Women's history month is a time to celebrate inspiring women across the globe, and while we've already covered both female-founded fashion brands and female fashion duos this month, Rokeya Khanum deserves a spotlight of her own.
To say her story is inspiring would be an understatement. "It seems kind of crazy, in hindsight where I am today," Rokeya tells Marie Claire, explaining that at 17 she became a young mum and subsequently found herself homeless and living between hostels.
"I didn't want to fall into the stigma that society places on women like myself," she said. "I wanted to ensure that I studied and got my academic qualifications, just as a way to prove a point that even though I'm a young mum, I could still achieve all these kinds of goals."
And so she did. Rokeya went on to study law at university and landed herself a job in financial services before deciding to start her own eponymous fashion brand. The designer saved money from her full-time salary for start-up capital and worked on Khanum's on the side for 18 months before taking the leap and committing to the brand full-time.
For Rokeya, ending up in the fashion industry was almost inevitable, as the designer inherited an interest in clothes from her parents, who were both garment workers when she was growing up. "I think there was this unintentional conditioning that happened with my exposure to the garment industry from such a young age," she said, explaining that her father worked for a local factory in Brick Lane, while her mother worked from home stitching garments.
"I witnessed my mum cutting patterns and cutting fabrics on our dining table. She didn't have the resources of an actual manufacturing environment. But she did what she could with the means that she had," Rokeya explains. "I was always fascinated by it."
This initial curiosity became more prevalent in her teenage years when Rokeya would sketch designs, which her mum helped her bring to life.
Upon starting the label, Rokeya knew from the get-go that she wanted Khanum's to have a sustainable ethos and made-to-order model. "It was just a no-brainer," she explained. "It just doesn't make sense to me to bulk produce garments that might not have a home in the end. I want to push intentional and mindful purchases."
She continued, "When you place an order with us, I want you to know that this dress or jacket is for you. I'm not interested in people just hastily purchasing."
With this initial mindset, Rokeya has continued to focus on taking actionable steps to increase the sustainable side of her business. She entered into a fashion sustainability accelerator programme which allowed her to look into every aspect of the business and pinpoint places in which she could make positive change.
Today, 80% of Khanum's products are produced here in the UK, with embellishments and trims added in Khamun's in-house studio.
The brand is undoubtedly one that's made for women who want to stand out. Royeka's intention is to always ensure women feel empowered and confident in her designs. "I want any woman wearing Khanum's to feel like they're the only woman in the room," she explains. "Jaws will be dropping and heads will be turning when you are wearing Khanum's."
The designer describes it as making a statement. "That is the whole intent and purpose of the brand. We offer statement signature styles. She should feel like the statement in the room." Keep scrolling to shop statement styles from Khanum's now.
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Zoe Anastasiou is a Fashion Editor with over eight years of experience working across digital publications in New York, London and Australia. She has contributed to publications including Harper’s BAZAAR and ELLE Australia, and was the Fashion and Social Media Editor at Who What Wear UK before joining Marie Claire.
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