In conversation with Mehruz Munir
Mehruz Munir has a spring in his step these days, and with good reason. The rip-roaring success of the recent collection launch of Zurhem’s SS19 line is just another chapter in the story of how one label has, in less than half a decade, completely transformed the menswear scene in Bangladesh. It is this kind of dynamism that has won Mehruz the Fashion Designer of the Year (International) award in the British Bangladesh Fashion and Lifestyle Award 2019.
Sitting in his office at the operations base in Baridhara, late in the evening, when the factory is quiet, the Creative Director of Zurhem modestly waves off my compliments as he looks back on his career with a sense of wonder. Since its inception in 2015, the label shot to almost overnight success, and owning a Zurhem suit is seen as a status symbol in the same league as any high-end foreign luxury brand. So much so that the label recently signed an agreement with Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna – yes, the Zegna that helped Tom Ford launch his eponymous label. And this is just one of the many exciting things the brand has to offer this year
Mehruz waxes nostalgic as he talks about his early experiences of menswear in Dhaka. “When I was a teen, growing up, we only had Doja Market, and maybe Westecs, if we wanted to get Western menswear. There just weren’t enough options for fashion-conscious young men.”
Luckily for young men of the present, Zurhem just launched their affordable line of casuals and party wear, called ZRM. I’m tempted to call it their youth line, but Mehruz is quick to point out that this line contains things that he himself would wear. “I can’t be wearing a suit all the time, and especially when I have to work, I want something that is comfortable, versatile, and stylish’.
Admitting that the whole ‘status symbol’ thing might be a great honour but doesn’t translate to sales in volume, and perhaps as a nod to the early days of the hustle, the brand is also launching their Executive line of wallet-friendly work suits for fashion conscious young corporates with smaller budgets but big ambitions at work.
Zurhem introduced women’s apparel to their repertoire last year, a move met with mixed reactions. “Women have always been more style savvy; they know what they want, and how they want to present themselves. Before we started Zurhem, I’d go to parties and events and see these stunning, polished women looking immaculate, being accompanied by men in unimaginative, ill-fitting suits, and I’d always end up feeling a little sorry for the women. Now, that the thinking has changed, and men are also stepping up their game and taking their clothing and grooming more seriously, I can now shift focus and challenge myself with women’s apparel,” says Mehruz. Choosing not to take sole credit for the paradigm shift, he reels off a list of favourite deshi designers whose work continues to impress and impress him. “Working with women is an exciting change of pace because menswear is something that comes more naturally to me, but women’s wear is a learning curve, and I’m having fun figuring it all out.” Both Zurhem and ZRM offer women’s apparel in addition to menswear.
Another exciting new addition worth mentioning is the launch of Zurhem’s line of shoes – classy classics like brogues and dress shoes to complete the look. “It was a natural expansion” Mehruz explains. “We’d get clients who’d order complete suits, shirts, boutonnieres, pocket squares, what have you, and the shoes were an important missing piece of the puzzle. Now you can also get Zurhem shoes to complete the look.”
Anyone who has been to their original outlet in Baridhara will attest to the fact that Zurhem is less of a clothing brand as a lifestyle. Everything from the décor of the waiting room, the ambience of the fabric gallery, the quiet efficient service of the shop assistants, and the luxe packaging add to the experience of buying Zurhem. !” This philosophy has been carried over to the seriously stylish new atelier in Banani. Saadat Chowdhury, Zurhem’s Chairperson, had proudly proclaimed to an ecstatic crowd at the SS19 launch, “This is a completely original design. And indeed, the dark paneling, gold-veined marble, metallic highlights and mirrored surfaces create a lush, sophisticated, hyper-masculine setting that’s quite different from anything you’ll see in the city. Mehruz describes the aesthetics as “New York speakeasies” and one can see that gilded gangster vibe.
Zurhem’s sparkling new atelier is located on the 7th Floor, at House 44, Road 12, Banani.