From a young age, Taslima Khan has always seemed to be blazing her own path. Arriving in South London at the age of eight and with limited English, she struggled in school but threw her passion into basketball, dreaming of one day playing professionally. That dream never materialised, but another did: her love of fashion.
She first discovered sewing machines in school in year seven, and nurtured her skills hand-stitching patterns onto blankets with her father and sister.
“It was our bonding time and everything else in life would just disappear,” she says. “I also had a great interest in the current trends and wanting to create trends in school. I found the idea of being able to create something out of nothing incredible.”
Fast forward to the present, and Khan is now a player in the fashion industry with her socially conscious label TASLIMA K , where she highlights various social issues and engages politics.
As a young student, she clung to fashion as a way to gain confidence in a school system where she struggled to belong and that she felt didn’t cater to her creativity and learning style. She took on a rebellious edge, she says, but managed to make it into university to study fashion design and marketing. However, there she encountered more barriers.
“I struggled with feelings of isolation when I went to university. Being a woman of colour, and being from South London, I experienced racism and judgement,” she says. “I felt like I couldn’t fully express myself.” Ultimately, she left university with disappointing grades.
Her introduction into the professional world wasn’t much smoother, as the dream of the magical job in fashion didn’t materialise. She took on several internships at major brands, but struggled to find paid work.
“The fashion brands I was trying to work for didn’t really care for people like me. I was unemployed and trapped in a cycle I couldn’t get out of. I felt hopeless and was signing on every week at the job centre,” she says. “I felt worthless.”
Ultimately, it was acting on her social conscience that helped turn the tide on her fashion career. That, and the belief that she had hit a wall going through the traditional path of applying for jobs at major labels.
“I started my fashion label after feeling frustrated that I wasn’t being respected for my talent, not being offered permanent roles even though I went above and beyond in all my internships,” she says.
She had been volunteering for social action projects, and met someone who had been involved with The Prince’s Trust . She was referred to the trusts’ Enterprise Programme, she found the support and advice to launch what is now an award-winning label, creating avant-garde womenswear fashion.
The Enterprise Programme assists young entrepreneurs through a mix of advice, training, mentoring and financial support, and has helped more than 85,000 young people start their own business since 1983.
RBC is partnering with The Prince’s Trust to help foster London’s next generation of business owners, pledging £100,000 to support 50 budding entrepreneurs aged 18 to 30.
“The Prince’s Trust is delighted to partner with the Royal Bank of Canada,” says Ben Marson, director of partnerships at The Prince’s Trust. According to data from the charity, 53 percent of young people believe they’ll never reach financial stability, while the current economic climate makes 63 percent anxious about their future.
“We support young people from all backgrounds, giving them the skills and confidence they need to live, learn and earn. None of this would be possible without the support of partners like RBC,” says Marson.
Dave Thomas, CEO, RBC Capital Markets Europe and head, RBC Wealth Management in London, adds: “As we mark our organisation’s 150th birthday, we’re thrilled with this partnership. Much like The Prince’s Trust, RBC is committed to supporting young people in our communities and our partnership will help the next generation of entrepreneurs in London realise their dreams and aspirations by turning their big ideas into sustainable business realities.”
For Khan, the assistance of the Enterprise Programme has been crucial. It’s given her a valuable support system and network to rely on. “Without The Prince’s Trust, I probably wouldn’t have pursued by business and still be trading now,” she says.
The support has also allowed Khan to think beyond clothes to using her platform to start a conversation about female empowerment and broader social issues. The political element ties in to social action campaigns, charity work and activism that she participates in, as well as to her frustration about the lack of women, young people and diverse backgrounds in politics.
“I wanted to bring the two sides of my life together to express and educate with an art form which relates to all age groups in a simple format,” she says. “I want to make an impact within the fashion industry and make a positive change.”
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