A CONVERSATION WITH RINA LATIF TO HEAR HER THOUGHTS ON THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT AND GLOBALISATION ON BANGLADESH’S FASHION INDUSTRY.
What inspired you to come up with your latest collection?
A romantic, global nomad inspired my latest collection. A person moving languidly through heady bazaars, while in the evenings being at a speakeasy or jazz lounge.
What’s your take on the market being flooded with clothing from neighboring countries? What has prompted this kind of a phenomenon?
That’s globalization for you. We provide such easy access to our markets, but for actual Bangladeshi designers, it is most definitely not a cakewalk. Also, it is deeply embarrassing that most do not take pride in wearing and promoting local homegrown brands. If we are to develop a fashion industry, there need to be regulations and legislation put in place to protect the industry and curb counterfeiting. And take pride as Bangladeshis. Actually, it’s almost tacky to just blindly follow this trend of wearing clothes that trickle in from our neighboring countries. I don’t see any uniqueness about it; nor is it chic. From a designer’s perspective, it’s just blending in with everyone else – it’s this lack of confidence to cultivate one’s own style.
What is the biggest reward of being a designer in Bangladesh?
The biggest reward is certainly the chance to showcase our rich textile heritage and to work to bring back craftsmanship that was fading, almost dying. It’s a chance to show the world that Bangladesh is capable of setting and creating its own distinct style. Also, it has given me the chance to provide employment and livelihood for countless craftsmen, artisans, weavers. I too have learned so much from these souls. But, it has not been easy. I have suffered many a heartbreak. It is an almost daily struggle to fight against counterfeiters and intellectual theft.
In your decade long journey as a designer, if you had the chance, would you like to change anything?
I would really clamp down on counterfeiting and counterfeiters. I would like to make the process way more transparent. I would like to see a fraternity of designers.
How can we brand local couture to the international market?
We need strong support from the government. Legitimate brands provide a huge amount in taxes, and we deserve to be recognized as a venerable industry. Rina Latif is already carried in boutiques in India, Dubai, and London. But with the government’s help, I believe we can reach greater heights. This also goes back to your second question, that then you can actually control this onslaught of foreign clothing and instead develop our fledgling fashion industry.