned it. The embroidery, cut, and amount of fabric drowned me out. I tried on a few more pieces, including anarkali suits, but I was not moved by anything. And most of her pieces were out of my budget anyway. (I did buy a simple outfit that’s appropriate to wear to the temple, though!)
So, we left Saba Apparel. Thankfully J was driving, and he drove us straight to a strip mall where we could all get some caffiene and snacks. I was turning into the Hungry LBB Monster, and let me tell you–she ain’t pretty or friendly.
Verdict: Beautiful pieces if you have the stature to pull them off.
4th and 5th stops: Zedd’s and Dulhan Fashion. I covered my experiences in my previous post . Good options. Loved a bridal lengha at Zedd’s.
Verdicts: Loved the lengha at Zedd’s. Option for customization at Dulhan is wonderful!
The next leg of the Indian clothing tours included a stop in Malton–my mom’s request. I had no desire to go there. Now, this may be ignorant of me, but I consider Malton the adopted homeland of all pindu Punjabis. Logically their fashion should be pindu–and it usually is! Gawdy, garish, and bad embroidery are the hallmarks of pindu fashion. Anyway, I trudged out to Malton because 1) my mom asked me to and for the most part I’m an obedient Indian daughter; 2) maybe amongst all the pindu fashion the opportunity to prove my mom wrong about the lengha from Zedd’s might present itself; 3) Malton is not far from Zedd’s and so maybe I could subtly suggest driving out to see the lengha I liked
I am always contriving some evil, self-interested plan.
We headed to the Great Punjab Business Centre, located on Airport Rd.
6th stop: Raja Fabrics
Raja Fabrics has 3 locations, all located in the west end of Toronto.
Raja Fabrics had your typical Toronto Indian clothing store set up: ladies working long hours for under the table pay, harsh flourescent lightimg, racks and racks of clothes, and no real organizational system. They had nice saris. Bridal wear was stored in a separate room accessible with a store employee. There were SO MANY pieces, and prices ranged from $500 to over $2000. For the amount of clothing they had, though, the variety was limited. It was not my scene and a little on the garish side. Thank goodness for the $500 lenghas, though. They sure showed my mom what kind ofbridal crap you get for $500.
7th stop: Riwaaz the Trends
Riwaaz is also located in the Great Punjab Business Centre. It was one of the nicest Indian clothing stores I’ve been in. It had dark cherry hardwood floor, soft lighting, and outfits hung neatly on racks. They also incorporated the typical store set up found in India: there is a cushioned platform that the store employees sit/stand on surrounded by benches for customers. The customer generally describes what he/she is looking for and the employees display all pieces that align with the description. It’s a great, and relaxing, way to shop. In India, though, they serve you tea. Here, they serve you nothing.
The customer service at Riwaaz was…not what I expected. Given the boutique style set up, I thought employees would be more accomodating and involved in the selection process. They weren’t particularly warm or friendly and seemed to be going through the motions. They had a lot of potential pieces and I tried on about 4 or 5 outfits. None of them worked. The embroidery was typical. And there was too much bling. Also, their pieces were quite expensive (more than $2000), but the material did not reflect the price.
Verdict: Looks can be deceiving.
8th stop: Lebas of India
I had high hopes for Lebas. It’s considered one of the more fashion forward boutiqes in Toronto. I was disappointed. I looked though their bridal selction, and the pieces were similar to the styles at Raja Fabrics and Riwaaz. I guess that’s the look most Indian brides like; but all the fabric, the bling, and shine just isn’t me.
Verdict: Expectations lead to disappointments.
So, with a better understanding of the market, off to Zedd’s we went. Driving in the west end scares me–there are too many highways: 401, 403, 409, 410. And everything seems so far away! Amazingly, I was able to make it there without any U-turns or stops at a gas station for directions.
I was nervous to show my mom the lengha. She’s hard to please and I often have trouble reading her.
I tried the lengha on again and loved my reflection in the mirror. I noticed new details about it that I adored even more. When my mom saw me in it, she said nothing. Flat affect. She said it was “ok”. She walked closer to me, walked around me, inspected me. She made sure my belly didn’t show. She didn’t like the back because it’s somewhat open. Rita said a piece of fabric could easily cover the opening. My mom was quiet. I said, compared to everything we saw today, this lengha is the best one–quality, look, and price-wise. My mom agreed.
But still no smile.
After I slowly died inside while my mom tried her usual embarrassing ploy to get $50 off the sale price, I told Rita I would think about the lengha and get back to her.
On the drive home, I tried to get a better sense of my mom’s reaction. She wasn’t giving me much. She just said it looked nice and it was a good price.
When we went home, I kept asking my mom what she thought about the lemgha. Her constant reply: “It’s o.k.” She did, however, mention to my aunt who was visiting that the lengha at Zedd’s was, comparatively, an incredible deal and we did not see a lengha of similar of similar quality. My dad, who rarely gets involved in these decisions, said simply: “Who’s wearing the lengha–you or your mom?” I replied, “Me.” And my dad nodded and went on with his business.
So, I went back to my place that evening and couldn’t stop talking about the lengha with J and my roommate.
Despite being 30 years old, having my own career, living on my own, and getting married soon, I crave my mom’s approval. Yes, I loved the lengha, but I couldn’t bear to wear something my mom didn’t like. I would be disappointing her, and consequently, disappointing myself. It’s a strange dynamic, I know. As much as I wanted my mom to tear up at the sight of me in the lengha (like all the moms on Say Yes to the Dress), I knew that wouldn’t happen. That’s not my mom. The lack of a negative reaction is, strangely, my mom’s equivalent of the teary-eyed mom. Behind my mom’s expressionless face, there are several emotions and thoughts floating around: sadness because her daughter is getting married; a sense of upcoming loss because the purchase of a wedding lengha cements the reality that I will be a bride; hope and fear for my future; frustration because I was right (haha); disappointment because her daughter won’t look like the bride she hoped for; most of all, love. My mom’s lack of opposition and lack of derision signalled to me the lengha is “ok”. And with my mom, “ok” is all I’m going to get, so I’ll take it.
I know that on the wedding day, with all my jewelry and make-up, I will look like a bride, my mom’s heart will fill with emotion, and I might even see a tear or two trickling down her loving face.
VERDICT: On Monday morning, I called Rita and asked her to put the red lengha with blue stones on hold for me. I’m picking up my wedding lengha on the weekend.