How did you get into the fashion industry?
I’ve always loved fashion, so I have always kept up with the latest designs and styles. When I decided to formally get in the industry several years ago, I started by meeting with people in the fashion world to ask questions, share my ideas, and receive their expert advice on how to execute my plans. In addition, I attended fashion seminars and researched issues related to starting a fashion line and how to start a successful company.
To stay sharp and create designs for each new season, I travel regularly to New York City to shop and visit different fabric stores to learn more about the latest trends, materials, colors, and prints. There are also tons of online resources as well.
What inspired you to start Simply Zeena?
I truly wanted Muslim women to feel confident and beautiful wearing modest clothing. Up until we launched, I felt that our options for fashionable clothing in line with my beliefs were very limited. I was frustrated with not being able to find the kind of clothing that reflected my personality and uniqueness; I was tired of wearing so many layers, especially in the spring and summer.
I decided to start making clothing for myself. I would sketch different ideas, buy the material, and have a seamstress put it all together. Along the way, I learned that so many other Muslim women had these same problems. So I shared what I had been working on, and the feedback and response from my friends and family was overwhelming. They absolutely loved the clothes and began asking for some of my pieces. I decided to focus on turning my interest into a career in fashion.
Can you share an experience when you weren’t satisfied with that clothing options available for Muslim women?
Last Spring I was shopping for some pieces to take with me on vacation. I went to over five stores and could not find the style, material, or colors that I wanted. Everything was too tight, the colors were drab, and the materials were too thick. I was really frustrated and ended up wearing clothing that I had to layer in 85 degree weather.
I have had many more experiences where I was not satisfied with the clothing options available to Muslim women. So now I am truly grateful for the opportunity and ability to provide women with options for fashionable, stylish, and modest clothing. It is crucial for women everywhere to feel confident, empowered, and able to embrace their identities. I sincerely hope Zeena will be a catalyst for change in the life of modern women.
Many of your pieces are colorful and can be seen as signature pieces in woman’s wardrobe. Was that your hope?
First and foremost, I wanted to create staple pieces that every woman needs on a day to day basis. From a jean skirt to a relaxed ribbed hoodie. On top of that, I added bright, trendy pieces for some extra style and color in everyone’s wardrobe. To me, the perfect mix of style is staple pieces with balanced by select trendy pieces.
Zeena pieces are meant to make our lives easier. Just add a pair of jeans to one of our tops and you already have enough color and style in the outifit. You don’t need to add any layers to the pieces, unless, of course, you want too. Each person can add their own unique accessories to make it their own – or just pair the outfit with one of our accessories.
Starting a business is not easy to do. What kept you going? Who helped you along the way?
Let me tell you, starting a business is not an easy task! I have tremendous respect for anyone who has done it. To be perfectly honest, I had a lot help along the way. I could not have done it without my family and friends. They were an amazing support during the entire process. In my moments of frustration, I had a tight group around me to help me navigate around the road blocks.
It’s funny to think about it now, but my mom and dad would always call me and ask how the business plan was coming together and offer any help. My dad at one point became frustrated with how long it was taking me to launch the line. Looking back, he gave me the push that I needed to take the last steps needed to launch the line.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in starting this business?
The biggest challenge I faced was finding a quality manufacturer. The process took me over a year and I tried samples from pretty much everywhere. I needed a manufacturer to meet my vision. I wanted to make sure that I did not compromise on my boutique feel. I wanted to find someone with great quality, beautiful fabrics and color, and small, exclusive quantities. Mass production wasn’t an option.
Once a style is sold out, it will not be produced again in that exact style or color. I want the pieces to represent women and their unique style.
You don’t specifically say your designs are meant for Muslim women who want to dress modestly. Are you hoping your fashion line will be appreciated by all women, regardless of faith background?
Absolutely. I want my line to be worn and appreciated by all women, regardless of religion. I’m happy to report that both Muslims and non-Muslims have purchased from our Spring line. If our American Muslim community is going to continue to become a part of the fabric of American life, that needs to extend to the fashion and business worlds. We’re hoping to do our small part to make that happen.
Who or what are the biggest influences on your fashion sense?
Right now, I’d have to say Rachael Zoe. I love how she can appreciate beauty and style from numerous designers. She has the ability to choose the best pieces from each line and pair them together perfectly.
Anything else you’d like to share?
For our first season, we carry both casual and dressy shirts and skirts. We also have scarves and jewelry for all occasions. After that, we’ll build on those items by listening to what our customers want us to make. I’m really hoping that with regular customer feedback, we can cater to the every-changing needs of women everywhere.