Fashion Interview Lifestyle

Sarah Karim, The Couturier: Redefining Tradition with Vision

Sarah Karim is Bangladesh’s best known designer when it comes to bridal ensembles and haute couture. In a country where most thought their only option for exquisite trousseau shopping was from across the border, her innovative designs and ability to customize styles for individual tastes, has dramatically changed this scenario! Using artisans who were originally trained by her grandmother, Sarah reinvented many heritage designs and started a new line of formal wear with modern cuts & drapes and then ventured into creating her exclusive bridal line. That’s how Sarah Karim Couture was born years ago and rest as they say is history! An interview feature by columnist Riccha Grrover for Asian Lite International.

In conversation with designer extraordinaire Sarah Karim…

RG- When and how did your couture entrepreneurial journey start?

SK- I remember when I formally started, I used my own money to design and create my first 12 outfits! This was still when my grandmother was running the business. So, at one of her sales, I had showcased these 12 salwar kameezs under my own label and they sold out in no time! Since then I never looked back and went from strength to strength! Today the organization is much bigger and we provide employment to newer artisans while retaining our core team. 

RG- Why did you decide to choose fashion designing as a career?

SK- Actually it chose ‘me’ rather. It was my maternal grandmother who started this organization as a charity. She belonged to the Dhaka Nawab family who were great patrons of the arts including intricate hand embroidery like zardozi & karchopi work. My grandmother wanted to create employment for these artisans who no longer enjoyed any patronage from erstwhile landlords and zamidars. She further trained the artisans and gave them better designs and color palettes to work with. When old age prevented her from being as active as she used to be I stepped in and took over the organization. Having acquired a Masters degree and having studied at Delhi’s prestigious Lady Shri Ram (LSR) College, I was teaching at High School & University before I quit to devote all my energy to the business. I reinvented many designs and started a new line of formal wear with modern cuts & drapes. That’s how Sarah Karim Couture was launched. A few years later we started our bridal line.

RG- What is your DesignIng process ? 

SK- All our designs have one recurring theme, a central idea – they’ve all got classic, regal designs and work, but with modern cuts. Any Sarah Karim outfit runs through a rigorous and detailed process as it goes from sketches that finally take the shape of real designs. I look into a lot of classic, old, Mughal designs/motifs, so whereas the style is modern the work is always very classic. I think it is very important that your individuality is reflected in what you create. I take a lot of care to think up color palettes for my lines,  so every season we have certain recognizable hues we work with. Same with cuts and silhouettes we try something new and unique every season.

RG- Is all your design work done in-house?

SK- Considering that a major incentive for me being in this industry was to provide sustainable employment to our artisans, all our work is in-house in Dhaka. We do not outsource any of our designs or labor. This is important also to safeguard our ideas and patterns from getting replicated. Cheap imitations of our work is a nagging problem but really does not affect sales as our clients recognize & appreciate our commitment to quality which remains unmatched.

RG – What are the key embroidery techniques your brand uses and their applications?

SK-As mentioned before, our artisans are highly skilled in traditional embroidery techniques like zardozi, aari work, gotapatti etc. These techniques are handed down from generations and our karigars are all specialists in their respective fields. Hence the quality of our hand embroidery/zardozi, everyone agrees, is unmatched in Bangladesh. I’m a perfectionist too when it comes to my work and so make sure that our workmanship is flawless! 

RG- How do you manage your seasonal stock?

SK- Our year is not so much season based as in the West but rather depends on festivals & weddings. So we have the two Eids for which we do special lines. First being the Eid ul fitr being much more elaborate than the second Eid which follows in 2 months. The period between July to September and then again between December to February is always hectic as it’s the main wedding season. This is when we introduce our bridal collection with all its finery photo shoots, promotions etc. We also do at least two fashion shows every year one of which is the much anticipated Bangladesh Wedding Couture Week. Our party wear and casual lines are refreshed almost every fortnight as and when ensembles are finished and put on display. 

RG- What is the USP of the label ?

SK-I think our greatest strength is the ability to blend antique designs with modern cuts & styles. Also the artisans working for the brand have decades of experience and specialize in embroidery techniques that date back to the Mughal Era of Bengal. Such timeless artistry juxtaposed with fusion cuts and designs is the hallmark of a signature sarah karim ensemble! 

RG- What is your future vision for your brand?

SK- It has been a good run I think. Down the years we’ve done many fashion shows, both at home and abroad with some of the most famous showstoppers. Our clothes have been worn by well known personalities even in countries like India which have so many celebrity designers. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at some very prestigious platforms with regards to the revival of antique handicrafts, self reliance of artisans and issues of women empowerment. I am also on the board of an NGO called Thrive which provides free meals to more than 3000 underprivileged school kids everyday. My work and story has been published in many magazines, on covers and centre spreads. We’ve had some very concrete offers to open stores in Dubai and London and we already retail in Australia. We also ship internationally to more than 25 countries around the globe! 

So it’s been a happy journey so far, but as they say “..miles to go before I sleep… “

Sarah Karim’s journey stands as a testament to the transformative power of innovation and tradition in the world of fashion. Sarah’s  pioneering spirit, rooted in a desire to empower artisans and preserve heritage craftsmanship, has reshaped the landscape of bridal ensembles and haute couture in Bangladesh. By reviving classic designs with modern cuts and drapes, Sarah has captivated audiences both locally and internationally. 

Karim’s commitment to in-house production not only ensures the integrity of her creations but also serves as a platform for sustainable employment and the preservation of unique designs. As she looks towards the future, Sarah envisions a continued expansion of her brand’s presence globally, driven by a dedication to excellence and a passion for celebrating timeless artistry. With accolades, prestigious collaborations, and a burgeoning international clientele, Sarah Karim’s journey is far from over—it’s a testament to her enduring legacy in the world of fashion.

ALSO READ: ‘Fashion Helped Me Discover My Confidence’

Fashion Lite Blogs

Nancy Tyagi Wows Cannes with Handcrafted Ensemble

The journey of the content creator, who has 852K followers, is being supported by the popular short video magazine, Brut…reports Asian Lite News

Uttar Pradesh-based social media fashion sensation Nancy Tyagi has become the first artist to design her own outfit for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival’s red carpet.

The ensemble not only reflects her personal style but also embodies the essence of her journey as an innovator in the fashion industry. From concept to creation, every stitch and detail has been infused with her unique artistic vision.

Nancy took to her Instagram and shared a series of happy pictures from her walk on the red carpet.

She penned a note describing her pink ruffled gown, saying, “Stepping onto the red carpet at the 77th Cannes Film Festival as a debutant feels surreal. I poured my heart and soul into creating this pink gown, which took 30 days, 1,000 meters of fabric, and weighs over 20 kg. The journey has been intense, but every moment was worth it. I’m overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for the love and support from all of you. This is a dream come true, and I hope my creation dazzles you as much as your support has inspired me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

The journey of the content creator, who has 852K followers, is being supported by the popular short video magazine, Brut.

Born and raised in the humble environment of Baranwa village in Baghpat district, Nancy expressed: “Mera dream bhi nahi tha itna bada toh jaha mai aaj khadi hu, yeh outfit maine khud hi banaya hai. Ek mahine ki mehnat aur 1,000 meter ke fabric ka nateeja hai yeh. Mujhe bahut khushi ho rahi hai. Kabhi maine socha bhi nahi tha ki aisa bhi ho sakta hai (My dream was not this big, but here I am today. I made this outfit myself. It is the result of one month’s hard work and 1,000 meters of fabric. I am very happy; I never thought something like this could happen).”

She is known for her unique style and innovative design, and her work is characterised by a blend of traditional Indian techniques and modern aesthetics, reflecting her deep appreciation for her cultural roots.

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‘Fashion Helped Me Discover My Confidence’

Bhumi said that it’s not just about looking good anymore or following trends…reports Asian Lite News

Actress Bhumi Pednekar revealed that she struggled with confidence while growing up and said that she turned to fashion as a form of self-discovery.

“When I was growing up, I struggled with feeling confident, especially because of the pressure to fit into certain beauty ideals. But instead of letting that define me, I turned to fashion as a form of self-discovery,” Bhumi said.

The actress added: “As I’ve gotten older, my relationship and understanding of beauty and fashion have evolved.”

Bhumi said that it’s not just about looking good anymore or following trends.

“It’s about embracing my individuality, expressing my personality, and celebrating what makes me unique. Today, fashion and beauty are a medium through which I can express myself, my emotional canvas, and my state of mind.”

Even though Bhumi has received mixed views over her fashion and style statement, Bhumi will still experiment with her looks as she loves it.

“I love experimenting. I just want to have fun with fashion, and I think I’m doing this with all my heart, which is why people are appreciating my fashion-forward turn. It is good when I can work both ends of the spectrum – from relatable to edgy fashion.” she said.

The actress added: “People tend to box someone, and it happened to me too. In maximum films that I have done so far, I have played a girl from a small town, and that has set the perception that I can look amazing being this girl next door.”

Bhumi loves it that way, but her fashion is to shatter that perception and show people who she really is and how she wants to be seen.

“I’m a young, confident Indian woman who is expressing herself through fashion, and I’m enjoying the love that my looks are getting,” said Bhumi.

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Aishwarya Rai’s Iconic Red Carpet Comeback

The next year, she slayed the festival with her Cinderella look. She wore a Michael Cinco gown at the 2017 Cannes…reports Asian Lite News

Actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has headed to the ongoing 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival with her daughter Aaradhya. Over the years, the actress has represented India at the Cannes red carpet numerous times, with several of her iconic looks creating a buzz and going down in the pages of pop-culture history.

The actress made her Cannes debut in 2002, for the screening of her film ‘Devdas’ directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. For the event, she wore a golden-coloured saree designed by Neeta Lulla. She accessorised her look with a choker gold necklace, regal bangles, and earrings.

The following year, she graced the Cannes Film Festival for the screening of ‘Matrix Reloaded’. For the occasion, she wore a futurist black corset with a crisscross lace up at the centre front seam.

In 2016, Aishwarya sported her most viral look from the event, opting for a purple-coloured lipstick. She walked the red carpet in a pastel floral off-the-shoulder Bardot gown by Rami Kadi. The gown was embellished with floral patterns and vines in purple and green. She rounded up her look with smokey eyes and purple-toned lips. This look of the actress went viral on the Internet, sparking a meme fest.

The next year, she slayed the festival with her Cinderella look. She wore a Michael Cinco gown at the 2017 Cannes.

In 2019, she stepped out on the red carpet in an off-shoulder tiered gown from Ashi Studio. Her look was all about feathers, ruffles, and lace. She rounded up her look with a pair of white heels and accessorised it with dangling diamond earrings.

For her 2022 appearance at the Cannes Red Carpet, the actress made an unusual choice as she wore a sculpted gown by Gaurav Gupta. The outfit featured a halo-like element behind her head as the shell that Venus rises from Botticelli’s famous painting ‘The Birth of Venus’. The red carpet look and the thought behind it were deconstructed by Gaurav in an Instagram post.

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Red Lips: Timeless Glamour Amidst Subtle Trends

Bollywood personalities, who are tagged as trendsetters, also choose natural hues over striking red lips, whether they are on or off the screen. Celebrity makeup artist Amrin Mukhi, however, mentions that there are many takers of the colour such as Deepika Padukone and veteran actress Rekha who own the shade…reports Asian Lite News

Whether it is the iconic Marilyn Monroe’s cherry-hued pout or Indian beauty Aishwarya Rai Bachchan sending flame-like kisses with her ruby lips, the shades of ‘red’ are synonymous with sophistication, glamour and class.

Lighter shades such as nudes, pinks and peaches are currently in due to “natural” and “subtle” make-up trends. However, the classic “red lipstick” will never go out of vogue, say celebrity make-up artists.

“In recent times, the popularity of red lipstick has waned due to a shift towards more natural and subtle makeup trends. People are embracing minimalism and enhancing their features with softer, nude shades,” Penaz Mithuji, who has been the makeup artist for celebrities such as Late Irrfan Khan, Vidyut Jammwal, Aditi Rao Hydari, Aparshakti Khurana and rapper Divine, told.

The pandemic, too, played spoilsport for lipstick lovers as it “has led to a focus on eye makeup rather than bold lip colours.”

Mithuji minces no words when she sees the “bright” future of red.

“Classic trends have a way of resurging, so we’ll see a return of red lipsticks.”

Bollywood personalities, who are tagged as trendsetters, also choose natural hues over striking red lips, whether they are on or off the screen. Celebrity makeup artist Amrin Mukhi, however, mentions that there are many takers of the colour such as Deepika Padukone and veteran actress Rekha who own the shade.

“Red lips shall never go out of style! This glamorous, seductive and classic trend has had many takers from Marilyn Monroe to Elizabeth Taylor to the ‘Material Girl’ Madonna to our very own Rekhaji and Deepika Padukone and the list has them all,” Mukhi, who has worked with Esha Gupta, Shehnaaz Gill and Kritika Kamra among others, told.

She added: “We do try some very stunning variations in the bold mouth trend like deep berry or beautiful browns with rich undertones depending on the looks we are creating and the colour palette we are playing with.”

So what makes the shade of red so popular among makeup artists?

Kinchangthui Bariamtak, who has shown magic on celebrities such as Ed Westwick, Akshay Kumar, Sunny Leone and Taapsee Pannu, to name a few, told that it has a “timeless appeal.”

“And its association with the colour of blood adds a certain allure and power to it. It’s definitely a classic choice in the world of fashion and beauty. It can and never will be out of fashion.”

Kinchangthui, who is famously called Kin, shared that lighter colours may be preferred depending on the trend, versatility, and preference.

Saikat Chakraborty, National Artist M.A.C Cosmetics India, strongly believes that red lips will always be a classic. However, he reasons why people are now opting for natural shades.

“It’s like one of those trends that never go out of style; however, red can be an intimidating or bold colour for many individuals’ personal style – therefore, naturally, people are tilting towards nudes or peachy/pink neutrals this season,” Chakraborty told.

The reason nude lips are so popular – “versatility,” says Chakraborty, who added that it is easy to wear for everyday occasions.

He said: “More so for its versatility in terms of pairing it with outfits, other focus features of the face; example – a nude lip paired with a smoky eye balances out the look and imagine the same with a red lip – a blaring bold look.”

“Nude lips can be easily incorporated for an everyday look, office look, a 90s Nudes version of red carpet look, to the movies, dates, practically anywhere – also, nude lips allow individuals to customise the level of nudeness on the basis of personal preference, (and) skin tone.”

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‘Fashion Should Be Effortless, Authentic, and Fun

‘Heeramandi’ also stars Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Richa Chadha, Sharmin Segal and Sanjeeda Sheikh…reports Asian Lite News

Actress Aditi Rao Hydari, who oozes elegance in every outfit that she wears, feels that fashion should be effortless and there shouldn’t be any burden.

With 10.9 million followers on Instagram, Aditi’s social media feed is full of pictures of her wearing Indian outfits, traditional wear, gowns, co-ord sets, pantsuits and floral dresses.

Speaking about what fashion means to her, Aditi told IANS: “Fashion is something that comes from within you. You can play with fashion, but I believe fashion can be created from my cupboard, your cupboard, my sister’s cupboard or my brother’s cupboard also. Fashion is fun. And sometimes fashion ends up costing a lot, but sometimes you can create from your own thing. It’s about being creative.”

She went on to say, “When I started in 2011-12, that time I didn’t care, but after a few years it became a burden for me that I have to look glamorous, wear heels, put on makeup. But I was always like I don’t want to do all these things. I used to say that I will do this on screen but not in real life.”

“But in the last 4-5 years I feel like I am what I am, I am who I am. I will sit for an interview without makeup, with my hair all tied up. I feel my heart has to connect to you. And if this connects everything else works. Fashion, face, skin everything else also falls into place. And, I think fashion should be effortless. There shouldn’t be any burden. Maybe some people will like it, some will not. If you feel good, then do it,” shared Aditi, who is most recently seen as Bibbojaan in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s debut web series ‘Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar’.

If she follows any Gen-Z trends? Aditi said she doesn’t know about any trends but wears whatever she feels like.

“Sometimes things that are in trend are ‘behuda’. If I don’t like things which are in trend I don’t wear them. But in my everyday clothes, I decide it myself. I take it out from my cupboard and wear it. For me, fashion should be effortless, and it should be authentically you. If you are going for an event, then you can do all the ‘taam jhaam’,” she said.

Aditi added: “For me, it’s important to be effortless. Even if I wear a maang tikka, I should feel like I woke up like this.”

‘Heeramandi’ also stars Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Richa Chadha, Sharmin Segal and Sanjeeda Sheikh.

The series is streaming on Netflix.

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Anavila Misra’s ‘ETE’ Collection: A Fusion of Tamil and French Elegance

Hand block printing mixed with applique and embroidery makes this collection uniquely detailed…reports Asian Lite News

Designer Anavila Misra, known for her understated designs and subtle hues, has come up with a new collection named “ETE”, which celebrates the harmonious blending of Tamil and French cultures.

The summer collection mostly comprises white hues and roses as the primary motif “ETE”, celebrates the cross-pollination of cultures, a fusion of Tamil and French life, read the statement.

The fabrics used for the collection are linen, khadi silk, and khadi, which serve as the foundational fabrics for the collection. From printed saris and flowing kaftans and jackets complete the collection. According to the statement, Puducherry plays a pivotal part with the scent of roses mixed with the aroma of French coffee. The colonial structures with open windows draped in soft, flowy tapestries and a woman or two enveloped in thoughts and conversations around the verandas with their crochet needles capture the imagination.

The rose motif, fleur d’amour, translating to the flower of love, serves as the focal point of this collection. Hand-painted and then carved into wooden blocks, the rose is featured in bouquets, trellises, all over lattices, and in individual placements.

Hand block printing mixed with applique and embroidery makes this collection uniquely detailed.

The colour palette includes white paired with the hues from the gardens of the Indo-French Riviera, smoke blue and blush, soft yellow, and green to recreate the feeling of a rosarium.

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Sonam Kapoor’s Cultural Crusade

Sonam uses her social media platform to champion Indian craftsmanship…reports Asian Lite News

Actress and fashionista Sonam Kapoor takes pride in representing the country’s rich heritage, history, and diversity on global platforms.

The actress said she tries to highlight the country’s heritage.

“If I had to represent India in one way or another, I would highlight the country’s diversity and resilience. The fact that we have such a strong cultural heritage and ancient civilisation means that whatever is made in India has great value,” she said.

Sonam said: “It is a multicultural place where people from many faiths live together in harmony, and representing that is of utmost importance.”

“Besides being the land of yoga and spiritualism, for which India is renowned in other parts of the world, it is also celebrated for its music and artisanal craftsmanship. It is the realm of jewellery and embroidery,” she added.

“Most notably, numerous haute couture and luxury houses have their clothing intricately embroidered in India.”

Sonam uses her social media platform to champion Indian craftsmanship.

The actress said: “When you have a platform, there is a responsibility to put your most authentic self forward; you must represent your truest self and not a facade. When you have the right moral values and worldviews, it is interesting to see how people appreciate that and attach themselves to it.”

In terms of acting, Sonam is gearing up for ‘Battle for Bittora’.

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Gauri Khan Joins Zoya in Celebrating Iconic Collections

Drawing metaphoric inspiration from the resilience of rainforests, honouring the inner strength of the Zoya woman, with vibrant spirit, inspired by the rich heritage of the eternal city, Zoya’s Benaras captured her fascination for the city’s cultural splendour…reports Asian Lite News

An evening at The Chambers at Taj Mahal, New Delhi epitomised luxury and refinement, offering an immersion into the beauty and artistry of Zoya’s collections from the House of Tata. Celebrating the atelier’s storied legacy while raising a toast to its eternal muse, the Zoya Woman, the vibrant gala was hosted by Amanpreet Ahluwalia, Business Head of Zoya, with a showcase of its most iconic collections. Celebrated designer Gauri Khan, a long-standing friend of the House, joined the brand in embracing the spirit of the celebration.

“Zoya stands unwaveringly proud of its Indian roots and cultural legacy,” stated Amanpreet Ahluwalia. “Each Zoya creation seamlessly intertwines the richness of traditional Indian craftsmanship with a contemporary perspective and serves as a resplendent reminder to women everywhere that their true beauty lies in embracing their uniqueness.” For this special evening, the brand selected four exquisite collections of wearable art rich with meaning. Each rare creation, embodied the essence of the Zoya woman, embracing her true self with grace and confidence.

Drawing metaphoric inspiration from the resilience of rainforests, honouring the inner strength of the Zoya woman, with vibrant spirit, inspired by the rich heritage of the eternal city, Zoya’s Benaras captured her fascination for the city’s cultural splendour. Incorporating rare materials and ancient techniques, such as engraving and intricate enamelling, Benaras paid homage to the city’s iconic rituals and landmarks, encapsulating their mystical allure in every piece. With a poetic narrative and exceptional gemstones, Zoya’s Beyond – A Boundless Journey, inspired by the majestic Indus river symbolised the feminine spirit as a force of nature, capturing the myriad stages of a woman’s existence.

The high jewellery collection, Her Becoming created a revolutionary look in white diamonds inspired by ancient Ikat patterns. Featuring unusual stone cuts like Cadillacs, trapezoids and custom-cut baguettes the collection celebrated a woman’s journey to self-realisation, reimagining traditional silhouettes with contemporary flair while embodying the essence of modern femininity.

“I am delighted to join Zoya in celebrating its iconic collections that narrate stories from India to the world. The atelier continues to redefine luxury jewellery for the modern era with its collections,” said Gauri Khan. “Whether it’s a statement necklace or a delicate bracelet, every piece speaks volumes about the woman who wears it – confident, fearless, and unapologetically herself.”

Remarking on the successfully concluded Rendezvous at The Chambers, Satyajeet Krishnan, Area Director – Operations, and General Manager – Taj Mahal, New Delhi, said. “We extend our heartiest compliments for Zoya’s design homage to heritage and tribute towards empowering women. It has been an honour to be a part of this momentous occasion that highlighted the signature finesse of our iconic hotel and the warmth of Tajness. Located in the heart of the Capital, Taj Mahal, New Delhi, now in its re-imagined avatar, celebrates 45 glorious years of hospitality, and is a landmark destination for world-class service and bespoke experiences.” 

A delectable gastronomic spread presented by Chef Arun Sundararaj, Director of Culinary Operations – Taj Mahal, New Delhi complemented the uniquely themed ambiance, further enhancing the sense of occasion.

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Designer Narendra Kumar Launches Women’s Wear Line

The designer, who is also known as ‘Nari’, said that his venture Tamiska by Narendra Kumar epitomises unparalleled style infused with a global essence…reports Asian Lite News

Fashion designer Narendra Kumar, who is known for designing clothes for men, is now venturing into women’s wear and said that it caters to the women who approach the world with unwavering confidence.

Talking about his new venture, Kumar told : “With Tamiska by Narendra Kumar, my vision was to craft a line of clothing that effortlessly embodies style, seamlessly transitioning from Monday to Monday.”

“It caters to the woman who approaches the world with unwavering confidence, offering a fusion of elegance with ease,” added Kumar, who is one of India’s leading menswear designers since 2000.

The designer, who is also known as ‘Nari’, said that his venture Tamiska by Narendra Kumar epitomises unparalleled style infused with a global essence.

“Narrated through a captivating tale of internationally trending hues, distinctive prints, and effortlessly flattering silhouettes.

“It revolutionises the fashion landscape by democratising style without compromising on quality, offering unparalleled value at an accessible price point,” said the designer, who has styled names including Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and John Abraham among others.

The Tamiska by Narendra Kumar collection boasts of bold patterns and enduring silhouettes for the modern Indian woman, regardless of age, trends, or body type. The colour palettes range from classic neutrals to vibrant tones and prints.

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