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.


Women cancer patients learn makeup tips in new Egypt workshop

Updated 29 min 59 sec ago
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Women cancer patients learn makeup tips in new Egypt workshop

CAIRO: When cancer patient Merhan Khalil had a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy in 2012, her hair started to fall out in the shower. On Saturday she joined a Cairo workshop that teaches female cancer patients how to conceal signs of cancer treatment.
“It helps a lot mentally ... to feel beautiful and to feel that the medicine didn’t change us,” said Khalil, 46, who suffers from multiple myeloma, a blood plasma cancer.
The workshop is part of a program already in operation in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates called “Be Beautiful” that will be launched this month in at least seven hospitals in Egypt. It will offer women cancer patients makeup tips as well as mental health support and advice about nutrition.
“When the cancer patient feels that she is beautiful and when she gets proper nutrition that will have a positive effect on her mental state and that strengthens her immune system,” said Hanadi el-Imam, founder of the Hoda el-Imam Foundation, which is organizing the workshops.
She said the aim is to offer the workshops in five Egyptian governorates within a year.
Faten Fawzi, a breast cancer patient who was among a group of five patients learning how to paint their eyebrows and apply conditioner on dry skin at the Cairo Marriott Hotel, said she felt like her hair was burned after chemo.
“I went to my hairdresser and he shaved it off completely and I was devastated and started crying,” Fawzi, 46, told Reuters.
“But after that I put on a chic wig that looked like my hair and you couldn’t tell at all that I had cancer.”
While she recently got rid of the wig, Fawzi said she still paints her eyebrows and cares about her makeup routine because it makes her feel better.
Ghada Salah who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, said she started to experiment with different wigs and colorful hats after she lost her hair to chemotherapy.
“I didn’t want to look sick,” she said. “I didn’t want people to think ‘poor her, she has cancer.’”
The organizers hope to serve 5,000 Egyptian women in the first year, said Dina Omar, a cardiologist and one of the founders of Be Beautiful.
Globally, cancer is responsible for one in six deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Approximately 70 percent of deaths from cancer happen in low and middle-income countries, WHO said.