I’m so excited to share my conversation with an aspiring Muslim fashion designer! Sobia Begum is young, talented, and wickedly smart! She knows exactly what she wants and is working tirelessly to make her dream of becoming the next hottest fashion designer a reality!
Sobia Begum is a 20 something year old Muslim from New York. She has an MBA and a passion for fashion and food!
You graduated from college with a degree in Sociology & Women’s studies. How did you enter the world of fashion?
A year after graduating college, I still couldn’t make up my mind as to where to go next so I decided to try banking. I was a teller at JP Morgan Chase and as I was approaching my third year there, I enrolled in an MBA program. After years of research and uncertainty, I decided to delve into the world of fashion, despite the occasional moments of self doubt. I realized there was nothing more fascinating to me than learning about the latest trends, designers, and theories of design. I had always wanted to study fashion. I only took it seriously in my mid twenties because for most of my life, I had been brain washed into believing it would be much wiser for me to pick a sustainable career; one that gives immense financial rewards as well as a favorable “social status”. I’ve also always dreamed of running my own business. Something about having the autonomy to create a product and sell it to a specific niche is exciting.
Alhumdulillah I couldn’t have been happier to have taken the risk.
How scary was the jump into something new?
Extremely scary! My first instinct was, “Is this something I should’ve taken up as a hobby or as a full fledged career?” Luckily, I received a lot of encouragement from family and friends who told me to take it seriously and to not look back.
How did you face your fears?
It started with me going back to school. I feared that I wouldn’t be taken seriously because I came from a non traditional fashion background. I had zero experience beyond a year working at Macy’s. But I also noticed that there were many others just like me so that pushed me to work harder and keep going. I landed an internship with Michael Kors, which was encouraging since I got it without any reference! I then went on to intern with DKNY during the last semester of my MBA and graduated with a near perfect GPA. It was huge accomplishment for me and seeing my family happy gave me a huge sense of pride.
Talk about your passion for fashion!
It’s honestly the only topic I can discuss nonstop, for hours! That and dessert! Although I’m still working on my technical skills, I know it’s only a matter of time till I bring my design ideas to life. What’s crazy is that over the past few years, I had predicted certain color combinations and cuts becoming trendy and it actually happened. This is without any research on future color reports. So I figure I must be on the right track.
How would do you define Fashion?
Fashion is all about self expression. There are no rules. While the industry sets trends to be followed, it is ultimately up to us to decide if we’ll follow suit. I think fashion should be fun and a creative outlet for everyone to play dress up.
What’s your vision for your brand?
I want to create a brand that women can relate to. I especially want to place my focus on Plus Size customers because I know first hand how difficult it is to find a dress you like, only to find out it doesn’t fit you! My brand, with the will of Allah swt, will have wide range of product offerings from dresses to bottoms to comfortable footwear. I’ve always wanted to give back as well so the component of philanthropic contribution to underprivileged communities will be there.
Do you think your faith will have any affect or influence in the brand you create?
It will be to an extent. I plan on targeting women of ages 18-45, from all walks of life so I won’t be focused on a very particular niche. I hope both a 25 year old woman working on Wall Street and a 40 year old stay at home mom would like to wear my designs. The element of modesty will be there alongside a bit of flamboyance. I want women to feel beautiful and confident irrespective of how much skin they show.
Do you think its difficult for Muslim women to pursue a career in fashion?
It shouldn’t be unless these women are tying themselves down due to social norms. I think most of us stick to culturally accepted careers because we are conditioned to think that’s the only way to go. That being said, a career in fashion isn’t the easiest. It is extremely competitive and you must possess the passion and persistence in order to be successful.
Are you following any Muslim entrepreneurs in the fashion world?
Yes I have been following fashion blogger Dina Torkia for a while now as well as Ibtihaj Muhammad! Many people know Ibtihaj from the olympics but did you know that she is the founder of a modest women’s clothing brand called Louella? She is goals! I also follow Azeeza Khan, a Chicago based Pakistani-American designer whose clothing line is now sold at Barneys New York. I find that super inspiring!
Did you ever feel pressure from your parents/family to follow a certain career path? Can you understand their expectations?
I only felt pressure from my dad because he didn’t think it was the right industry to invest in. Maybe that’s because he’s a man? I don’t know. I do see where he’s coming from at times. He has seen me struggle to find a job after I graduated. While it’s been tough, only I know how much I want to succeed in this industry. Like I’ve mentioned before, this industry is tough to break into but I’m trying hard to network and carve a path towards my goal.
Overall, my family understands my passion for fashion. Albeit my father has his occasional rants about why I still haven’t become a top level executive at Chanel. That’s not how it works, dad!
How would you describe your personal style?
Minimalistic, fun and comfortable. I don’t accessorize in the summer because I like dressing light but in the winter you can find me in mostly all black with bright colored capes and heavy embroidered shawls.
What are some of your career goals? Where do you hope to see yourself 10 years from now?
InshaAllah, I hope to start my first brand before I turn 30. In 10 years, I will have a ton of experience on how to run a business. With the feedback I receive from my first business, I hope to expand and have at least 2 other brands with unique product offerings. I also want to open up an economical restaurant because I am a huge foodie!