The concept of fashion is dynamic, fuzzy and open to interpretation. To many, it is about catching up with a trend. Others embody fashion by wearing the smartest dress from their closet, complemented with accessories.
But to Humaira Khan, fashion is a way of creating identity and standing out in the crowd. Her brand has been thriving to cater to the needs of fashion-conscious, urbanised Bangladeshis for more than three decades with timeless designs in locally sourced fabrics.
Even though Bangladesh is the second largest readymade garment producer globally, individual fashion designers are still not getting the recognition they deserve on an international level.
The luxury brand 'Humaira Khan' and its titular proprietor recognised this setback while sharing her success story with The Business Standard.
"We make amazing clothes in the best quality, no doubt about that. But somehow, our designs are not sustainable and ubiquitous. There is a gap in our concept that labels the pieces we make as either eastern or western," said Humaira Khan.
To break this chain, she has built a brand that makes international standard sustainable clothes, which are exquisite while being easy on the eye.
The story of Humaira Khan and her brand is an inspiring one that dates back to the late 1980s. Due to her father's posting, she spent her childhood in different cities around the world.
As a teenager, she returned to Bangladesh in 1983 and got admitted in the Holy Cross College. By the time she finished her higher secondary examination, she was already married and a mother of one.
But being a mother in her teens could not stop her from pursuing higher education and her passion for fashion. She continued her higher studies at the University of Dhaka all the while wearing her own designs.
"I was always praised for the outfits I wore. My designs have always been ahead of the era," she said.
In 1989, during her university days, Humaira was asked to design clothes for her friends so frequently that she eventually decided to turn her passion into a profession. And that is how her debut brand 'Anokhi' was born.
"Anokhi had a very humble beginning. I had no resources or anything. I shared my plans with the helping hand of our house at that time and she introduced me to his son who is a cutting master. He in turn got me a tailor. That is how we formed a team," recalled Humaira.
Those were conservative times and it was not easy for Humaira to continue her business; every step was replete with obstacles. But she fought them all with her determination, dedication and devotion.
Initially, Anokhi had no physical store. The business operated from the garage of her house. Her clients were mostly her family members and friends, and she made bespoke pieces on a pre-order basis.
Now, the brand only sells ready-made items, both online and at the physical store. Around 50 full-time artisans work tirelessly to keep up with consumers' demands.
Since its inception, Anokhi has been a luxury designer wear for the trendsetter youths who refuse to blend in.
Minimalistic design, precise cutting and lightweight fabric with blissful embellishments like sequins, stems, beads etc are the pièces de résistance of Anokhi outfits.
In 2019, Humaira Khan established her second brand named 'Anikini', which is more inclined toward ethical fashion and sustainable materials.
Anikini makes convenient, minimalist normal wear. Most of these outfits are made from cotton, linen or a light mixture of khadi. Perfect for regular wear, Anikini targets women who appreciate work and style.
According to Humaira, Anikini is not just a brand but also a revolution for women of all backgrounds to make them feel comfortable and look modern in their clothes.
The price of a regular piece from Anokhi starts from Tk12,500 whereas the starting price of an Anikini piece is Tk3,500.
"The collections are bright, crisp and light," said Humaira, adding, "Along with modesty and affordability, Anikini promises to give women the freedom of choice to wear what they want and how they want."
Being an introvert, Humaira Khan always tried to avoid the spotlight. Hence, in the beginning, she named her brand Anokhi, a Hindi word meaning unique.
This year however, Humaira Khan founded the umbrella company of Anokhi and Anikini and named it Humaira Khan. The brand has also launched its website.
In 2017, Humaira was featured in Vogue India for her travel jacket, which she made from jamdani with a taat frill on one part. She even added two Bangla words on the jacket, 'Manobotai bhalobasha' (humanity is love).
Since the very beginning, her business model has been self-sustainable. "I never took money from anyone. The business rolled on its own money," she added.
Even during lockdown, she continued production, maintaining all the safety protocols.
Till date, Humaira is single-handedly responsible for all the designing and planning of the clothes. In any given month, she designs more than 70 outfits. Moreover, she has been a promoter of deshi products all her life.
"The more I grew, the more I knew that I had to be different, I had to stand out," the designer concluded.