By Sabrina Fatma Ahmad
Festivibe’s founder Tushar Malek talks about revolutionizing the fashion in Bangladesh, and the perks of working with his wife (Creative Director & Co-owner, Festivibe) Nashrin Soltana
He’s a hard man to pin down. From Gulshan to Banani to Le Meridien Dhaka, where our cover shoot is underway, I’ve spent all day chasing Tushar Malek, the Founder and Managing Director of Festivibe, for a quick chat. Even at the venue, I find myself running up and down as he goes from the shoot location, fussing over the details, to a quick chat with the hairstyle partner. His intense curiosity about every stage of the process speaks for the rapid rise of this young entrepreneur. Finally satisfied that everything is under control, he lays on the charm and turns the full focus of his attention on our conversation.
Right place, right time
Malek had already founded a market research firm Creavision, of which he remains as Managing Director. The self-professed fashionista, who enjoys traveling and attending glam social events, happened to find himself in the Dubai Design District during one of their fashion events in 2020. He happened to observe that there were several Indian brands amongst the many international brands showcasing their collections, but there were no Bangladeshi brands at all. His friends who were present at the event suggested that perhaps Tushar Malek should be the person to invest in the change.
Tushar Malek initially came back to Bangladesh with a mild interest in investigation avenues for investing in this. “Our market research was to try and find local brands who are working on brands that allowed the client to come in ahead of an event, sit for a consultation and get a custom outfit. We found a few designers and ateliers who were doing this at a boutique level, but no major brands who had scalable operations in the same.” Realizing that there was a gap in the market he could fill, Malek knew what his next steps were, and in August 2021, Festivibe was launched.
“Bangladesh has a thriving fast fashion and textile industry. Generally fashion graduates from our local institutes tend
to look for jobs there. Relatively few are interested in going into couture or custom fashion”
– Tushar Malek
In addition to Festivibe and Creavision, Tushar Malek also co-owns an education consultancy firm called Edroll, has a coffee franchise called Moveon Coffee, and is a Senator at the Junior Chamber International. One has to wonder where this relentless drive comes from. “I had a magical childhood, growing up in Noakhali” he says. “I was a naughty child, climbing trees, jumping into ponds, running free. It’s funny, I have friends who were born and raised in the city, and they pay good money to seek out these experiences in their adulthood, and I tell them I’ve already been there and done it all” he reminisces with a laugh.
“The key to any successful venture is finding the right people to work with”
The young Tushar Malek was an outgoing and gregarious person even then, and very good at organizing people for cultural events and sporting activities. Coming to Dhaka to enroll at Notre Dame College, Malek eventually completed his BBA in Finance from Dhaka University. Naming Elon Musk and Richard Branson as two of his role models, he talks about how whenever he hires someone with a skillset he doesn’t have, he grills the person about the field until he gains a certain level of working knowledge on it.. “My background is in Finance. I have an education consultancy, where my co-founder is the expert in education. My partner in the coffee business is an expert in coffee. For the different aspects of Festivibe, I seek out the experts in the field. I’ve learned very early on that the key to any successful venture is to find the right people to work with.”
And indeed, finding the right people was the first hurdle for the Festivibe team. Malek’s vision is for a platform that puts Bangladeshi fashion brands on international red carpets, and scaled up versions of our prestige fashion houses showcasing the very best of their work to the world. Not finding anyone that fit his vision, he decided to build his team from scratch, pulling in designers and consultants from India, and Dubai, and hiring, training and developing local craftsmen for detailed work. At the same time, he was also sourcing fabrics and materials from all over the world to make sure that his clientele got their money’s worth.
At present, the brand has five in-house designers, one international designer and consultant along with two style consultants. Its manufacturing unit is located at the Tejgaon link road, where around 42 artisans give life to the designs, where around 42 artisans give life to the designs.
Malek’s partner in this particular venture is his wife Nashrin Soltana, who is the co-founder and Creative Director. He credits her for being the tastemaker and trend visionary for the business, bringing both her financial savvy from her work in the banking sector in New York, as well as her innate sense of style into the Festivibe aesthetic. “Her involvement here is immensely insightful as she has a wider range of knowledge, from her travels, her exposure to global trends. She also brings a sense of comfort to the workplace that is necessary for setting the kind of tone I want in this company” he declares with a sense of pride.
Once the dream team was assembled, it was all pistons firing for the brand. They have an e-commerce platform, which was featured in the inaugural issue of MWB, and an outlet in Banani for consultations. While the first year of operations went into promoting their luxury prêt and ethnic wear lines, they are now ready to focus on their bespoke services, bridal wear, and the sub-brand Helesya, which focuses on Western partywear.
Malek’s face lights up when he talks about the platform’s latest offering, which launches on October 20. “We’ll be the first Bangladeshi fashion brand to introduce a Virtual Design Studio” he tells us. “Clients will be able to visit our e-commerce platform, check out available designs online, and then make whatever customizations necessary, and this is all done virtually. You can like a design, but want it in a different color, or a different fabric, or add or remove a detail, and our consultants can help you make it perfect for you.” The Festivibe team worked with an AR expert from Turkey to develop this technology for its platform, and once implemented, the Virtual Design studio stands to be a paradigm shift in the Luxury Fashion Brand in Bangladesh.