In a conversation with ICE Today, Rabab Rahman, Founder and Creative Director of RaBabe, shares her vision for the brand and her quest to redefine the perception that sarees can only be traditional
TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE CONCEPTION OF RABABE – HOW DID IT ALL START?
I have been actively designing clothes since 2009, catering to a very niche client base. Expanding beyond that point never really crossed my mind until it came up in a conversation with a friend. We were going through magazines and discussing how contemporary sarees in the market lacked variety and glamour. We felt as if we could do something different and that’s exactly when RaBabe was born.
BRANDED AS A ‘COCKTAIL SAREE LABEL’ – RABABE IS DEFINITELY AN ORIGINAL AND EXCITING CONCEPT FOR THE LOCAL MARKET. WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THIS VENTURE? DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO TAKE IT TO THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET?
Our vision is to dress people up at an affordable price. Once we launched on social media platforms, we sort of started selling our sarees globally. We’ve been taking in orders since then. We’ve shipped some of our products out from Bangladesh to America and Sydney, Australia as of yet. What really surprised me was how most of the orders were from men who were buying sarees for their loved ones!
I DON’T WANT TO JUST KEEP IT TO SAREES, BECAUSE SINCE THIS IS ABOUT COCKTAIL WEAR, I WOULD MOST DEFINITELY LIKE TO WORK ON MAKING DRESSES AND EXPAND IN THE FUTURE
PEOPLE HAVE BEEN RAVING ABOUT YOUR EXCELLENT COOKING SKILLS ON THE FOOD TALK FOR A WHILE NOW. AND NOW AFTER RABABE’S MIND-BLOWING LAUNCH, YOU HAVE CERTAINLY MADE YOUR MARK IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY AS WELL. DID THESE PROJECTS MATERIALISE ORGANICALLY FROM PASSION, OR DID YOU HAVE IT ALL PLANNED OUT?
It was pretty organic. I’ve always been interested in cooking, and designing even. I always loved cooking for my friends and family member,s and some of them had even suggested that I monetize my cooking, told me about how good I was at cooking and how much they loved my food, but I was just happy with making food for the ones I had cared about the most and found it rather unnecessary to monetize it. However, when the pandemic hit, I had to shut down Dhagaa, my boutique and let my workers go. To survive at the time, I figured that I should to take up that suggestion of monetizing my cooking and give it a go. I shortlisted some food items and put them up on Food Talk and No Diet Today. Fortunately, it was immensely successful and helped me survive the pandemic.
YOU HAD TO SHUT DOWN THE BOUTIQUE, DHAGAA WHEN THE PANDEMIC HIT. WAS THAT EXPERIENCE TRAUMATIZING?
It was traumatizing at first. It was like losing an identity. Coming to terms with no longer having a boutique of my own was really hard. I was a bit all over the place at that time. I was worried about the fact that I have a child to look out for. Thankfully, by the Grace of Allah, the cooking thing started and had a very positive response, and in March I also successfully launched RaBabe. I am so glad everything worked out as well it did.
HOW HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN SO FAR?
The response has been amazing. I’m absolutely over the moon. I expected it to be good, but this was just beyond my imagination. It’s been a wonderful experience. The love that people have shown me is just overwhelming. I started feeling the love the very day we created a page and made an announcement about the fashion show to the public. There were about 400 attendants, and most of them were coming up to congratulate me and shower me with love. It was truly a memorable night.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF VENTURING INTO OTHER CREATIVE AREAS IN THE FUTURE?
I used to manage events at a certain point in my life, so I’ve explored that side of the spectrum. I’ve explored and worked on so many fields over the years, yet I always somehow keep coming back to sarees. Clothes, to be more specific. I don’t want to just keep it to sarees, because since this is a line of cocktail wear, I would most definitely like to work on making dresses and expand in the future.
Thankfully, by the Grace of Allah, the cooking thing started and had a positive response and in March, I successfully launched RaBabe
YOU MANAGED TO EXECUTE QUITE THE EVENT IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC. IT REALLY WAS THE TALK OF THE TOWN. WHAT WAS THE EXPERIENCE LIKE? WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO GO FORWARD WITH THE PLAN?
Honestly, in January, when we thought of launching RaBabe, the situation was rapidly improving. We sort of thought that things wouldn’t get worse than this, which encouraged us and in the end made us go through with launching RaBabe. In mid-March, when things started to take a turn for the worse, we were already done with carrying out the necessary preparations needed for the event, and everything was ready, so it was rather too late to back out. To be honest, backing out didn’t even make sense to me. On the day of the event, I was prepared for a cynical reception, but I was set on seeing it through regardless of the response. I also made special arrangements to stream the show on Facebook Live because so many of my near and dear ones, specially my mother, couldn’t attend the show. Unfortunately, Facebook shut down due to some unforeseen circumstances, so we couldn’t stream the show in the end. However, the number of attendants at the show amazed me. There were almost 400 people, which was overwhelming. All in all, I suppose if your product is up to the mark, you will almost always grab the limelight.
GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES, WHAT’S NEXT FOR RABABE? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS REGARDING ITS FUTURE IN THIS ECONOMIC CLIMATE?
Currently, I’m not working on anything. I’d really like to go with the flow with RaBabe. We have been receiving a lot of orders, but some of the sarees are yet to be delivered. Based on their feedback, I will make plans for RaBabe and things I could work on in the future.
All in all, I love what I’m doing, and I’m not looking forward to competing against anyone or any other brand because that was never an intention. I’m just doing something that I’ve always had a passion for and making dresses that I myself wouldn’t mind wearing!