Samira, a self motivated educator hold multiple postgraduate degrees. Masters degree in Education and Development, diploma in International Laws, and certified in Social Enterprise and Leadership, Samira doesn’t seem to be weighed down. Unlike most people holding just any one of those degrees, Samira teaches Pilates in various studios in Dhaka. One may wonder why. Perhaps worldly affairs do not tempt her like nature and its colors do. Or maybe she uses colors to conquer a day in the life.
Fascinated by colors and the beauty around, Samira has always appreciated the art, and pursued it in various forms. She wanted people around her to see and be inspired by the same. Samira from an early age was a giver. So in 2011, she started a group to raise funds. More importantly so, she made did it in a clever yet lovely way. This group called Coffee-In Dhaka brought people like her together. Only, they didn’t go to restaurants or fast food shops unlike most groups. They would rather meet up at each other’s homes over meals they made themselves; to donate the money that they would have spent had they gone to restaurants. It was through this group Samira heard her calling.
Samira got to know of an NGO in Mirpur that sheltered and rehabilitated women who were former sex workers or suffered abuses. She wanted to listen to their stories. Sometimes the stories broke her heart, but bringing them supplies was a good enough reason for Samira to keep visiting them. As part of rehab these women also went through various life skills training to secure an alternative livelihood in the future. One such skill that they were learning was stitching blankets with colors and designs. So Samira started helping them with the designs and colors. She imparted the notion on them that art need not be perfect, nor symmetric. Soon enough, when blankets were piling up, Samira realized that nothing was being done to market these products. Something had to be done, and so without thinking too far ahead, she with a friend bought a lot of these blankets. She then went on to making jackets out of them for an exhibition to be held on November of 2015. There she sold more than half of the inventory.
Samira went back to designing and making blankets along with the women, and to connect with them at deeper levels. Rebuilding one’s life, let alone so many of these women trying to do it, was almost profound. It was their formidable spirits combined with Samira’s pursuit of colors that crafted Sunbird Designs. A clothing line that like Samira and all the crafts-women now explores various creative outlets and faces challenges to make her business and the fashion industry more ethical; free of exploitation, building a customer base that advocates for fair retail prices, and engages in ethical practices through education.
Maybe Sunbird will be more than just clothing, or designs. She was touched by art at a much later stage in life, in 2013 when she visited Picasso’s museum. After moving to Bangladesh, she picked up the brush to cope. Her room turned into a store of art. Exhibitions one after the other, she is currently setting up an Art for Cause website to trade art. A portion of the trade will be going to a school for disabled children in Dhaka called Amar Joti.
With Sunbird she exercises creative freedom while building an enterprise to make positive social impact. Being mostly self taught, Samira’s art and crafts is a fine mix of the real and surreal, much like making dreams come true.