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.


Models make their way to Milan

Halima Aden is set to touch down in Italy. AFP
Updated 19 September 2018
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Models make their way to Milan

DUBAI: The who’s who of the fashion world, including Somali-American model Halima Aden and Lebanese-Australian influencer Jessica Kahawaty, have touched down in Italy for Milan Fashion Week.

The event kicked off on Wednesday with cutting-edge couturiers taking over the city to present their women’s ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2019 collections, while doffing a collective cap to the environment.

Aden took to Instagram to share her excitement, while Kahawaty has posted various snapshots of herself posing around the city.

Following on the high heels of New York and London fashion weeks, and ahead of the biggest of them all in Paris, Milan’s catwalk season will see dozens of shows by the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Versace, Cavalli, Armani and Fendi, AFP reported.

Notably absent will be Gucci, which this year escapes to Paris so creative director Alessandro Michele can pay homage to the City of Light that inspired his new collection.

Gucci, founded in Florence in 1921, will nevertheless host an exclusive performance by iconoclast Scottish dancer and choreographer Michael Clark at its Milan offices on Wednesday.


Some renowned designers will be absent, such as Emilio Pucci and Trussardi, while others will return, like Philipp Plein and Iceberg, along with some surprises such as 1990s sportswear giant Fila.

Last year’s collaboration with Fendi, which saw the two brands’ logos playfully mingled by artist Hey Reilly, catapulted Fila back into the limelight.

Continuing the trend of mixing street fashion with haute couture, French couturier Louis Vuitton in March appointed Virgil Abloh as director of its menswear collection.

Ghanaian-American Abloh previously created the Off-White brand, coveted by hip-hop artists.

While fashion houses put on exhibitions on the sidelines of Fashion Week, including by French photographer Sarah Moon at Armani’s museum, the week’s overarching theme is sustainable development or so-called Green Fashion.

The Italian Fashion Chamber of Commerce, which organizes most of the week’s events, will hand out the Green Carpet Fashion Awards to the most environmentally friendly fashion houses, according to AFP.

Celebrities and key industry figures will attend the awards ceremony at the world-famous Scala Theatre — dress code green — on Sunday, the climax of the week’s more than 60 catwalk shows and 90 presentations.

While the fashion world is not known for particularly caring about the environment, British luxury fashion group Burberry last week announced that it would stop burning unsold goods — an industry-wide practice.

Burberry and its peers routinely burn tens of millions of dollars worth of products every year to maintain the exclusivity and luxury mystique of their brands.

Environmental concerns notwithstanding, fashion houses will also be battling it out for who can put on the most extravagant, exclusive and, of course, fashionable show.