How Rabia Z built a modest fashion empire

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Rabia Zargapur wearing her line’s organic linen abaya and signature breathable jersey hijab, the best-selling hijab in the world. (Irthi Contemporary Arts and Crafts Council)
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Rabia Zargapur was one of a few designers selected to showcase a couture piece using Swarovski elements for the Swarovski Sparkling Couture Exhibition in Dubai. This piece is the ‘Revival of the Emirati Mukhawara Dress.’
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Rabia Z’s head to toe demi-couture collection and signature jersey hijab are sold on Modanisa. (Rooful Ali)
Updated 22 August 2018
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How Rabia Z built a modest fashion empire

  • Rabia Z. Zargarpur’s brand first came to life in 2002
  • To Zargarpur, modest fashion is more exciting than ever

DUBAI: Rabia Z. Zargarpur is a superwoman. Learning about her insane current schedule, one wonders when she finds the time to eat and sleep.
Business trips aside, the designer – the force behind the renowned modest fashion brand Rabia Z – has been focusing on the official launch of her Rabia Z Modest Fashion Academy, plus her online Rabia Z Mentorship Program. Then there’s her consulting work, rebranded Rabia Z launch and sustainable fashion collection.
“And of course, family time with my husband, entertaining our 6-year-old twins and our 14-year-old son, who are off for the summer,” the 40-year-old founder, CEO and creative director told Arab News. “So yeah, pretty much business as usual!”
Zargarpur’s brand first came to life in 2002, as one of the world’s first modest fashion, ready-to-wear e-commerce stores, a time when the industry certainly wasn’t as known as it is today.
“We were producing the basics line in Dubai and selling out of San Francisco from my grandfather’s garage,” the Emirati-Afghan-American explains. “We relaunched as a full-on designer brand back in Dubai, on runways in 2006, and won the Emerging Designer Award at Dubai Fashion Week in 2007.”
She went on to showcase modest fashion on mainstream runways and fashion weeks across cities including New York, London, Milan, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Buyers and customers certainly took notice – today, Rabia Z sells to 71 countries.
To Zargarpur, modest fashion is more exciting than ever. “It is finally ‘du jour,’” she exclaimed. “For me – (someone) who has tirelessly worked almost 18 years, the majority of it towards building awareness for this huge market at a time when neither this sector nor the term ‘modest fashion’ existed – I am happy to see it flourish globally.”
Now she predicts that it’s Saudi Arabia’s turn to fully embrace the market. “Saudi women have always been style savvy and with the major changes we’ve seen this year, we will see some of the styles and collections in the GCC come out of Saudi,” she said. “I think modest fashion will especially boom there next.”
Nonetheless, she admits that there remain challenges in the industry. “It’s a work in progress and lots needs improving,” she said. “We need more serious, true global brands that are professional and to the standards of major mainstream designer and retail brands. We need a more sustainable industry and ethical, eco-friendly brands.
“The supply chain is another area of improvement. We need labels that have a strong DNA and an innovative or creative direction which is currently lacking.”
Back to her own business, fans of Rabia Z have plenty to look forward to. “We have always been an ethical brand and always worked with breathable and sustainable fabrics, but upon the relaunch of Rabia Z next year, we would like to not only highlight that in our collections, but also adopt more variety of sustainable fabrics,” Zargarpur said, adding that there will be a separate roll out of Rabia Z Accessories.
She is continuing her collaboration with major online retailer Modanisa on Rabia Z’s licensed hijab line, its signature breathable, combed cotton jersey hijab wraps that are the best-selling hijab in the world. “(It) celebrates its 15th anniversary this year and is being exhibited at the Contemporary Muslim Fashion Exhibition in San Francisco this fall.”
On a personal level, Zargarpur aims to return to academia. “I was offered the opportunity to do a PhD in the Business of Fashion by the London College of Fashion, which I hope to pursue in the next couple of years, InshaAllah,” says Zargarpur, who already holds a business major with a minor in fashion. “In addition to having my PhD, I would like to see our flagship stores in key cities around the world someday, sitting alongside major brands.”
Yup, looks like she won’t be getting much sleep anytime soon.


Arab stars take the viral #10YearChallenge on Instagram

Jessica Kahawaty at an event in 2018. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2019
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Arab stars take the viral #10YearChallenge on Instagram

DUBAI: Celebrities around the world have taken on a new social media challenge that has seen them sharing photos taken 10 years apart to show off just how much (or in some cases, how little) they have changed.

A clutch of Arab influencers also jumped on the bandwagon and shared snaps taken a decade apart, including the likes of Lebanese star Karen Wazen and Saudi designer and blogger Tamara Al-Gabbani.

Al-Gabbani took to Instagram with two posts, both of which she claims show her 10 years apart.

“No edits! No filters! Just braces, fuller brows and no more highlights!” she captioned the first post.

Ten years ago, she sported blonde locks and thinner eyebrows. Fast forward to 2019, and Al-Gabbani looks almost the same, besides her jet-black hair and braces.

Wazen shared two side-by-side snaps — the first of which was a photo of her posing with her husband, Elias Bakhazi.

“It started when we were young,” she captioned the photographs.

For her part, Lebanese-Australian model and influencer Jessica Kahawaty shared a composite photograph in which she looks almost identical in the two snaps.

“20-year-old me and 30-year-old me #10yearchallenge,” she captioned the post, adding “I love this little challenge. Shows how much we have all evolved and a good excuse to dig up memorable pictures — with memorable eyebrows lol (sic).”

Although her hair is slightly shorter in 2019 and her eyebrows are fuller, the humanitarian and event host looks largely unchanged.

Saudi-Lebanese style star Alanoud Badr also took part in the challenge and shared a side-by-side composite photograph.

It seems that fuller eyebrows are a 2019 trend as she too sported a thinner set in her older photograph.

Based in Dubai, Badr is a regular fixture on the UAE’s fashion scene and even has her own brand called Lady Fozaza, which she launched in 2011.

The viral craze has seen a hoard of celebrities take to Instagram to share their photographs, including the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks and Tyra Banks.

Lopez shared a throwback photo of herself while pregnant and then, in 2019, wearing a canary yellow swimsuit with a taught tummy and toned muscles — she may have won the challenge for seeming to age backwards and it’s enough to make us want to hit the gym.