It was at an early age that Rawan and Suzan AlSadi were bitten by the fashion bug. “Since we were little kids, we always had the ambition of having our own company,” Rawan explains. “The idea developed further when I started wearing hijab in 8th grade.”
Both graduates in finance from the American University in Dubai, the pair describe themselves on fashion website Moda Corner as “Hijabies who are helplessly in love with international fashion”. The Dubai-based twin sisters recall that it was a challenge to find clothes that suited their personalities, but that also went well with the hijab.
“This is when we started focusing more on modest fashion,” Rawan says. In co-founding Rozan Designs, their goal was to provide conservative yet trendy apparel for fashionistas like themselves.
The entrepreneurs initially planned to fund their fashion business by finding salaried employment. “Suzan and I wanted to find jobs and then invest our salaries in the business, but my business brothers advised against this, saying there would be an opportunity cost and we don’t want to waste time,” Rawan continues.
Their brothers became Rozan Designs' major investors, providing the largest portion of funds in the start-up, which sells original designs of tops, trousers and dresses online. According to Rawan, after two years, “the project achieved self-sufficiency, so revenues were now being used to release new collections, and we were also able to use them for marketing and expansion.”
The AlSadi sisters believe that their practical designs set them apart from other brands, with a clear focus on clothes that can pair well with the hijab, and “modesty in general”, says Rawan.
Their pieces are feminine and contemporary, in muted colours like rose-pink or silver as well as eye-catching reds and blues, with lace or sequin detailing on the cuffs and hems. The overall effect is simultaneously playful and conservative.
“You’ll notice that all our white fabrics have no transparency,” Rawan points out. Their latest Ramadan collection, for example, released in May 2018, features a flowing white top embellished with golden lace at the waistline and cuffs.
The sisters are also tapping into the demand for versatile and easy-to-wear pieces. “Most of our fabrics are wrinkle-resistant, because we realise that our client could spend an entire day wearing the same outfit,” Rawan says.
“She would go to work, and then would go out with her friends, so we try to offer outfits that are practical and comfortable but also presentable so that the client would be confident about her look throughout the day.”
Yet the path to success hasn’t always been smooth. “We started at such a young age with little experience, so we didn’t have the adequate PR for us to get done with our tasks faster,” Suzan says.
She adds that they initially struggled with practical issues like choosing fabrics and finding a suitable tailor capable of making products to meet the high standards to which they aspired. “There was a very long quest before we managed to find something that reflects our vision,” Suzan recalls.
The entrepreneurs have also had to overcome the challenge of not having a physical store. “We are an online business, so how would you earn the clientele’s trust?” Suzan asks. “Especially that our client base comprises women who dress modestly, so you could say they are not so fashionably educated to order online.
“Most people still do their shopping at the malls,” she says.
Despite the challenges, the sisters have ambitious goals for the future, including an international photoshoot.
“One of the things we’ve been planning for is to photoshoot the new collection in London,” says Suzan. “This is very much uncharted territory for us and hopefully it will give us a boost on social media and people will see something different.”
Their advice to other start-ups? Patience and courage, the sisters respond.
“Patience because you can’t make things happen overnight. Even when you do your best and invest all your energy and resources into something, you can’t expect it to happen in a short period of time. Reach and reputation – good reputation – all need time.”