The concept of fashion varies from one person to the other. While fashion may simply mean wearing the right kind of clothes, someone else may think of fashion as a part of their lifestyle and to some, fashion can be downright confusing.
But to the Brand Image and Communications Officer of Mugler, fashion is an expression of who you are as a person.
She is Aydha Mehnaz, a 26-year-old Bangladeshi woman who braved a career in French luxury fashion. Fashion and lifestyle publications such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar have enlisted her as one of the most sought-after modest fashion profiles globally.
"I always had a knack for fashion, but I never actively pursued it because our society never encourages these things. When I was little, my aunt used to dress me up in different clothes and jewellery. During Eid, I used to switch outfits six times a day and ask people to take photos of me," Aydha said.
Growing up, Aydha got more concerned about her life choices. To keep close to her parents' dreams of becoming a doctor, Aydha studied biochemistry at North South University and graduated in 2017.
Within the second year of university she started to grow frustrated. "All I was doing was going to university and coming back home. After a lot of thinking and sitting on my frustration, one day I spontaneously decided to film a hijab tutorial and it quickly gained a lot of views, kick-starting my journey towards my passion," Aydha told The Business Standard.
With this video, Aydha launched her then-fashion blog, which gained traction, especially in Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
A while later, she started getting invitations to attend international fashion weeks as a speaker. For the first time ever in 2015, Aydha spoke at Indonesia Fashion Week about modest fashion and highlighted traditional Bangladeshi fashion in front of hundreds of people.
Aydha could not picture herself slaving away at a medical laboratory. She wanted to follow her dream of pursuing a career in fashion.
So she took the opportunity to pursue a double Master's degree in international fashion brand management and applied to ESMOD - a private French fashion school, which is also the oldest and first institution in the world dedicated to fashion since 1841.
In 2017, Aydha graduated from North South University and by fall that year, she was in Paris at ESMOD.
Aydha has been an integral part of Sailor - the Bangladeshi lifestyle brand - since its inception; having worked there for about three years starting as an intern in 2014, until the summer of 2017, when she ended her tenure as a communications and digital lead for the brand.
The Parisian experience
"In Paris, I did four internships in two years under renowned brands and press agencies. It was never easy for me as I was juggling education and work simultaneously," Aydha said as we asked her about her experiences in Paris.
Her journey at Mugler initially started off as a part of her Master's final year activity. Here, she specialises in fashion branding and communications.
As the brand image and communication officer, Aydha and her team are in charge of leading a variety of projects, often with high-profile celebrities.
Seven years into the world of fashion and her third year at Mugler, some of her notable partnerships within the team have been with Dua Lipa, Beyoncé, Cardi B, Bella Hadid, and Ariana Grande, among many others.
Introducing diversity, breaking stereotypes
The western fashion world seldom sees women rooted from the East basking under the warm hues of success. Aydha has stood out as an exception and uses her global platform to acknowledge diversity and break stereotypes.
She said, "What makes us unique as Bangladeshis is being able to go globally and speak about our country and our fashion while wearing a jamdani for example."
"You would never find these fabrics anywhere else in the world. I have always worn something very traditional on the first day of an international event to highlight my country's fashion heritage," Aydha added.
Bangladesh has attracted bad press in the last few years despite global recognition when it comes to clothing, due to unfortunate incidents in the RMG industry.
Aydha said, "People do not know about Bangladesh and its people. We are hardworking and full of potential, with a rich cultural heritage. Talking about Bangladesh on a global scale gives me the opportunity to shed more light on the different everyday aspects outsiders do not know of."
Two cents on the Bangladeshi fashion industry
"If you take out a brand's logo and mix up all images, you will not be able to tell which clothing belongs to which brand. Designs and marketing from the Bangladeshi perspective seems to have gotten monotonous. It is important for brands to have a signature," Aydha said, voicing her two cents on the Bangladeshi fashion market.
She continued, "There are so many brands that have a presence of their own, but we need to pay attention to how creatively we are presenting the clothing to the consumers."
For fashion brands to establish a distinct brand image, Aydha encourages developing unorthodox fashion statements as goodwill.
"I encourage brands, whether big or small, to think about their brand DNA and aesthetics, rather than just selling a few items of clothing. My only tip for the local market is to study their own brand value before communicating."