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You can have it all

  • Published at 06:52 pm June 11th, 2018
  • Last updated at 06:59 pm June 11th, 2018
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Photos: Courtesy

Sumaya Khan gets candid about style, art, positivity ahead of her couture launch 

It’s a rainy Ramadan evening, and Sumaya Khan is all smiles as she sips her latte. The lawyer turned makeup artist (MUA) is about to drop her couture line, and she couldn’t be more excited. While her trajectory has been unusual, it makes perfect sense from where she’s sitting.

Two years ago, you would have been excused for not knowing who she was. Back from the UK with a shiny law degree under her belt, she made the choice of not pursuing a legal practice, and instead, keeping her hand in by teaching at LCLS, so that she could devote more time to setting up her makeup studio Rendezvous by Sumaya Khan. 

What set her apart from dozens of other homegrown MUAs is that while in the UK, she actually worked at MAC and trained under Charlotte Tilbury, and even did two stints at the London Fashion Week, so her credentials were solid. Despite maintaining a low profile on social media, she was selected as the official makeup artist for Tilda Swinton at the Dhaka Lit Fest last year. With a Hollywood A-lister on her portfolio, Sumaya Khan’s status as a name to remember was cemented.

Similarly, a leap from makeup to fashion might not seem obvious to the casual observer, but Khan assures us it was always part of her master plan. “I was interested in Fashion Design even before I went into Law,” she says. “I chose my degree at the behest of my teachers, who, half a decade ago, saw law as a more "stable” profession than fashion design. I couldn’t be more excited that the mindset is changing and the industry is finally getting its due recognition."

“My parents had a chain of tailoring stores in the 90s, so I grew up with a close exposure to the construction of garments” she explains. Like many designers in town, she spent her childhood making her own clothes, and her extensive travels provided her inspiration and exposure to fashion and European style. With her makeup studio finally taking off, she felt the time was ripe to launch her fashion label.

Sumaya Khan’s debut collection is a celebration of soft pastels rendered in cotton and muslin, featuring delicate appliqués, a liberal use of pearls, and soft feathers and florals. Priced very reasonably at a range of Tk4000-8000, it’s aimed at students, mothers, and working women who want something affordable, feminine and functional at the same time. Khan has been very vocal about her love of the classic Bengali glam, both in terms of clothes and makeup. “I want to bring back the minimalistic elegance of Bengali women in the 50s to the 70s, their artlessly sophisticated saris, their fuss-free hair and the classic red lip. I’d like to see more women styled like Gayatri Devi instead of the layers of caking and baking they go through after watching contemporary icons.”

Sumaya’s 6

We asked her how she manages to balance such a busy life and retain her sanity, let alone continue to look as fabulous as she does, and she gave us a few rules she lives by.

  • Drink lots of water, and get your daily dose of sleep. It might sound clichéd, but it’s surprising how few people actually prioritize this. “When I’m doing makeup, I keep telling my clients that it’s always better to emphasize on good skin instead of slapping on layers of makeup. And if you want to stay fresh throughout the day, whether you’re socializing, or working, you have to be well-rested and hydrated.
  • Hygiene is  paramount. “You might be travelling by bus all day, or on the run at work. Either way, shower, and use a good deodorant. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just effective. It’s good for your clothes, which will have less sweat and body oils to soak up. And once again, good grooming means good skin, which means you look better. Finally, poor hygiene can hamper you professionally. I’ve seen people in the legal profession being held back by a poor impression, and this is surely true for other industries.
  • Take time seriously. “I hate being late. I know we have traffic to contend with, so I plan accordingly.  Whether I was working and studying in the UK, or working on a shoot in India, I noticed everyone was very punctual, and it made a huge difference. It’s obviously harder to do in Dhaka, but if you make a habit of it, and hold others to the same standard, you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done.”
  • Cancel out the negative noise. “I’m always seeing these magazine articles telling talking about how a person of such and such size and shape cannot pull off a certain look.   Yes, black is a slimming colour, but if wearing white makes you feel good, I say go for it. The only thing you shouldn’t compromise on is fit, and a positive attitude will take care of the rest. Confidence is a better fashion accessory than any makeup or bling.”
  • Make room for a little art. “I like art in everything. It inspires and energizes me. I like to approach each face as a painting. I want my clothes to reflect my love of art. I want my packaging to look good. Aside from the obvious branding aspect, I think developing an eye for aesthetics is what sets people apart from one another. Also, when you take an interest in art, you can find a way to express yourself in a way that is true to you – instead of just copying what everyone else is doing.
  • Don’t skip the sunscreen. “If I had just one piece of advice to give, it would be this. Do it for your skin. Do it for your health. Do it for you. It’s a huge investment!”