She never planned on becoming a fashion designer until she got admitted into BGMEA, and fell in love with the fashion designing books she found in the library. The colourful pages and the photos are what intrigued her and made her fall in love with fashion designing. They made her dream.
Winner of the European Union Fashion Show contest in 2010 and the (Bangladeshi) winner and (globally) first runner up of SDC International Student Design Competition in 2011, Afsana Ferdousi is also the country coordinator of the London-based company established in 1882 called Society of Dyers and Colourists (SDC). This company works with colours and sustainable fashion worldwide. She’s also a member of the Fashion Design Council of Bangladesh (FDCB) and the division head of the Knit and Sweater department of the buying house Team Sourcing.
She recently took up a big project to write a book on the history of Bangladeshi fashion that she aims to finish within the next three years. She says, “I remember when I was a student, we studied about the fashion history of different European countries, not of our own—because there’s no information on our fashion background recorded in any book yet even though we’re studying in Bangladesh and we'll work for the Bangladeshi market.”
She hopes that the book, once finished, will be introduced to university students of fashion schools for two or four credits. “A friend of mine and I have recently started working on the book and a few pages have already been published in Samakal, Canvas and The Daily Star.”
In this episode of Avenue T, the wide-eyed wonder pours her heart out to us, and talks about her dreams to change the world through her work.
Your top three favourite puja trends.
Puja indicates colours and celebration of colours. A red katan, jamdani or taat sari with a golden border, worn in ek-patch (single patch), with kasha bangles or just bangles is my top pick.
My second favourite pick would be a custom-made long skirt made out of a red or orange katan sari, paired with a contrasting, tailored top made out of silk. Cutouts, frills or ruffles may be incorporate in the top, as long as one can pull it off.
Other variations may also be introduced with pleated or frilled pants, teamed up with a top with uneven hems.
Your top three favourite fabrics for the season.
Khadi, handloom cotton, and endi cotton which works for both summer and winter, are my all-time favourite fabrics. The best thing about them is that they're all made in the country.
I have participated in six international shows so far but have managed to always stick to our deshi fabrics and materials.
What are you most excited to wear this autumn?
In 2014, I came up with this collection on a trial and error basis. It was focused on jamdani prints knitted on sweater materials, in the forms of pullovers, dresses, etc. I’m looking forward to amp that up and bring it back this autumn.
Favourite colour palette for this season.
My personal favourites depend on my mood mostly, but black and white are my all-time favourite. Red is my other pick; sometimes I even like wearing pink and blue. But when it comes to designing, my colour palette would be influenced by the season. If it’s for summer, I’d choose light colours, for autumn or winter I would choose dull colours like black or grey. I always try to incorporate little bits and bobs or bright colours as the embellishments, regardless of the season. That’s my focal point.
Tell a little about the kinds of embellishments you prefer.
The one trend I really am not a fan of is probably jori-chumki (sequins and golden frills); they don’t appeal to me as something sophisticated, and after the first wash they look worn out. I have never used laces in my collection either.
My favourite form of embellishment on my clothes is nakshi-kantha. We also have a lot variations in the hand-stitches that Bangladesh proudly boasts of, which are what I've mostly used as embellishment in all my collections so far, steering clear of machine embroideries.
I also like stones, but they have to be of top quality.
If we can have foreign brands like People’s Tree and Guru (a Korean brand) coming to Bangladesh to get our hand-stitches on their collection, why do we need to make our clothes using Indian and Pakistani laces?
I usually focus on bringing our designs and patterns together, that are all done in a traditional technique, but the representation is somewhat fusion.
What inspired your current collection?
I work with sustainable fashion or eco fashion, which uses raw materials, fabrics, and elements that are environment friendly and all sourced from our country. Sustainable fashion also does not harm air, water or pollute them in any way, and provides a good workplace environment for those working for the brand.
My latest collection, some of which was showcased at the Malaysian Borneo Fashion Week on July 9, is inspired from different themes. 10 of my clothes were made and displayed, inspired from 10 different themes. The material used for the collection was our very own (deshi) silk, with nakshi kantha as the embellishments. The clothes in my collection are very deshi, with a global appeal to them—anyone from anywhere in the world can wear them.
One of the themes that I have used for this collection and was displayed at the Borneo Fashion Week was rape. There was a dress where eyes were sewn, both opened and closed, with tears rolling down from them. The gender symbols (both male and female) drawn in the corner with the words “Stop victim abuse”—all stitched in nakshi kantha. Women aren’t the only ones who fall victim to rape—it can be men too.
Another theme was on saving the tigers where it read “Save the stripes” with a tiger’s face sewn in nakshi kantha as well. Half the world’s tigers have been killed because we wanted their skin. As artists or fashion designers, it’s our responsibility and as well as an opportunity to try and intrigue, and send some sort of a message to our audience through our work, hoping we can bring in positive change.
Hopefully once my brand is established, I will give a complimentary pack of plant seeds to my clients with every purchase, so that each of my clients can plant a new tree in their homes. Maybe I will change for the better, and be able to inspire others to change as well.
One wardrobe essential that you don’t travel without.
An indigo denim.
One thing you always carry in your bag.
A lipstick. And a pen and a diary. I keep getting miscellaneous ideas and thoughts and tend to forget them very quickly if I don’t note them down.