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Signature Style with Sarah Karim

Taking the fashion world by storm, Sarah Karim is a growing brand that’s leaving a mark in high-end bridal wear and party gowns. Tunajina Islam has a chat with the designer and learns about her process and what’s in store.

Sarah Karim: Dazzling in her own design in this vibrant lehenga. Photographer: Kazi Mukul.

This season Sarah Karim and her team are making a concerted effort to work and promote the local jamdani fabric. ‘In April 2020 we will take a bridal collection to New Delhi for a prestigious show there. Needless to say, the jamdani is very popular as well as sought after in India and since I’m representing the country I want my line to have a distinctly Bangladeshi flavor to it,’ she adds. The collection will have heavily embellished ensembles on jamdani fabric. However, at the same time, taking pains to make sure that the inherent intricacy of the jamdani weave is not lost. Some stunning sample pieces are already done and the response is, as she says, overwhelming.

In Bangladesh, Sarah Karim will be participating in the Tresemme Fashion Week at the end of the month which is coordinated by the Fashion Design Council of Bangladesh. There will be a display of a very versatile collection ranging from casual chic to heavier couture pieces. A fashion show is also scheduled for February where the emphasis will be entirely on their wedding and trousseau collection. 

Sarah Karim, talking about her achievements throughout her career, says, ‘The magic of creating something from scratch is a powerful moment. To visualize someone stunning in your mind and then to see it come to life is very special to me.’ Moments like when brides adorn their custom-made outfits and it looks more spectacular than they had imagined are what she holds close to her heart. She adds, ‘The love and gratitude I’ve received at these moments make all the hard work and stress worth it.’

Sarah Karim bringing minimalism to life. Photo: Kazi Mukul.

The designer has been in the industry for almost a decade and a half now, although the organization with its artisans and craftsmen is more than 35 years old. Over the years there’s been a vast change in the fashion scene in Bangladesh. The customer for one is a lot more knowledgeable and demanding. Exposure to top-end international designers and stores has meant that expectations are quite high now. You have to deliver high-quality products and workmanship at a price that makes them worth it. Another change has been in the designs of outfits. She states, ‘Clothes have become more fusion with the influences from the subcontinent and the West. No one wants just a regular kameez anymore. So we’re constantly innovating with different cuts and drapes. In fact, that is our strength I feel.’

So what’s in this season? According to her, what’s been very popular this wedding season has been the age-old traditional gharara! This was a popular garment worn by Muslim women of the Indian subcontinent during the 1950s/’60s. Back then it was considered everyday wear but now they are mostly used as wedding attires. ‘We mostly use rich silks and the work is gold zardozi and embroidery in different colors. It’s such a graceful ensemble that I’m delighted it’s made a comeback. We stock some of the lighter sets at the store and do the heavier ghararas on orders. As for ethnic party wear, it’s all about innovative drapes both for kameez as well as for sarees. But one must be careful to see what style suits a certain body type before making a choice.’

Fashion is a form of expression, Sarah Karim’s team believe and that is why every designer tends to have their own signature looks. ‘People can tell a Sarah Karim outfit from random Facebook pictures, which frankly surprises even me. It means you have a distinct style! It’s also my personal taste and preference which gets translated into the work I do. For example, we introduced the pastel shades in wedding wear which has now become so popular. Or the intricate zardozi patterns and designs which were inspired by our family heirlooms. So, yes my clothes do reflect my personal tastes and preferences and that should be the case with all designers,’ she tells Colors.

With more and more women being professionals these days, being a working mom is a universal challenge. ‘But I have been lucky, Mash Allah, as my children are quite independent and I really leave them to sort out their own school work, exams etc. My eldest was the one I’d spoilt by mothering him too much, but even he’s left for University last year. I have to say that my biggest pleasure is coming back from work and spending time with my kids. My husband too has been very supportive of my career,’ says Sarah Karim.

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