Saqafat: growing Desi fashion in the region

Desi folks who are missing the colourful panoply of home may find respite in Saqafat Boutique’s beautiful clothing. Saqafat Boutique has been a testament of Komal Rana and her mother’s determination and will since Apr. 21, 2021. The dynamic duo set out to bring a fusion of Eastern and Western fashion to Waterloo. Rana’s designs provide the strong foundation of Saqafat Boutique, with her mom as their number one investor,

 Saqafat aims to bring elements of South Asian culture to Desi folks in Canada. Their goal is to help keep the culture alive regardless of their location and ensure cultural holidays are celebrated the way they have always been. Their collection consists of popular Pakistani brands as well as their original designs. The boutique has been Rana’s side hustle since graduating from school last April.

“Saqafat is not an English word,it basically means culture. And the institutions that I actually wrote this down, the customs, arts and social institutions that bring people together and the reason we named it Saqafat obviously depends. It’s my culture from back home and a fusion of it with Western culture,” Rana said.

When Rana and her family first arrived in Kitchener they quickly felt the absence of Pakistani clothing shops. They saw there was a community in KW who was being underserved. Rana’s goal is to bring fellow immigrants closer to their home. 

“Because when we would be looking for those clothes ourselves, it was difficult to access,” Rana said,

As a person who was born and raised in Pakistan she saw there was a need and decided to fill it. Her designs are sent to talented independent artisans in Pakistan who create the garments and send them to Canada. 

“It’s been much harder than I thought it would be.I didn’t realise how much actually goes into it…getting everything together.I have a support system, so it’s a bit easier, but you have to be really organised for sure,” Rana said.

 Saqafat Boutique specialises in clothing for festive cultural celebrations such as Eid, which is happening May 1 to May 2. They also carry originally designed clothing for casual days out. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic their efforts to sell their clothes in person were put on a pause and they used most of the hiatus to get their stock ready for the next festive season.

 Saqafat Boutique is the first business Rana has run independently. 

“I just graduated last April. I volunteered as a communications coordinator at the museum in downtown Kitchener and then for the federal elections and then I started freelancing. So I’ve been doing like a bunch of different things to figure out what I want to do since graduating, and then doing my small business on the side. But just last week, I was actually travelling. I was back home for five weeks in Pakistan. So I stopped all my volunteering and my freelancing and my small business and I just got back started,” Rana said.

As a small-business owner she is grateful to have the support of her family and friends. Saqafat Boutique is a primarily online shop, but it makes frequent appearances in the real world as well. Rana with the help of her mother, husband and aunt, readily brought their wares to pop-up markets around the Kitchener-Waterloo area.  

Customers primarily place their orders and ask their inquiries over Facebook and Instagram. When she is not interacting with her clients, Rana is overseeing the boutique’s inventory and her husband delivers the orders in the region as well as the GTA.

Despite an influx of interested customers, running the boutique has not been without its challenges. Those who are brave enough to take up the mantle of a business are quick to realise that it’s not an easy job. Impressively Rana is not only the owner and primary designer for Saqafat Boutique, but also its social media coordinator, promoter and creative director. Being an immigrant has also affected Rana’s experience as a small business owner. 

“I feel like if I wasn’t an immigrant, my small business would probably just be me. But right now, it’s like my whole family. And that while they’re supportive does come with a lot of complexities as well,” Rana said. 

Although she and her family have been in Canada for a few years, Pakistan still holds a very dear place in their hearts. Rana’s recent visit home was both a leisure trip and for the boutique. She was able to gather new materials, bring back stock for the shop and become inspired by the sights and sounds of home. 

Many folks of colour do not get the privilege of seeing their cultures represented in the outside world. For many of us, our cultures and heritage is something intimate and shared only with our families and close friends. There is something beautiful and fulfilling about being able to share your culture with the world at large. It is why businesses like Saqafat Boutique are so important to have around.