Thursday, 9 July 2015

The CK in TeCKnaf Chic

Teknaf. A small town with big fashion.

Observations from a Small Town, Fake-Brand-Name-Fashion Giant...

A "Yes" Shirt.

Teknaf Peninsula from the Naf River.

New York. 

These are the powerhouse cities of haute couture where fashion seasons matter and the release of a new clothing line can make or break a brand. It’s an unforgiving industry.


At first glance it might seem culturally as a Chittagonian town, where locals dip naan bread into tea for breakfast and often sport lungees with shirts tucked in, Burmese style. But to take a look around the streets, at what people are wearing, is to discover a new fashion capital. Surely enough what begins as a town of streets will soon reveal itself as a town of catwalks, with a new statement in chic on every corner.

Boat on the Naf and main highway into town.

Louis Vuitton. 
Calvin Klein. 

All the top brand names can be found, most often with correct spelling. It proves a simple fashion truth: if you’ve made it in Teknaf, you’ve made it everywhere!

Take Ziaul Haque, unemployed, 18. Walking along the main road in a bright yellow ‘CK’ t-shirt with matching yellow jeans, he’s not shy when it comes to fashion. Nor is his statement about impressing others. “I like it,” he says of his t-shirt, “If other people like it I don’t know.” 

For Ziaul Haque, 18, of Teknaf, fashion is about family loyalty. His brother bought him this t-shirt.

Evening arrives at a Teknaf Market.

Moreover, his sense of style is driven by family loyalty. “My brother works overseas,” he explains, “He gave me this shirt. I think he bought it at Teknaf port.” Like many, he believes it came via Myanmar, probably originally from China. But unlike customers in East Asia where brand names are well known and hold status, for ordinary Bangladeshis they mean little.

“I don’t know what ‘CK’ means,” says Haque.

Teknaf restaurateur Enamul Hoque, 28, looks for cloth quality in choosing clothes. He'll tolerate a higher price for quality.

Meanwhile at a local hotel-eatery, the day manager Enamul Hoque, 28, sits behind a tray of singara pastries at the front counter, in a bold orange Calvin Klein t-shirt.

“It’s good to work for oneself,” he says of the family business. “It’s stressful making sure everything runs but that’s what work is. And I like it because we did it ourselves.”

Asked of his fashion choice he says he chose the t-shirt in Dhaka’s Banga Bazar. “The quality is quite good. If the price is a little expensive but the cloth quality is good I still like it. It’s comfortable too.”

And as for the label? “I’m not sure what it means,” says Hoque. “It’s some company or other.”

Teknaf labourer Shahidullah likes his Galvin Klein polo shirt because it's comfortable and not too hot.

Shahidullah, 27, father of four girls is taking a break from his hard labour building staircases. He does other jobs too. His “Galvin Klein” classic polo shirt in grey-blue speaks casual yet on-the-go. Not sure if Galvin is Calvin’s brother: neither is Shahidullah. “I chose it because it looks nice,” he says, “It’s comfortable and not too hot.”

Busy with customers at his sweet stall, Teknaf entrepreneur Pradeep proves hot pink is a colour accessible for men. He chose his D&G polo shirt because it's his favourite colour.

Fishing trawlers. Sabrang, Teknaf.

Meanwhile sweet seller Pradeep, who like Shahidullah prefers to go by a trendy single name for media interviews, is busy with customers at his roadside stall near the roundabout. In a polo shirt with a Dolce & Gabbana pocket crest he proves that hot pink is a colour equally accessible for men. “I bought it in the bazaar,” he says. “I think it comes from China. I don’t know what the words mean but it’s my favourite colour.”

While some may call these clothing items counterfeit or copies, a more polite word might be ‘tribute’. For when the good, hardworking people of Teknaf are inspired to don a brand, albeit due to comfort, quality or colour rather than the name, it’s hardly possible for any self-respecting fashion house to feel anything but honoured.

When it comes to fashion, beyond New York, Milan and Paris there is Teknaf. If you’ve made it there you’ve made it everywhere.

Beach sunset, Bay of Bengal, Sabrang, Teknaf.

This article is published in The Daily Star, here: The CK in TeCKnaf Chic

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