Menswear maverick Samuel Hoque meditates on positivity and self love
Flash back to a week before Ramadan, and Samuel Hoque is gearing up for bespoke bedlam. The UK based menswear designer blows into Dhaka twice a year – during Ramadan, and in the month before the official start to the winter wedding season – to personally handle client orders for custom looks, and drop the latest updates on his repertoire. This means burning the candle on both ends for a month straight, working round the clock to complete all the orders before flying back to his flagship store in London. Any sane person would balk at the very prospect. Any sane person.
“Creation is messy. You want genius, you get madness; two sides of the same coin”
~ Steve Jobs
Ever since he entered into the scene some eleven years ago, Samuel has been engaging in some serious textural acrobatics. This is the man that saw the classic Mujib Coat and created a version in screen-printed T-shirt fabric, as a fresh, summer-friendly garment. Marrying the rich textile heritage of Bangladesh with his cosmopolitan world view and international training, he’s given us satin-backed bomber jackets in jamdani fabric, coatis with sassy leather fringes, and more. The Samuel Hoque brand covers everything from ethnic and fusion wear for casual and formal occasions, loungewear, shoes and accessories, and boxer briefs, so you can be an SH man inside out.
This level of creativity from one person comes hand-in-hand with neuroses. Over our decade-long acquaintance, yours truly has been privy to his mercurial mood swings and post-midnight meltdowns. Many a PR firm that has tried to work with him in the past will mention how obsessed he is about executing every last detail of his vision, from the products themselves, to the packaging. The famously reclusive designer also declines live interviews over broadcast media, refuses to post his photos, and leaves social media interactions in the capable hands of his team. “I’m an analog man in this digital world” he confesses, adding that he is far happier to let his work, and not his persona, take the spotlight.
Samuel Hoque’s Style Sanctum in Progoti Sharani does reflect this philosophy. The stark white walls, the monochrome palette, and minimalistic décor put all the focus on the racks of sample pieces and colourful fabric rolls on display. All the furniture is strictly functional, and there is no loud, ambient music to distract one. The whole place is designed to be a serene, interactive experience, where the client meets the artist, selects an exclusive print from the rolls on display, and then surrenders to Samuel’s vision, as a custom outfit is created for him. There is none of the self-hatred of not being able to fit into an off-the-rack item, so that every customer walks out feeling a renewed sense of confidence in his body image.
But this is not to say that fashion is the answer to all one’s problems, Sam is quick to point out. “Yes, a bespoke outfit will help you work with your body type instead of subscribing to some idealized standard, and this can be an incredible confidence boost. But ultimately, your self-image is something you need to work on from the inside, and get yourself the care you need. To an extent, retail therapy does relieve stress, makes one happy, provided one has money to spend. However, I do not think fashion alone can solve the real struggle that one goes through during any serious mental health issues. A quick sedative is never the solution. It is a long term struggle and to understand it, and identify the triggers. Getting the right support is key”
Issues of self care have been weighing on his mind for quite some time now. When his father lost the battle to cancer in 2010, it sent Samuel into a dark spiral that marked his six-year hiatus from the Bangladesh fashion scene, as he went back to London to distract himself with further studies, collaborations with retail outlets there, and ultimately setting up his flagship store. “No matter how hard it became, my Dad always taught me to be positive and focus on the goodness within yourself and your surroundings. There is a real lack of self-awareness and public awareness around mental health. We need to break the silence, to de-stigmatize the issue and get help for those who really need it.” This prompted him to start the Love Yourself Foundation, a non-profit organization focusing on raising awareness about self-image, and encouraging positivity. With a few trademark issues and legal paperwork pending, we’ll have to stay tuned for more details.
Since our chat before Ramadan, Samuel has gone on to launch his shoe collection here in Dhaka, the brocade based swimwear collection titled Love Yourself at his flagship store, as well as completing a successful season of bespoke orders throughout the festival season.
When asked about how he stays sane during these times of insane productivity, he sagely replies “Every day is a struggle, but I just have to plough through. Focusing on positives, avoiding toxic people and yoga keeps me sane.”
Samuel Hoque Style Sanctum is located at Level 8, 32, Progoti Sharani, Baridhara.