Sarto arrives in Dhaka -- where street meets sophistication
It’s the end of October, and a little birdie informs us that something big is about to land in Dhaka. This something comes with the intention to stir up the men’s fashion scene, and in style. Shehzad Aaqib, the man behind Sarto, is a Toronto-based Bengali designer ready to shake up a storm in Dhaka with his Fall/Winter 2020 evening wear. We, at Avenue T, decided to get in touch with Shehzad and get the exclusive scoop on what’s been cooking.
Having worked with Shehzad in the past for a cover shoot of our very own July issue (have you checked that out, by the way?), there was no doubt about how smoothly this would go. But what was meant to be an interview turned into a catching up session; talking about everything from cats to whips, to even some precious life hacks, there was never a dull moment in the almost two hour-long conversation.
Shehzad exudes a kind of charm that’s hard to explain -- and that is translated in everything he does, too. Sarto, his brainchild, started off as a bespoke fashion line in Canada about three years ago. Catering to mostly corporate employees, Shehzad designed suits personalized for every client. But the itch to design more led him to decide to branch out. He believes Canada doesn’t need any more competition, and there are more opportunities for growth here. “Competition is healthy,” he said. “Just because you buy Dior doesn’t mean you don’t shop at Chanel.” And to create that very kind of healthy competition, Shehzad decided to tap into the Dhaka market.
Shehzad was born in Bangladesh, and moved to Toronto when he was seven. Despite having grown up there, he feels a strong attachment to his roots, and building up on his passion for fashion here, too, seemed to be an inevitable step for him. He never studied fashion, but has always been drawn to (and has a good eye for) it. In order to explore more designing opportunities, Shehzad decided to move away from just bespoke to some ready-to-wear options, for the first time ever for Sarto.
Sarto offers an exclusive experience to the clients. There are many people who feel a sense of obligation to make a purchase when they walk into a store. Shehzad does not want his clients to have to feel that. With Sarto, you book an appointment, and meet Shehzad for an hour. During this time, you discuss what you’re looking for, look at samples that he brings for you, and collaborate on what the final product should look like. But it doesn’t just end there -- Shehzad’s clients go back to him for styling advice, too. “I’ll even go to the store with you to find the right accessories for the look,” he says. “The wrong accessory or even hairstyle can ruin the effect of the suit, and so I’m always willing to help my clients plan the entire outfit.”
“Other people can copy my style, but they can’t copy the ideas in my head. I’m already on to the next.”
The clients usually come in with an idea or inspiration for a suit. The consultation process ensures that Shehzad can help the client build up on that base, and customize it to suit their body and style. “Someone can show me a lime green suit that a celebrity wore and want the exact same thing,” he says, “and I’ll source the fabric from whichever part of the world necessary. But what looks good on one person won’t necessarily look the same on another -- that’s where the consultation comes into play.”
What Sarto aims to do is create an outfit for each client that he’s comfortable in; and comfort, Shehzad believes, doesn’t solely depend on the fabric used. There’s a significant change in the client’s posture and how he carries himself once he’s put in a suit that matches his style. That’s where the ultimate satisfaction of what he does lies.
So where did Sarto come from? Simply put, it means tailor in Italian. Initially, Shehzad called it Aaqib Sarto; but he removed his name eventually. “I want even my haters to buy from me,” he says. Not only does the name Sarto explicitly describe what it’s here to do, it also has the substance to be recognized as a brand that’s here to stay.
In terms of designing a suit, Shehzad draws inspiration from Paris and New York fashion. He does prefer using luxurious fabrics like velvet and silk -- he believes there’s no way for someone to not feel confident in fabrics like these, which sit right and feel expensive. Apart from that, they don’t necessarily have a signature style, as they cater to individualistic preferences.
Shehzad’s suit picks -- four must-haves for beginners:
• A black suit (obviously)
• A gray suit
• A blue suit -- like a midnight blue, nothing too crazy
• A check print: This can be broken up, to dress up or dress down for the occasion
Shehzad had a very clear vision of what he wanted to say with the campaign shoot for this collection. “I don’t like things to be too refined,” he said. And so, in collaboration with Laisul Hoque and Fahad Reaz Khan -- a creative duo who specialize in translating someone’s vision into photos -- they pulled off a four-hour shoot in New Market, dressed in silk pants and a tuxedo. “The beauty in chaos,” he calls it.
In fact, Shehzad has it all planned to the t -- from his first TV interview to his first fashion show, he has envisioned it all. “It’s not a question of how anymore; it’s a question of when.”
“Your art is not going to please everyone. I’m in the market for people who see the vision and want the experience.”
At the end of what seemed like a roller-coaster ride of an interview, Shehzad leaves the readers of Avenue T with some style advice. “Don’t be a mannequin,” he says. “Add your flair to whatever you’re wearing. Because at the end of the day, what you’re wearing represents everything you stand for.”