Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 83, Tuesday, September 8, 2009



Our style


It is perhaps the luck of them that have youth and/or fame to their names and the misfortune of all who do not, that fashion journalism in Bangladesh is almost entirely youth or celebrity-centric. In this day and age when catalogues will only feature faces as wrinkle-free as egg exteriors and Hindi serial fashions gain devotees as best as mantras, it is uncommon to acknowledge that fashion does exist outside the parameters of age.

In its 2009 Eid countdown, Star Lifestyle, in collaboration with Aneela Haque, designer and owner of Andes debunks every restriction that the number of birthday candles places on fashion or being fashionable and makes column space for five individuals who are neither in their alleged twenties nor are they screen idols, but individuals who are celebrities in their own rights, proudly on the other side of fifty, inspiringly successful and awesomely fashionable!

In conversation with Dr. Mahbubur Rahman Chowdhury, Chairman of Bangladesh Eye Hospital and arguably one of the best known consultant phaco surgeons of the country, we find that quite at par with his vibrant poise, Dr Chowdhury defines fashion by his personality instead of the other way round. It is quite unsurprising for a man of his range of self-assurance to believe that fashion is more of an individual statement than a stereotypical current trend at any given time frame, "I look for sophistication in my attire because I feel that power dressing promotes confidence."

Being a professional, he stresses the importance of being comfortable in what he wears and also mentions that it is necessary to keep colour codes well in mind. As does he underline the variations in his wardrobe based on occasion, whereby he chooses formals for meetings, conferences and dinners, casuals for his passionate hobby of cricket and ethnic for his poetry recitals. In endnote, the cheery doctor adds that although the exponential growth of the fashion industry in Bangladesh has meant that people now have their best foot forward, not every mushrooming boutique-owner is a designer and an accomplished professional like he, would like to see our heritage kept alive in designing, albeit with innovations.

We moved on next to two different professional fields, talking to renowned architect Bashirul Haq and his wife, Professor Firdous Azim. Sharing a rather fascinating perspective Haq defines fashion, and more precisely designer clothes, as 'wearable art'. He expresses his appreciation for fashion designing as he feels that he can easily identify with the creativity that it involves.

Similar to Dr Chowdhury, Haq agrees that in choosing clothes, one should keep individual personality and physique in consideration. He does however point out that different professions demand different kinds of attire and him belonging to a creative line of work has its benefits because 'everything goes in architecture'. As regards personal tastes, he looks for comfort in what he wears, opting mostly for casual but fashionable clothes.

In accord with her husband, Professor Azim, who teaches English at BRAC University, believes that fashion is a form of self-expression and is moulded largely by background. Belonging to the 60s and 70s, she, for example, follows a very deshi sense of dressing, preferring a natural look of no make-up and untied long hair and traditional saris and materials such as taat and khadi. Almost absent from her wardrobe are shalwar kameezes, which she owes to the pre and post '71 anti-Pakistani mindset, and gold jewellery; with her choice of accessories inclined towards silver and other metals.

As opposed to popular opinion, Professor Azim does not subscribe to the train of thought whereby different attires are deemed appropriate for different occasions. She is confident and comfortable in the fact that she wears the same type of clothes to different occasions, "I am who I am so it does not matter whether I am at a wedding or at university." She adds that she has never tried to change despite the many comments she has received about the way she 'does not' dress because whether she ever looked like a misfit or not, she certainly never felt like one.

The final couple that we spoke to is the duo of Dr. Rifat Rashid, Director of the France-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and part-time French faculty at NSU and IUB and Azizur Rashid, Finance Director, BOC Bangladesh Limited. Starting off with how she interprets fashion, Dr Rashid mentions that fashion to her is a mix of everything from maintaining comfort to looking good to reflecting one's persona. Her personal preference, she says, is one that involves fusion because this aptly represents her background; her eastern ethnicity brought out by her love for cotton, jamdani and taat saris coupled with western styles owing to the two decades she spent abroad in France and UK.

Like Professor Azim, Dr Rashid states that although she does keep place in mind, she dresses according to her choice and obliges people to accept her the way she is. And an even stronger point of consensus between the two women lies in their positive reception of the fact that Bangladeshis nowadays are more conscious about what they wear and how they look, as well as the fact that owing to the surge of the fashion industry, consumers, especially young girls, have ample freedom and options to choose from.

Rashid on the other hand looks for elegance based on simplicity when choosing his wardrobe and strongly bears in mind the place and occasion he is attending, for he does not wish to strike out, "The trick is to be the same with a difference", he explains. His wardrobe preferences are almost solely centred on British tailored clothes, with some personal favourites. He does however also wear designer panjabis where the occasion demands.

After having delved into five different takes on fashion and five separate wardrobes, conversation took a slight detour and touched on the discrepancies that the interviewees find between Eids past and Eids present. And interestingly enough, despite different backgrounds, varying tastes and dissimilar careers, each expressed one recurring sentiment: the drastic difference between the magnitudes of gift exchange over the decades. Where the yesteryears were characterised by minimalist options and hence, heightened appreciation, raised standards of living today have the downside of multiple presents coupled with an attitude of diminished cherishment and taking things for granted.

But that is hardly the crux of the matter. What is, is that fashion not only exists, it roars, rocks and raves beyond youth and stardom. What is, is that not only does generations prior have a sense of fashion, they make it, they break it and most importantly, they define it. With their glamour, with their confidence, with their success and yes, with their age; because as saying has it - life only begins at 50!

By Subhi Shama Reehu
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Wardrobe: Andes
Concept: Aneela Haque
Model: Dr Mahbubur Rahman Chowdhury, Architect Bashirul Haq, Professor Firdous Azim, Dr Rifat Rashid, Azizur Rashid



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