Tawhidur Rashid digs up interesting details behind Tanjim Haque’s aspiration to go global with the eponymous brand.
Bangladesh’s fashion scene has seen a surge of streetwear this year. Blessed with a young demographic and an expanding middle class with a purchasing power more than ever before, the fashion industry is seeing a boom in western outfits, ready-to-wear attires, and streetwear. Almost all leading local brands have tried to enter in the last segment and but none could do it the way Ecstasy did. However, there are a few challenges which could potentially curb the growth of the fashion industry. One of them is the lack of originality. Many fashion retail brands who are claiming to have brought forth a unique collection are bafflingly boasting another stock-lot of everyday wear.
Another problem is consumers’ poor understanding of the brand identity. They will opt for anything and everything they find available and affordable. In addition, festival-dependency is another tendency which causes brands to launch collections only during special occasions. Instead of these, there are a few local brands which have managed to stand the test of time and emerge as a true tastemaker when it comes to fashion. Ecstasy is one shining name belonging to that league. From a very humble beginning 22 years ago, throughout its marvellous journey, it has added new chapters to the history of men’s & women’s fashion in Bangladesh. The credit of its meteoric rise goes to none other than its founder and now the creative head, Tanjim Haque and his wife Asma Sultana, Chairman of Ecstasy. As the dynamic duos of the brands, they launched their latest Spring-Summer 2019 collection recently, and a few new additions surprised us. Sneakers are one of those new things that have instantly become a favourite among the die-hard supporters of the brand.
So, why sneakers? When asked, Tanjim said, “Sneakers are a staple for every guy’s wardrobe. What started as a sport’s essential, is now a must-have for anyone wanting to make a fashion statement. The rise of streetwear has also helped this trend become mainstream. Hip-hop culture, punk culture, and Japanese street fashion have contributed to making streetwear mainstream. Following that, Nike and Adidas came up with athletic leisurewear and now everyone else is trying to come up with streetwear. Due to globalization, everyone wants to avail everything.” As we discussed further, it was clear to me that the sneaker project was not a sudden dream of Tanjim’s. He has his vision chalked out so well – of initially launching t-shirts, joggers and eventually footwear. “It completes the look of a fashionable Tanjim man who is an aficionado of streetwear,” he carries on to say, “you will see some of my latest tees have also got a facelift. A little loose-fitting with a curved hemline the bottom, they come with comfort and style, perfect for the summer. In this connection, I also inquired about the recent OVC pictures he posted on social media.
While it was a pleasant surprise to receive a bottle of Monaco (latest fragrance launched by Tanjim) gifted by the designer himself, what intrigued me was the nomenclature. In response to that, Tanjim reminisces about the splendid journey he undertook 3 years ago in Monaco, a sovereign city-state in French Riviera. The beauty and lifestyle of Monaco influenced him so much that he kept going back and finally decided to launch a perfume, which comes with a husky leathery note. “It’s my ode to that beloved city, a fragrance which might not be liked by everyone, but I am sure those who have loved it, got hooked on it forever,” he states.
Tanjim who has always been inspired by great lifestyle brands around the world now wants to develop one of his own, that represents his motherland. “I believe if I want to establish a global brand, it has to have a strong footing in the native country. That’s why I want to make Tanjim very well known in Bangladesh. This will enable me to introduce Bangladesh under a different light in the world, which is seen as a manufacturer of high-quality products for other international brands,” he explains.
‘Tanjim’ was launched eleven years ago, as a sub-brand under the leader brand Ecstasy. He added new lines every now and then, did a lot of experimentation. From casuals, denim, basic to the formal wear and now streetwear, over time, Tanjim now is all set to emerge as a full-fledged brand. The creative head has bigger plans though. “In December, I am launching sportswear and then women’s wear that complements the brand essence of Tanjim. One thing to be noted here is that the collection will not have products that you have seen in Zar Zain (spearheaded by Asma Sultana), which is more a fancy women’s clothing line.”
uring a more in-depth discussion to understand his vision, he mentioned Armani. “If we look at Armani, they have Armani Exchange, ArmaniJeans, Emporio Armani, Giorgio Armani, and Armani Prima Vera. Five lifestyles for people with five types of affordability. We want to emulate a similar kind of model for Tanjim too”, he expounds.
Tanjim Haque is currently working with an internationally renowned fashion consultancy company to decide on where to launch his pet project first globally. While he sounds highly optimistic about the potential of a global venture, he also shares a bit of frustration on the issue of policy support. “We need the right kind of policy support to venture outside in Bangladesh. Particularly more supportive laws to take investment outside Bangladesh will help local brands, who have that kind of prolific portfolio, to thrive in the global scene. Right now I am eagerly looking forward to setting up a brand store in the airport in Dhaka. The store might not initially incur profits, but what will happen is it will instantly ensure visibility of the brand to foreigners,” he adds.
Another challenge he points out is the pricing. “High-quality products do demand an aspirational price tag. Are our consumers ready to embrace that? Maybe not. People have only started embracing the idea of lifestyle with the help of fashion brands. This is why they might not be ready to pay a high price for a local brand. That’s why the international market holds more optimism for Tanjim.”
As we head towards the last leg of our tête-à-tête, I asked how he copes with the struggle of launching something new and making it popular. His amiable smile says it. “We have launched a number of new things for the first time in Bangladesh. The initial responses were heart-breaking to a large extent. But being a ‘true entrepreneur’, I have I never believed in stopping. Yes, there are mushrooming fashion retail shops/tags and people at times blindly follow them. For original designers and brands who put a lot of sweat and hard work behind their work, it’s unnerving. But I also realize this kind of pangs is nothing new for fashion brands who want to be leaders on their own merit.”
With Ecstasy and now Tanjim, his lifelong quest is to contribute to the local fashion industry in a positive way. “This job not only helps me earn my bread and butter, but it’s also so close to my heart and has made me become who I am today”, his eyes shine with gratitude as he concludes.