Art and culture

Q&A with Winner Creations’ Durjoy Rahman

Co-founder of Winner Creations, Rahman oversees the garment and textile industry in Bangladesh, reflects on the country's evolving art scene and economy

You run a garment and textile business in Bangladesh. Could you tell us a bit about it?

I co-founded Winner Creations in 1993, and today it’s one of the oldest textile and garment sourcing companies in the country. We represent numerous US and European clients for their garment requirements from Bangladesh, Vietnam and China.

Bangladesh is known for its garment industry, but the Dhaka garment factory collapse [a commercial building collapsed during morning rush hour and caused thousands of casualties] in April 2013 dealt it a serious blow. How has the sector recovered?

The industry has moved to become more disciplined and structured. Since the 2013 incident, the whole industry has turned around to become sustainable and internationally compliant. Bangladesh has more green garment factories than any other country in the world, and many have achieved the highest-possible Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating. The industry’s track record is encouraging and inspiring, and Bangladesh has become an example of how a country can address an issue, leave it behind and move forward.

What challenges remain?

Bangladesh is a small country with 170 million people. The economy is sustainable and it’s still developing. And with so many people and a lack of infrastructure, it’s a challenging situation. But it’s a challenge that entrepreneurs like myself are keen to take on, and the future looks bright. Recent reports project that the country will have the world’s 24th largest economy by 2033.

Last year you founded the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation, which supports artists. What are your goals for it?

I’ve been collecting art for the past 20 years, and in the last few years I started to think that I should make some kind of platform to help artists. The foundation is based in Berlin and Dhaka, and its mission is to make meaningful contributions to the communities of artists mainly from the ‘global south’ region.

 How did you become interested in art and collecting?

When I started travelling to Europe and the Americas for business, I encountered companies that were very much inspired by art. And a lot of our products are art-inspired too. Additionally, my home city, Dhaka, has a vibrant arts scene. I’ve curated a huge collection based on my passion and interest.

Tell us about your favourite local artists.

Shahabuddin Ahmed and Aminul Islam (self-portrait pictured below) studied fine arts in Europe, and their work often portrays a strong sense of patriotism, infused with Western influences. They are both pioneers of the modern art movement in Bangladesh.

Is there a specific piece of art that’s inspired you on your travels?

I’ve always been a big fan of pop art. Seeing Andy Warhol’s works (above) in New York was one of the biggest motivators for me to start collecting art. Rafiqun Nabi, a Bangladeshi cartoonist who does social caricatures – a kind of pop art – also inspired my interest.

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