When Covid struck, layoffs and lockdown followed, many businesses shut down, many were rendered jobless. 45-year-old Sohail Rashid, who worked for HSBC, for 17 years, was among them. However, this setback did not deter him, it was only a start of a new journey, upwards and onwards.
‘Aime Dieu’, a clothing apparel company was founded by Sohail Rashid, two years ago. The company today stands as a testament to Sohail’s struggles and effort.
“I wanted to do something different from what I have done for the last twelve years, working for a brand in finance. I wanted to do fashion and clothing wear. I started two years, then it got to a phase where I have over two hundred celebrities worldwide wearing my outfits,” Sohail tells Asian Standard.
When asked about his lay off from HSBC. Sohail recalls, “It came out of the blue around November time of the year. I was informed that I was no longer needed, they gave me six months to find a new job. In those six months, I just kept working on, researched on things, and then gradually decided to launch my own company.
“I never had any such plan prior to the layoff. If I didn’t get laid off, I would still be working for HSBC. I was really happy there; my plan was to work there until retirement. I had no ambitions to move on or start a business.
“But, I guess, when you are told that you are no longer needed, it brings a spark. I wanted to prove people wrong.”
Sohail had entered into a business, where there was almost no major Asian presence.
“I think the biggest challenge was that there was no Asian role model, in US or UK. There was no major Asian person doing a similar fashion. We don’t see any Asian person running a major fashion brand. You also don’t have any Asian role model for me personally, that I could look up to
“I was going in blind; I had no knowledge about what the challenges are, what work goes into it. I went in blind. I went in with the thought that ‘I will make it work’.
“There were tough times as well, there were times when things weren’t working. I had no support; it was just me. But I had one thing in mind, if it takes one year or ten years, I am not going to give up and I kept on knocking the doors until I made it. This passion comes from my parents.
Speaking about his beginnings, Sohail shares with us that he had quite a humble background.
“My dad was a bus driver, he kept working throughout his life. He never took of day off; he just worked each day. He always told me, that work is everything, it keeps you fresh, it keeps you alert, it keeps you interacting with the world.
“I am the oldest in the family, so the pressure was on me to be the role model to start something new.”
Sohail adds, “My biggest role model was my mom. The reason why she is the role model, because when I started working full time, I didn’t see her much. She was a homemaker, she worked part time. All the patience and perseverance that I needed came from her.”
The first sign of success for Aime Dieu when former Leeds United player Raphina liked one the company’s picture on social media.
“Then one day, he wore it and posted on social media, from then I knew what I had to do.”
Sohail did not just stop at Leeds United. His clothing became quite popular, soon with Bollywood actor, with Sunny Leone wearing one of the brand’s hoodies. Neil Nitin Mukesh also forms a part of this star-studded list of customers.
Sohail claims that his brand also is a part of Salman Khan’s wardrobe collection.
Speaking of his plans, Sohail shares, “I am already in the UK market, but now I also want to enter the US market, the Asian market in India and Pakistan, I have an advantage of speaking the language, since I am British Pakistani. I have a dream to have stalls in India and Pakistan”.
In a message to other South Asians, Sohail says: “Never lose hope, always have a plan, keep knocking the door until it opens. It is not easy, but if you work hard, it’ll happen.”