Monokrome by ECOCULT – Meet the Women Creating an Ethical Fashion Scene in Bangladesh

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“It’s unheard of that a small brand like us is making clothes at this high value, that are extremely well tailored, the fabrics are non-polyester,” says Maheen Khan, the designer behind this internationally-recognized brand. “There’s a whole conscious sourcing and production that the brand is associated with. It’s a very new and exciting thing.”

Originally from Bangladesh, Maheen attended college in Australia, worked in education, then moved back to Bangladesh and worked for the startup LaborVoices, which collects feedback from garment factory workers. She spent many hours out in the field speaking with garment workers, and so intimately understands their point of view. She founded a small nonprofit in 2012 in the wake of violence against Buddhist monks, so when Rana Plaza collapsed, she was on the front lines of organizing and sending help to the concrete wreckage.

Monokrome SS’19 | Identity

A few years back she went to Italy to study fashion design, and returned to start Monokrome. She creates ready-to-wear and bespoke contemporary and minimalist fashion that she sells in a Studio in Dhaka. Her main thing is serving her clientele of professional women who visit her atelier for custom clothing, which is all made in-house by her fairly paid and highly experienced patternmaker and sewer. Pick something out, and Monokrome can deliver it to your Dhaka apartment within 24 hours.

Maheen Khan in her Dhaka Atelier

When I emailed her this past weekend, she responded a day later, apologizing because — as Head of Strategy and Coordination for Fashion Revolution Bangladesh — she was moderating and co-hosting a conference on sustainable consumption and production in the fashion industry.

Her sewer, Nasreen Ara, used to work in sampling in one of the biggest factories for export in the country. Her pattern-maker, Jamal Majhi, has 20 years of experience. “They bring a wealth of knowledge to me, because they’ve been in the industry for much longer than I have,” she says.

But Maheen did bring back a new skillset from Italy for Jamal, which is designing patterns for as little waste as possible. She’s been saving every scrap of fabric since they started, and is now producing their own textiles from recycled yarn with weavers in Bangladesh.

“The most important thing is respect,” Maheen says. “I really respect their skillset. Giving them that value and credibility is so important.”

Nasreen Ara creating a Monokrome piece

Written by Alden Wicker, Editor-in-Chief, Ecocult

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