With a growing number of Emirati women starting their own businesses in the Middle East, recent reports have claimed women now account for thirty percent of business owners across the UAE. But it is the bond between sisters that’s proving to be paramount to the success within the fashion industry. As we celebrate Sister’s Day we take a look back at our April issue when we met with sets of sisters who have started their own businesses together and are reaping all of the rewards.
By Susan Devaney
Starting their label over 7 years ago, sisters Dina and Rima were inspired by their mother to enter the world of all things fashion. Following their instinct and noticing a gap in the market, Dina’s t-shirt making sideline business during her studies at university led to sparking Rima’s entrepreneurial desire. Arriving in Dubai in 1997, they knew it was the ideal place to for a business start-up. As the markets were emerging in every sector, following their heart’s desire of wanting to own their own business they knew it was a no-brainer. With Dina’s background in business and Rima’s education in graphic design it proved to be the perfect combination. With the hope of growing their business even further this year, we spoke to them about how they got here.
What sparked your love and interest in fashion?
Dina: Without a doubt our mother! All of our oldest memories of fashion include our mother. I used to love watching her dress up for a big night out and spent hours playing around in her closet dreaming of the day I would get to dress up too! She used to always let me choose my own outfits and has always given us complete freedom and encouraged us to play around with fashion and really love it from our hearts.
What’s the best thing about the fashion industry in this region?
Rima: There is so much amazing talent in the region and we really feel that there is also a lot of support for it. There’s so much creativity coming out of this part of the world, and it’s so inspiring! We think that the region’s fashion industry is still growing and we’re still not where we can be, but we’ll get there. I believe that there is a vision for the fashion industry in the Middle East, and thanks to the support and all the amazing initiatives being started here in Dubai, it will get there.
How do you strike a balance between family, socialising and working life?
Rima: It’s absolutely crazy! I have two kids and I’m extremely hands-on so my life is insane! The only way I can balance everything is by waking up extremely early to get a head start on my day. I try to finish all my work while the kids are in nursery, and then again when they’re napping or in the evening after they sleep. Between that I’m with my kids and family so my days are really full. Sadly, I hardly have time or energy for a social life on most days!
With their dream of always starting a business together in tow, in March 2012 it became a reality. Sisters Dalia and Lama grew up in California surrounded by fashion boutiques, major fashion labels and fashionable people. Bringing this inspiration and knowledge with them to Dubai they introduced brands like David Koma, Opening Ceremony and Self-Portrait to the region through their business Socialista Boutique. With Lama’s degree in fashion marketing and Dalia’s business brain (and their unwavering determination to succeed) they opened shop. Learning how to balance family, life and business over the past few years (both have recently had babies) they’ve got high ambitions for the future.
Has it always been your dream to open a business together?
Lama: It has always been our dream. We were always close our entire lives and dreamt of doing something we love together.
What first attracted you to start your business together in Dubai?
Dalia: Lama first moved here in 2004 and I followed in 2006. When we arrived we saw so much potential in this emerging fashionable city. We always followed fashion and people would constantly ask us where we bought our pieces. It was then that we decided this was our calling in life. Lama then went to London to get her degree in Fashion Marketing with the intent of coming back to Dubai to open up our boutique together. Dubai is a wonderful city and we wanted to add to its greatness our picks of fashion.
Without ever intending to go into business together, in 2013 sisters Nadia and Lubna launched their fashion label Endemage. After Lubna realised her love did not lie in studying psychology, returning to Oman she told her parents it was fashion that was her true love. Initially designing Habayas, they noticed the greater need for ready-to-wear collections in the UAE. Inspired by their Omani heritage they’ve kept family ties in the business and their deeply rooted culture too. Growing up watching their mother and aunt run their own boutique in Oman, it was a natural choice for both to come together and do the same.
What do you think sets your business apart from the rest in the UAE?
Dalia: Socialista Boutique is not your typical boutique. We bring to the UAE Fashpack pieces that can set them apart from the rest of the crowd. From our basics to our dresses, every piece is carefully selected to appeal to the girl that wants to stand out in the crowd. We have introduced to Dubai some of the most coveted contemporary designers which; include David Koma, Opening Ceremony and Self-Portrait.
Why do you think sisters are drawn to working together in the UAE?
Nadia: I’m sure there must be a high percentage of family businesses in the Gulf. I guess the values we’ve been brought up with. I know in Oman the structure of large corporations are all based on family businesses. That’s the culture we’ve been brought up in. Even if we have a decision we have to make a lot of the time it’s a family decision. They’ve been in business for so long that we take ideas from them and we bounce ideas off of each other. I guess it’s very easy to work with your sister or brother.
What advice would you give to young female entrepreneurs in the region?
Nadia: I think they need to understand the market to give themselves a competitive edge.
Lubna: Also, the financial side is very important. I mean rather than taking out a loan it’s better to get your family involved. I started working on my own before starting Endemage because I wanted to contribute to the business rather than just take money from my parents.
I was working for Tiffany’s – a big brand. So now I understand how it works. So if you’re like I enjoy design, I want to start designing but you don’t understand how the world actually works then it might not work out – especially in Dubai because they have to take on international standards. People aren’t going to take you seriously unless you follow the international calendar of when deadlines are supposed to be made. A lot of people don’t understand this. Then it doesn’t help them when they want to go abroad and show internationally. Then they’ll lose hope.