'Different is brilliant'

Iraqi-American Huda Kattan. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 December 2018
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'Different is brilliant'

  • The annual invitation-only event, held in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, brings together the trailblazers with the movers and shakers of the fashion industry
  • Kattan started with a line of five styles of false eyelashes, gradually expanding to a range of cosmetics, fragrances and soon skincare

JEDDAH: Iraqi-American Huda Kattan, founder and chief executive of Huda Beauty, spoke about how she started her billion-dollar beauty empire at Voices, an annual gathering for big thinkers organized by the Business of Fashion (BoF) in England on Friday.

The annual invitation-only event, held in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, brings together the trailblazers with the movers and shakers of the fashion industry along with entrepreneurs and inspiring people who are shaping the wider world.

While Kattan now has one of the fastest-growing beauty brands in the world, it wasn’t always easy. 

She was born and raised in Oklahoma City, where she said she stood out. 

“To be honest, I felt different. I was darker, hairier, my hair was unruly, my parents would speak loudly in Arabic across the hall. I was one of the only brown kids. My family were Muslim immigrants with very little money. We knew we didn’t fit in. It showed.” 

Kattan said she had an “identity crisis” after being fired from her first job out of college.

“I had no choice but to accept who I was. I wanted to be fully me, totally and utterly weird…. Being different challenges norms, but different is brilliant,” the influencer said.

“The crazy part about accepting yourself is that the conviction of not caring what people think allows them to accept you in return. The only people who enjoy happiness and success embrace their weirdness.”

Kattan, a Hollywood-trained makeup artist who has worked with celebrities such as Eva Longoria and Nicole Richie, launched her blog, hudabeauty.com, in 2010, eventually branching out to YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

Kattan started with a line of five styles of false eyelashes, gradually expanding to a range of cosmetics, fragrances and soon skincare. Today, Huda Beauty is on track to do $400-million in retail sales this year. Kattan is the 60th most-followed person on Instagram with 30 million fans. Her company, started along with her sister, has become one of the fastest-growing beauty companies in the world, with distribution at global retailers from Sephora to Harrods and Selfridges.

“We became limitless and we weren’t chained to the beliefs of society. The impact was so profound our brand didn’t blossom — it boomed,” Kattan said. “We’re competing against conglomerates with billions of dollars, people telling us we didn’t have a chance. How did we not only compete but dominate with so little resources? We embraced our weirdness.”

Kattan joined a host of other inspiring speakers at the three-day event from Nov. 28-30, including celebrities and big names in the world of fashion and entrepreneurship such as designer Stella McCartney; Peter Smith, co-founder and CEO, Blockchain; Francesca Bellettini, president and CEO of Saint Laurent; South Sudanese model Adut Akech; and Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor, among others.


Fashion capital New York considers banning sale of fur

Updated 17 April 2019
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Fashion capital New York considers banning sale of fur

  • Lawmakers are pushing a measure that would ban the sale of all new fur products in the city
  • “Cruelty should not be confused with economic development,” a sponsor of the legislation said

NEW YORK: A burgeoning movement to outlaw fur is seeking to make its biggest statement yet in the fashion mecca of New York City.
Lawmakers are pushing a measure that would ban the sale of all new fur products in the city where such garments were once common and style-setters including Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Joe Namath and Sean “Diddy” Combs have all rocked furs over the years.
A similar measure in the state Capitol in Albany would impose a statewide ban on the sale of any items made with farmed fur and ban the manufacture of products made from trapped fur.
Whether this is good or bad depends on which side of the pelt you’re on. Members of the fur industry say such bans could put 1,100 people out of a job in the city alone. Supporters dismiss that and emphasize that the wearing of fur is barbaric and inhumane.
“Cruelty should not be confused with economic development,” said state Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat from Manhattan, who is sponsoring the state legislation. “Fur relies on violence to innocent animals. That should be no one’s business.”
The fate of the proposals could be decided in the coming months, though supporters acknowledge New York City’s measure has a better chance of passage than the state legislation.
The fur trade is considered so important to New York’s development that two beavers adorn the city’s official seal, a reference to early Dutch and English settlers who traded in beaver pelts.
At the height of the fur business in the last century, New York City manufactured 80% of the fur coats made in the U.S, according to FUR NYC, a group representing 130 retailers and manufacturers in the city. The group says New York City remains the largest market for fur products in the country, with real fur still frequently used as trim on coats, jackets and other items.
If passed, New York would become the third major American city with such a ban, following San Francisco, where a ban takes effect this year, and Los Angeles, where a ban passed this year will take effect in 2021.
Elsewhere, Sao Paulo, Brazil, began its ban on the import and sale of fur in 2015. Fur farming was banned in the United Kingdom nearly 20 years ago, and last year London fashion week became the first major fashion event to go entirely fur-free.
Fur industry leaders warn that if the ban passes in New York, emboldened animal rights activists will want more.
“Everyone is watching this,” said Nancy Daigneault, vice president at the International Fur Federation, an industry group based in London. “If it starts here with fur, it’s going to go to wool, to leather, to meat.”
When asked what a fur ban would mean for him, Nick Pologeorgis was blunt: “I’m out of business.”
Pologeorgis’ father, who emigrated from Greece, started the fur design and sales business in the city’s “Fur District” nearly 60 years ago.
“My employees are nervous,” he said. “If you’re 55 or 50 and all you’ve trained to do is be a fur worker, what are you going to do?“
Supporters of the ban contend those employees could find jobs that don’t involve animal fur, noting that an increasing number of fashion designers and retailers now refuse to sell animal fur and that synthetic substitutes are every bit as convincing as the real thing.
They also argue that fur retailers and manufacturers represent just a small fraction of an estimated 180,000 people who work in the city’s fashion industry and that their skills can readily be transferred.
“There is a lot of room for job growth developing ethically and environmentally friendly materials,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who introduced the city measure.
New Yorkers asked about the ban this week came down on both sides, with some questioning if a law was really needed.
“It is a matter of personal choice. I don’t think it’s something that needs to be legislated,” said 44-year-old Janet Thompson. “There are lots of people wearing leather and suede and other animal hides out there. To pick on fur seems a little one-sided.”
Joshua Katcher, a Manhattan designer and author who has taught at the Parsons School of Design, says he believes the proposed bans reflect an increased desire to know where our products come from and for them to be ethical and sustainable.
“Fur is a relic,” he said.