Following a successful debut last October, Arka Fashion Week is set to captivate Dhaka again with its second installment this June, aiming to democratise fashion in Bangladesh.

During a press conference held on Sunday at Aloki, Arka Fashion Week's venue in Tejgaon, founder Asad Sattar, alongside co-organizers Tahsin N Choudhury, Aumia Khundkar, Shifa Mamoon, and Sk Saifur Rahman, detailed the enhancements planned for this year's event. They expressed a shared goal to transition from being a major garment exporter to becoming a renowned fashion exporter.

"We see the 'Made in Bangladesh' tags in our exported products across the world; however, very rarely do we see the 'Designed in Bangladesh' tags attached. While the absence of major retailers like H and M keeps Bangladeshi fashion entrepreneurs competitive, we need to be able to build ourselves up to meet the quality demands of a growing consumer base while also holding on to our own identity so we don't lose out to bigger retail giants like H and M and Zara. We can assure you that more than 90% of designers and participants in this fashion week will be from Bangladesh," Asad Sattar said.

The first Arka Fashion Week, held from October 26 to 28 last year, attracted over 7,000 attendees, resonating particularly with the youth. This year's event promises to build on that enthusiasm, focusing heavily on homegrown designers and brands.

The event will feature specially curated runway shows, clothes and accessories by the country's best brands and designers, and most importantly, the event will continue to be a place for fashion-savvy individuals to express their sense of style, the organizers said. The event will once again have a food zone and diverse musical performances every night, along with its other exciting offerings - a dedicated Marketplace, an innovative Design Lab, The Runway and several exhibitions and seminars on different fashion-related topics.

The Marketplace, the heart of the event, will house entrepreneurs and brands made in Bangladesh, which work with fashion, fashion accessories, and fashion-related products. A core philosophy to expect among the brands to be found in the Marketplace is sustainability. Most participants of ARKA Fashion Week Marketplace are small boutiques and/or e-commerce/f-commerce brands.

The Design Lab is an interactive space where one can create their own designs and was one of the most popular segments in the maiden edition, and the concept offers to walk in and purchase a 'canvas' product like a plain t-shirt, hat, tote bag or scarf, which can then be customized at any of the seven different design stations such as block printing, screen printing, hand-paint, patchwork, different forms of embellishments and appliqués, etc. This is a segment that any age group will enjoy participating in and can use to channel their creativity, the organizers said.

The Runway this year will take place over three days with four slots each day, showcasing a variety of designers - including new and upcoming, trailblazers and some exclusive designer brands. Curated by Azra Mahmood, Mehruz Munir, Nawshin Khair and Zarin Rashid, each of the participants on the runway was carefully selected and guided by the team.

Perhaps one of the most anticipated segments of the event, the Arka FW24 runway will not only be unique in terms of the designs being showcased on it; this time ARKA will also be presenting the finalists of a headhunt for new models to debut on the ARKA FW24 Runway. Moreover, the runway will also feature some students from design institutions in a cue curated by renowned Bangladeshi fashion designer Afsana Ferdousi.

This year, a couple of new segments, workshops and seminars will be introduced at the Arka FW, to cover all aspects of fashion including the challenges and issues faced by the industry. The fashion week this year will facilitate an exhibition concerning Tangail weaving and ways to preserve the traditional art of handloom textiles.

"Last year, we could not have the exhibition and seminars; this year we are proceeding with these because we want to introduce open dialogues related to fashion, and we felt that we should move forward with these conversations and activities," Tahsin N Choudhury said.

Led by Tahsin N Choudhury, Nawshin Khair, Sk Saifur Rahman and Jewel A Rob, the results of the workshop regarding the exhibition will be showcased at Arka Fashion Week 2024. The exhibition will be curated by Jewel A Rob.

Founded by Asad Sattar, Arka Fashion Week is orchestrated by the love and care of its vibrant team of co-organizers: Azra Mahmood, Tahsin N. Choudhury, Aumia Khundkar, Afshan Sattar, Shifa Mamoon, Nawshin Khair, Sk Saifur Rahman, Mehruz Munir and Zarin Rashid.

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