British Bangladeshi entrepreneur creates a brand new clothing line inspired by his heritage
A young man from East London has launched his clothing line, which draws inspiration from his Bengali heritage, to illustrate to young people the importance of celebrating their cultural roots.
Azhar Ashraf is determined to help British Bengalis embrace their heritage, especially after noticing that the media often erroneously describes people from Bangladesh as Indian or Pakistani.
He told MyLondon: “My dad told me a story when I was young – he has a scar on his left eyebrow and I can remember when I asked why he has it. He said I was walking down the street and two guys called me a P*ki and bottled me in the head. The idea of being called P*ki was confusing to me as I was so young.”
The 20-year-old, who hails from Tower Hamlets, imparts glimpses of the Bangladeshi community’s life through his lighthearted videos on TikTok. He does so with the intention of enlightening those who may not fully comprehend that Bangladesh has its separate identity, and to foster a stronger connection to his own heritage, a connection that has deepened as he has grown older.
Ashraf has observed a growing interest among people of his age in their culture, which he believes is something to celebrate. In fact, he has even initiated the sale of lungis (a South Asian garment for men that is wrapped around the waist that flows to the ankles) and Bengali-inspired T-shirts to help the next generation reconnect with their heritage.
The entrepreneur’s enthusiasm was evident when asked by MyLondon if he had always maintained a connection with his culture. “As I got older, I understood the story my dad had told me, and I kept thinking about it. As South Asians, we were being underestimated, and I don’t think that should happen anymore,” he expressed.
“My mum has also been a great influence, her speaking Sylheti – that’s amazing in itself. How she came to this country and had to learn English and still speak Sylheti with us,” he said.
Ashraf initially started using TikTok to share stories about his community, without specifically intending to focus on Bangladeshis. However, after posting one video, his Bengali followers began to request more videos, which led him to create content centred around Bengali culture.
He added: “I took the time to understand why some people don’t relate to Bangladesh, I want my generation to connect to the country, their traditions, and to celebrate it.”
He eventually realised that Bengalis have historically received limited media attention and have often been overlooked in terms of representation.
He added: “Even when it comes to actors they’re always Pakistani or Indian and even if the actor is Bangladeshi it’s never recognised.
“I always question that, thinking why? It’s a place that needs to be recognised as they will be doing big things in the future, when it comes to sport, clothes, food and fashion.”
A significant turning point for Ashraf occurred when he featured himself wearing a lungi in one of his videos. The day after, as he walked down the street, someone called out, “you’re the lungi man.” Initially, he wasn’t sure about this label, but when he returned home, he recognised that it symbolized his representation of his identity and his roots.
He told MyLondon: “This might be something I can work with, I always try to monetise what I do, with this lungi thing and everyone calling me lungi man I decided to start a clothing brand catered to Bangladeshi people. Because I’ve never seen anything like this just for Bangladeshi people.
“I started with lungi as it’s very different, I made a black and white lungi with my logo at the side and on the back. That was the design people loved, they said it was modern and different. I wear a lungi at home sometimes, when it’s winter I don’t but I do sometimes in the summer, it’s very comfy.”