Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 30, Tuesday, July 27, 2010



Out of the blue,

“Change your road. 7 Cherry beats going. free
Change your space. 50 mac books. 150 iphones
1500 ipod shuffles. Get yours. free
Land sure gifts! Just get into Levis at a store near you.

Change your world for free”…

This is the signature advertisement for the largest and oldest denim company. It is really hip and contemporary. The tag line is modern. It is today's buzzword. This goes to show denim will never die. It will always be reinvented with the passage of time.

The world has witnessed the evolution of denim over the past 150 years. It has achieved amazing transformation but in recent years we find that the science of denim creation has undergone leaps of discovery and execution.

In Bangladesh denim was possibly introduced in the 60's with increasing interconnections and associations with the western world. More people were travelling to the west. Although as a trendy pair of garment, denim in the sixties and seventies was considered as an elitist expression, restricted to only those who had access to the west as jeans were rarely found here.

The scene changed somewhat in the 1980's with more imports, but the major change occurred only when the manufacturers here also began to export denim in large scale and the excess productions started to show up in local markets.

Today there are many niche shops in Dhaka that carry high-end jeans and showcase a large collection of pants, shirts, jackets and accessories.

The history of denim dates back over one hundred and fifty years. It is truly a fabric phenomenon of the 18th century. There was an increase in trade, cotton plantations grew in number, and the slave labour workers were introduced to jeans cloth because the material was very strong and it did not wear out easily. It was a much heavier version and woven by hand.

Then, in the nineteenth century - possibly around 1853 during the California gold rush - the gold miners wanted clothes that were strong and did not tear easily. It was in 1853 that Leob Strauss started a wholesale business, supplying clothes to the mining companies.

Strauss later changed his name from Leob to Levi. The denim fabric became designated as the most sought after work attire in North America. In the 1930s the westerns were very popular movies and the stars made jeans a popular fashion item. In the 1940s however, fewer jeans were made while canvas and drills took on the role of a more leading desirable fabric during World War II.

American soldiers loved their jeans; it became a big fashion statement with them and played an important role to popularise denim the world over. Many more companies came into the business of denim production. Levis found more competition with Wrangler and Lee coming into the market with greater prominence.

In the 1950s denim became symbolic of the young rebel population in North America.

James Dean in the movie “Rebel Without a Cause” displayed an iconic presence of the use of denim in the social membranes of particular society.

The 1960-70s: hippies were the source of inspiration. Many different styles of jeans were made to create the 60's fashions: Embroidered jeans, painted jeans, and psychedelic jeans. In many non-western countries like Bangladesh, jeans became a symbol of 'Western decadence' and were hard to get.

The 1980s saw the emergence of designer jeans. It became high fashion clothing, famous designers started making their own styles of jeans, with their own labels on them. The sales of jeans went up and up. Globally the market expanded manifold. Jeans were manufactured all over the world. The 1990s came with its share of recession in the market.

Although denim never completely went out of style, certainly during these years, the youth market wasn't particularly interested in 501s and other traditional jeans styles. As the youth will certainly not wear what their parents wore, the latest generation of rebellious youth turned to other fabrics and other styles of casual pants, such as khakis, chinos, combat and carpenters and branded sportswear pants.

They still wore denim, but it had to be in different finishes, in new cuts, shapes, styles, or in vintage styling, not conventional jeans. Levi Strauss & co., the number-one producer of jeans and the "single most potent symbol of American living” were on the verge of closing down totally in America.

The year 2000 was the beginning of the new millennium, and we again started to see the shift in reinventing denim. Jeans came back on designers' catwalks, beat-up, torn-knee blue jeans or swarovski studded, denim was assuming any number of disguises and broke through almost any limitation on price.

Today it can also be found in home collections, appearing in cushions, bedspreads and furniture-coverings and many more accessories.

Denim was making a major high fashion statement; we need to look at where that leaves the traditional jeans brands? The old mass market was segmented, fragmented, shattered into a multitude of mini, micro and niche markets. This last generation found a vast quantity of brands to choose from, a different perception of the cult value of owning small insider labels.

With all that going on Levis was launched in Europe again and set to be re-introduced to the US market in autumn of 2000 with 'engineered jeans', which are ergonomically designed and pre-shaped to follow the contours of the body.

The San Francisco-based company was desperately trying to regain its brand status. Millions were spent. In a huge competitive market it was all set to regain its position. Its target consumers - 18 to 24 year-olds - experienced the biggest and largest advertising effort in Levis history. Let us not forget that denim will always be associated with this brand.

Denim, the fabric of our lives

Indigo girls

This season again we shall see a resurgence of the chic denim dresses. It could be your summer staple. Collared shirt-dresses with flap pockets, button down front open. Looks great on its own with leggings or churidar.

A few other options could be rolled up full sleeves with curvature hemline or short sleeved, a-line, shirt-dresses that are equally smashing. Crew neck, sleeveless, bubble dresses are surprisingly feminine in light denim or a free falling, ruffled, sleeved dress is soft on the edges and light in finish.

The girl in you can experiment. Wear it with tan leather accessories; a sure cowgirl impression may be attained.

Two is Better

Denim on denim is always a classic combo. A denim skirt or skinny pants can be easily topped with a flared long denim shirt. It works well casually but may be vamped with accessories for the evening.

Denim now comes in every shade possible. White and ivory are a good choice with any shade of blue pairs. Fitted, sleeveless, medium length, denim top can be paired with a cropped distressed pair of jeans. Flash it with neon colours and you will be able to break all denim looks with bright accessories or even a tank top peeping under your shirt.

The Favourite Jacket

The all time classic denim cover-up makes a good statement any time of the year. It can transform any casual ensemble into a semi formal, trend-setting look, which simply cannot go wrong.

Collared button down cuffed sleeves are classic. But for the summer time I would suggest sleeveless, v-necked denim waistcoats or frayed, distressed, multi-pocketed bolero style, sleeveless, short jackets.

Jackets are coming with front open zipper attachments in printed versions or even in metallic dyes. But if you stick to the classic indigo shades it will clearly walk you through a few seasons.

Printed long shirts or dresses look great with denim jackets. It's a country look made popular in America but is feminine in any version.

Pick of the pair

Skinny dark jeans are extremely slimming. They come in wide or narrow belts, mostly in low waistlines but some may be high-waisted. Ruschet or gathered on the hemlines are a fad while short slits or a slight bell shape are a classic.

Distressed jeans, sand blasted, ripped and marbled are some finishes that are popular these days. Roll ups and cropped styles are definitely more wearable for our summers. Leggings are a new breed of Denim. A superb fit with lycra leggings can go well with flared, peasant, asymmetrical or gypsy style tops in knee length.

Denim pairs are the most versatile trousers to date. You can wear it with a white shirt for work or a checked shirt and sneakers for sports or hang high in a psychedelic jersey tunic and high tops for the evening.

Denim has been and probably will remain, timeless. From day-labourers garb, to celebrity outfit, designer brand and fashion for the masses, denim has for over a century been the quintessential choice of pants.

Redefine yourself in a timeless piece. The appeal of Denim, it is safe to say, will remain for a long, long time.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Model: Sanjana Rahman

Hilsa fest
a delicacy of the rainy season

Ilish or hilsa is considered one of the choicest delicacies in the Bengali menu, particularly in the rainy season. There are as many preparations of this fish as there are cooks.

Hilsa is eaten with pulao, panta or steamed rice. Traditionally, serving hilsa to family and guests at lunch or dinner is de rigeur in the appropriate season. Without it all other items, however gorgeously done, are not considered adequate.

As the Elshey guri (a very fine misty rain characteristic of the monsoon) starts, Bengalis get ready to sample the silver fish. Newspaper announce its sighting prominently. Restaurants arrange hilsa festivals for the discerning diner.

We have selected a few representative hilsa recipes.
Ilish mosla bhaja
Bhapa elish sorshey
Elish pulao
Talr kheer
Boroi aachar
Serve with green coconut water

Hilsa pulao

It is unthinkable that the Bangladeshis will not evolve the pulao, a cuisine they adopted, by adding fish.
Serves 10
2 Hilsas (1.5kg each)
2 carrots, roughly diced
4 white onions, quartered
10 green chillies, chopped
2 green cardamom pods, gently cracked
2 black cardamom pods, gently cracked
2 cinnamon sticks, 2.5cm-long
10 cloves
2+3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 cups yoghurt
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp red onion paste
2 tsp garlic paste
½ cup mustard oil
½ cup ghee (clarified butter)
2 cups red onion, sliced
2 tsp ginger, grated
4 black cardamom pods, gently cracked
6 green cardamom pods, gently cracked
2 cinnamon sticks, (2.5 cm long)
10 cloves
550g kalijira (fragrant rice)
½ cup hot evaporated or thick milk


Scale the fish. Cut out the head and tail. Reserve the head and tail for making stock.Pull out the guts and discard.

Place the pan-dressed body of the fish on its side and slice diagonally, cutting into 1.75cm-broad steaks. In a large deghchi (pot), pour 8 cups water.

Now put hilsa head, tail and other discarded fish pieces, carrot, quartered onions, green chillies, 2 green cardamoms, 2 black cardamoms, 2 cinnamon sticks and 10 cloves, Bring contents to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium simmering. Allow the stock to reduce for 90 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the vegetables, spices, herbs, and fish parts.

Return stock to the flame. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt and pepper and simmer over a very low flame till required.

In a mixing bowl. combine yoghurt, coriander powder, cumin powder, red chilli powder, red onion paste, garlic paste and 3 teaspoons salt. Whisk to a smooth paste.

Drop the fish pieces into this mixing bowl and coat with the paste.

Heat the oil in a karai (wok). Gently slide the fish pieces into it, sauté both sides until spices release its aroma. Strain the fish pieces and keep aside.

Pour the residual oil into a heavy deghchi. Add ghee, when the fat is heated, toss in the sliced red onion and sauté until golden.

With a latticed spoon, scoop out 3/4th of the fried onions and place them on absorbent paper towels to drain, to make a baresta.

Hilsa shallow fried in spicy gravy

Serves 10
10 dry red chillies
2 tbsp ghee
1 cup onion slices
2 hilsas (1.5 to 2kg each)
2 tbsp onion paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tbsp cumin powder (freshly roasted and ground)
1 tbsp turmeric powder
2 and ½ tbsp salt
2 tbsp soya oil
1 tbsp kala jeera (nigella)
20 green chillies
½ up cilantro, chopped
Lemons, wedged


Soak dry red chillies overnight in water. Next morning grind them into a fine paste after adding a tablespoon of water. Heat 2 tablespoons ghee and add the onion slices, cook until golden. With a latticed spoon strain out the baresta (onions), and spread on a paper towel. Reserve the ghee in the wok.

Cut the pan-dressed fish lengthwise, separating torso and belly. Slice the upper part diagonally and the belly into 2cm wide pieces. Rinse the fish pieces under running water; preserve the head and tail to use in other recipes.

Put onion paste, garlic paste, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, red chilli paste and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk to make a smooth mosla paste. Smear the pieces of fish on both sides, with this mosla paste, and keep aside for 10 minutes.

Heat soya oil along with the residual ghee in the wok, toss in the nigella, and after a few seconds slide the fish in, one by one. Saute the fish, turning them over, frequently and gently.

Slow cook the fish pieces. While the fish must not be overcooked, the mosla should turn brown. The dark brown mosla will coat the suitably-cooked fish in patches.

Arrange the fish pieces on a serving dish, garnish with baresta. Serve with green chillies, cilantro and lemon wedges on a side dish.

Hilsa cooked in mustard paste

Serves 10
1kg hilsa steaks
½ cup mustard oil
3 tbsp mustard paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 and ½ tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp onion paste
8 red onions, quartered
10 green chillies, slit lengthwise
1½ tsp slat
4 banana leaf pieces, 15cm-by-15cm, for wrapping


In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients, except banana leaf square pieces. Submerge the banana leaf squares in boiling water for 2 minutes, take out and plunge in ice-cold water. Drain and rub dry.

Line a small-size metal casserole with 3 banana leaf squares. Now place the hilsa mélange on this. Cover with another banana leaf square and close the casserole with a tight fitting lid.

Place a small metal can (with both ends cut out) at the centre of a large pot). Set the casserole on top of the can. Pour water into the pot, submerging half the casserole. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and bring the water to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes after the water reaches boiling point. Take out the casserole and transfer the steaks to a serving dish. Pile the gravy on top of the steaks.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed




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