Born in Bangladesh and raised in Queens, New York, designer Zia Sumi combines her South Asian and Western cultures into ready to-wear garments that focus on quality and comfort. While focusing on structured silhouettes, she is committed to upholding traditional elements of South Asian craftsmanship.
Q: Why start your own business?
A: If I’m being honest, I decided to start my own clothing line because I couldn’t keep waiting for these non-existent opportunities. I've dreamt of working in fashion, but I didn’t go to school for it, and I didn’t pursue many internships in the fashion industry. I felt inexperienced, and I couldn’t figure out how to get my foot in the door.
When I began this journey of starting my own business, I could not think of one female Bangladeshi business owner. I had an existing list of female entrepreneurs I admired, none of which were women of color. It was tough to come to that realization. There are a lot of cultural and social restraints within my Bangladeshi community in regards to women pursuing anything creative. I’ve been told “business is not for Bangladeshi girls.” It's uncomfortable knowing that’s been the mentality in our community for so long.
Q: Why design clothes?
A: I was 8 years old when I first started sketching fashion illustrations. I dealt with low self esteem when I was younger because I was incredibly thin (and still am), and I was bullied for it. I started to hide behind oversized clothes, which honestly did not help the situation.
I would go home and start sketching images of clothes I wish I could wear instead. This went on for years. I did not feel confident enough to wear the clothes I actually wanted to wear until my Junior year of High School. I don’t know why I chose that specific moment to finally gain the courage. I showed up to school wearing these mid-wash blue skinny jeans, with a flowy green top with white floral print, and oh man I was on top of the world! I think I was one of the first people to experiment with skinny jeans at my school ;). Gutsy, right?! It was probably the first time someone had complimented me on my outfit. Man I felt cool, haha.
The confidence I felt from that simple act of choosing to wear what made me happy truly changed everything for me. As cliché as it sounds, clothes became a way to express myself. Think back to the times when you’ve put on an outfit that you felt good and comfortable in, and your mood just becomes ten times better throughout the day. Cuz you KNOW you looked GOOD! I think it’s amazing that clothes have the power to do that.
Q: Who do you design for?
A: I don’t think I’ve had one particular person in mind while designing these clothes. My clothes are for any and every body. And nothing would make me happier than seeing a diverse range of bodies in my garments.
So if you feel comfortable enough, please tag me on social media @ziasumi because I want to see!