Anika Rashid: A Bangladeshi name in the glitzy world of couture
Trained in the UK as a fashion designer, Anika worked at international brands such as Tesco UK, Zara, Debenhams, Abercrombie & Fitch before launching Anikaires Studio, her own brand of haute couture
As children and young adults, we often dream of growing up to become one of those glamorous and successful people we see on television and media. Most of us shed those dreams as we grow up, and settle for 'making a living'.
Not Anika Rashid though.
Anika dreamt of being a part of the world of fashion as a child, worked towards it meticulously despite many disappointments, and is finally on the path to creating a niche for herself in the global market.
Today, her brand Anikaires Studio, operates out of the UK, Hong Kong, India, China, Thailand and Bangladesh. She deals in high-end Western fashion wear and experimental designs that scream luxurious femininity with every twirl of the skirt.
Anika trained as a fashion designer in the UK, and gained work experience at international brands such as Tesco UK, Zara, Debenhams, Abercrombie & Fitch, before graduating fashion school.
She presented her debut collection in 2006, hand crafted products with the European Union in Frankfurt. She then moved to Preston, Lancashire (England) to complete dual degrees in fashion and branding. In 2010, as designer and creative director, she presented the Anikaires collection for the first time at Graduate Fashion Week, London.
In 2014 she almost ended up working for Vogue India.
"Vogue India reached out to me in 2014 with an internship offer to which I immediately responded. It was a four-month-long project."
"To gauge my abilities, they gave me a project which involved designing a collection for teenage, school-going girls. As I am good at website design, I made the collection and presented it through the website. Not only did this project boost my confidence but it also resulted in Vogue India offering me the job among a hoard of other international applicants," Anika added.
However, things did not go as planned and Anika had to give up on this golden opportunity due to unavoidable circumstances arising from work-permit related complications.
"The incident put me in a state of distress but I knew I had to work my way up," Anika said.
Anika had the resolve to not let her talent go to waste. She decided to apply to more fashion houses abroad and see where her luck takes her.
"In the meantime, I visited Mumbai and toured some factories. Then, I went to Malaysia and Thailand to see how their factories operated. The last stop was Hong Kong and Guangzhou, where the best fashion factories were".
Travelling back in time, Anika recalled the beginning of what she would refer to as "the striking point".
"When I used to read film magazines as a child, seeing the glamorous actors all dressed up was the striking point for me. But in reality, these celebrities aren't as glamorous as they seem. They have a whole team of people dedicated to doing their makeup, hair, shoes, dresses, and everything else in between to make them look as fashionable as they did in the magazine, and I wanted to be a part of that team that made everything seem perfect," she said.
Anika's interests in the fashion world developed further as she regularly checked out brands and their window displays every time she visited a shop.
"This became a hobby which helped me develop a sense of fashion. My first motivator was definitely the magazines and the second was going into the shops and checking out merchandise," explained the designer.
The third motivator for Anika was the runway.
"I used to watch all these fashion shows and draw inspiration from them. One of my biggest motivators was Victoria's Secret with their dreamy and angel-winged creations."
However, Anika's dreams of becoming a fashion designer started long before she even understood the significance of fashion design.
"I have been dreaming of studying fashion and becoming a designer ever since my nursery school days. By reading a lot of magazines, I realized that I couldn't become an actress as was very shy and introverted. So I thought of becoming a fashion designer to get closer to the glamorous industry," Anika said, adding, "and back then there were no fashion designers in Bangladesh to really speak of. I didn't even know what a designer was back then."
Upon graduating high school, Anika decided to get enrolled at the BGMEA University of Fashion & Technology (BUFT) in the capital's Uttara.
"When the examination body at BUFT asked me to draw out my name, I sketched something beautiful out of my name, which ended up impressing them," recalled Anika.
During Anika's first year at BUFT, one of her projects was exhibited in Germany. During her second year, she received an internship offer from Tesco UK.
"I applied and appeared for multiple rounds of the interview at Tesco's Dhaka office and got the job. I was working full-time there and pursuing my education at the same time, which created a lot of pressure. After eight months, I had to quit the job to concentrate on my education."
A few more semesters shy of graduation, Anika applied for a German scholarship and was accepted into the programme. Later, she flew to Germany, held exhibitions, and co-authored a book on how fashion merchandise should be manufactured.
After Germany, Anika flew to Indonesia to work for other companies.
"In the meantime, I kept applying to many countries and got accepted at the University of Central Lancashire, UK, after a year," Anika recalled.
At the university, Anika studied fashion promotion and branding instead of fashion design.
Unlike most fashion designers, Anika's designing concerns do not revolve around launching new collections every season. Rather, she is more concerned about the quality and design aspects of her gowns. Her design aesthetic is solely dedicated to the treatment of the fabric.
Anika said, "When I started designing, it confused some people. They thought, 'Who will buy these?'" However, despite what others thought, Anika continued to design her dresses more for her satisfaction and less for others.
"I have always lived in a world filled with fantasy. Every time I started creating something, it starts somewhere and always ends up somewhere else. When I started my brand, I never thought of doing it for the sake of business," Anika told The Business Standard.
Anika's vibrant and luxurious gowns with their intricate designs is a testament to her claims.
As the conversation reached its end, Anika said, "I am not even sure if I follow the latest fashion trends because couture is something that is very slow-paced, whereas trends change really fast".
With plans to engage more with the Bangladeshi fashion scene, Anika said she will rebrand her site and carry on with social media marketing, even though she remains sceptical about the country's acceptance of her designs.