Monroé - combining the modernity of contemporary designs with the charm of traditional karigari
Monroé was founded by Badria Anis and Sahar Rahman. One has an immense passion for designing and the other has a background in footwear manufacturing. Their search for beautiful khussas/nagrais in Bangladesh for personal use motivated them to start making them on their own because the local market did not have such kind of shoes. Also, the khussas/nagrais available outside the country are not as comfortable. Hence, Badria and Sahar decided to come up with a footwear brand that makes handcrafted leather nagrais.
Badria studied shoe designing in Canada, and Sahar has been a fashion designer for the past seven years and is also the owner of her own label - Sahar Rahman Couture. Monroé is a strong representation of both of their talents - it started off in 2017 and till date is the first and only designer footwear in Bangladesh.
Their range of products offers a modern take on the classic nagrais, perfect for women of all ages and tastes. “We hoped to cater our products to the young girls in our country who would proudly buy and wear ‘deshi’ products which are high in quality and very comfortable,” informed Badria, when asked how Monroé came about. Their products are handmade in Bangladesh with love and that is why, they market their products using hashtags like ‘#handmadeinlove’ and ‘#madeinbangladesh’.
Badria Anis sat down with Avenue T to discuss the ins and outs of footwear manufacturing.
What was your motivation to get Monroé off the ground?
Sahar and I, both believe that footwear is a very powerful fashion accessory for women. We were sure that we were forming a brand based on footwear which is not as common in the country but we had to first form a balanced team. Once we formed a great team, it was a definite yes to start this venture and get things rolling. Also, once we launched our products, the demand of our shoes convinced us that choosing to do something out of the box always works. You just need to go ahead with the right attitude and be sure to work hard.
What are some obstacles that you had to face in order to make Monroé a reality?
We were sure that we wanted to use all raw materials which are from Bangladesh and we also wanted to use only local artisans. Hence that was tough initially since we had to train our local artisans to make a kind of nagrai which doesn’t have any reference because our nagrais have a very ballerina look hence the making is absolutely different from the traditional ones which they are comfortable making. But eventually, the artisans picked up the craft and now, there’s no looking back. We were the first to introduce a ballerina structure to our shoes making them not only stylish but enjoyable to wear.
What has been the most difficult aspect of getting your brand off the ground and how did you overcome that?
The biggest difficulty has been to be in the same market as some of the other brands who are importing nagrais from neighbouring countries. We had to make sure our designs were unique and we had to convince people that even though it’s made in Bangladesh, the quality is as great as the ones available.
From the very beginning, we were aware of our strengths. One is that we can design in house and play with materials and colour which can stand out from other available products, second was that we make our own shoes so we could make sure to give quality and comfort better than other products available. Hence, we played our strengths to overcome any difficulty.
Tell us a bit about your line. What kind of fabrics/materials are you using?
Monroe manufactures handcrafted series of leather khussas/nagrais combining the modernity of contemporary designs with the charm of traditional ‘karigari’. The embroidery technique we use, to different patterns of mirror work or even the ‘dabka’ work we do are a visual treat.
How have social media and networking impacted upon the way in which you work, brand and promote Monroé today?
Social media gave us a huge platform to reach many corners of Bangladesh which even with a physical store, we wouldn’t have achieved. We ship our products to many other cities like Khulna, Chittagong, Sylhet, Shatkhira, and Barishal. Our various collaborations with bloggers has also helped us create awareness amongst the young girls.
When designing khussas/nagrais, what are the most important factors that you keep in mind?
While designing, we keep in mind that we are designing it for modern women of today although we try to keep our heritage intact in all our designs. We want to make sure that our nagrais can be worn throughout the day and also night. Hence ,we develop designs keeping all occasions in mind.
Do you have any grand plans for your brand in the future? Any future ideas and exclusives you can share with the readers of Avenue T?
We believe that we are one of the first brands to go international already. We have displayed our products in an international fair in Dubai called ‘Numaish’ and our collections are also available in Vesimi, a multibrand store in Dubai and also Vanity Kart, an e commerce website based in the UAE. We plan to tap into other countries and market our products as a ‘made in Bangladesh’ product there. With our great response in Bangladesh and the UAE, there is more to come from Monroe this year.