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Uplifting Artisans

  • Published at 11:27 pm August 9th, 2019
At_August, 2019_Pg 8 & 9
Photo: Courtesy

Sabah Khan talks about her boutique and the work of art in fashion industry

While I looked around and noticed every small detail of the meticulously set up boutique, ‘Print Me Yellow’, Sabah Khan came rushing to her office for the interview with Avenue T. Of all the things on my mind, what stood out the most to me were her Tory Burch sandals. As we all know, shoes can tell a lot about a person. And Sabah Khan, owner and designer of a stunning boutique, displays her impeccable fashion sense even on days when she’s not in the spotlight. During our long conversation about fashion, Sabah gushed about the fashion history of different countries, her exhilarating love for London fashion designers and stores, and her style. 

Fashion and art have had deep seeded love in Sabah’s heart since her childhood, but she never considered pursuing these as a profession. An electrical engineer is what she pursued to be. However, during her undergrad at Independent University, on an academic trip to Thengramara, Bogura, Sabah became very concerned about the people living in that area, and she felt a sense of urgency to do something about it. After completing her Bachelors in Electrical Engineering, Sabah got enrolled at Brac University to study Development Studies, and then went to the UK to study Environmental Policy. After her return, she was constantly occupied with social development work with USAID, Wreetu, cyclone affected people and many other organizations. In this regard, Sabah called herself “adventurous”. Going out to the fields, providing aids and finding solutions would push her to keep going. Surely, it was the work that would keep her busy; nevertheless, she never let go of the artist inside her. In the midst of the work or when she would visit Bangladesh from the UK, she would indulge in drawing patterns and sketching designs. 

In 2015, when her sister was getting married, Sabah took up the responsibility of designing outfits for her family, including her sister’s lehenga. After receiving immense positive response, Sabah realized her capabilities. She then went on the search for suitable karigar (craftsman), who would be willing to work for her long term. Upon finding two such craftsmen, Sabah started working towards a boutique of her own, where she could deliver pure perfection in the form of her designs. With a loan from her parents, she started a small tailoring shop in a room on their terrace.

Earlier in 2016, Sabah started making pop art dresses, mostly with vibrant colours like yellow. Thus she landed with the name ‘Print Me Yellow’. With time, the demand of her work increased, and during Eid in 2016 Sabah came up with twenty new designs. The next year, big companies such as Noman Group and Inditex approached Sabah for her incredible work. Soon afterwards, she made the decision of quitting her full time job and making a name for herself in the fashion industry.

The idea of leaving her job and starting her own clothing line seemed bizarre to everyone. But Sabah was not skeptical, she knew this was the line of work she wanted to be associated with -- full-fledged. 

Sabah has a great fondness for sociology. When it comes to designing as well, she dives into research of the history of Bengali designs, most of which are dying out with time. Sabah is keen on preserving the designs of the Mughals and all the other eras and, she does that by valuing the local craftsmen and the local materials. At a press conference in “Go Deshi, Buy Deshi” Sabah mentioned that if you give the craftsmen the time and effort, they will give you the output which would be no less than that of the neighbouring countries. Tailors of our countries were only familiar with straight cut dresses and other, generic designs. They weren’t accustomed to the frills, cuts and patterns that have been newly introduced to them. 

In the last couple of years, fashion has been all about exploring and experimenting. In this process, when a consumer seeks their preferred, unique designs being made, they do not acknowledge the fact that the tailors of our country have limited knowledge on how to make those. Sabah points out that people have now forgotten how to treat the tailors and craftsmen with kindness. 

Some of the many reasons behind the local fabrics and craftsmanship dying out would be the scarce facilities and the poor income source. Most of the current craftsmen do not want their children growing up living the same life where there is no respect, and no financial security. Sabah, on the other hand, is optimistic. She believes the respect can be restored and making an effort for them will improve their work immensely. Sabah acts on her belief by starting with giving them proper facilities and creating an interpersonal relationship with her karigars. This way, they build a strong bond with each other, and it brings the output that Sabah desires.   

Craftsmanship isn’t just a profession -- it is a work of art. Sabah conveys this statement to her karigars and values the efforts they pour in to make luxurious prêt collections. Sabah provides all kinds of facilities - from food to accommodation, and even cycles for their easy convenience; she tries to do it all to improve their lives and let them work with dignity. Now, with a few factories and around thirty karigars, Sabah is venturing into more intricately designed dresses. Aiming to uphold her motto, Sabah Khan will soon be organizing a training session for the local karigars.

Sabah wants to improve her work by growing organically. She has never sponsored to gain recognition of her label. In this saturated market, where a design gets copied instantly, Sabah decided to take down her designs from social media. The optimistic Sabah does not want to rush in the competitive market either. She prefers to be called a “fashion enthusiast” rather than a fashion designer. Further, she says that she is a designer in progress, who is learning about the industry and improving her flaws in every step with her karigars. She ends the conversation saying that in order for her to be called a designer like her favourites -- Alexander McQueen, Anamika Khanna and Sabyasachi Mukherji, she first needs to create her own creative mark. 

With a large collection of embellished designs, Sabah Khan’s boutique is located at Baridhara DOHS. Find them online at: https://www.facebook.com/Printmeyellow/