Shamsiya Sadiq-Mohammed is the creative director and founder of NorthArabia Couture (an online retail outfit), a young astute corporate lawyer and arbitrator with over nine years experience. She currently runs her own practice (Kith & Counsel) and serves as a company secretary/director to a few entities, one of which is Proclapp Limited. Her experience cut across providing company secretarial services, legal advisory services to various industries (oil and gas, real estate, retail, etc) and has keen interest in local content related matters and legal drafting.
She is the first daughter of her family and hails from Taraba State of Nigeria. Shamsiya is happily married and blessed with two lovely boys. She is also a graduate of University of Igbinedion, Okada, Edo state. She grew up in Qatar as a kid then later on in Lagos state.
Her love for fashion has been innate, since she was a little girl. She would pick out her outfits and that of other family members to ensure they were perfect for the occasion. However, her fervent interest for Arabian fashion grew from a childhood admiration of her friend’s mum, who was always beautifully adorned.
After she got married, the inspiration and passion for business prompted her to create her fashion brand NorthArabia Couture, an online luxury retail store that caters to those who were as passionate as she was for Arabian fashion. She set up the business in 2013 with the hope to fill in gap within the northern fashion space.
In this interview with Oyinlola Sale, Shamsiya Sadiq-Mohammed tells us how a legal practitioner delved into the world of Fashion.
Now, tell us the story behind the name NorthArabia Couture?
As a kid, those that know me, know I love to dress up. I am very particular about how I look stepping out of my home. The flare for fashion has been innate. However, I had over the years been getting a lot of compliments on the abayas and dresses I wore out; in fact, there was a time two lovely ladies stopped me at a store and I was frantic as to why they did, the next thing I heard was pls where did you get your abaya from? It’s so beautiful and kept going on and on… so I said to myself this is becoming interesting why don’t I let others have the feel just like I do when I dress up. So the best thing I thought was to start my own business but centered around what resonates with me which was anything Arabian, that’s where you will find me. In coming up with the name; I merged what I believe is my origin (the north) and the source (Arabia) Alhamdulillah! It’s been an interesting journey. We keep learning and growing.
As a fashion designer, what inspires your creativity?
people around me, events and sentimental objects.
What do you have to say regarding importation of fabrics into Nigeria, how can the government revive the textile industry?
Most definitely, it’s best to export ours than import. The government can help by improving the manufacturing industry by providing advanced equipments/technology and proper structure to the management of the various departments under the industry. One good way is to adopt the process under oil&gas where you have expatriates come in to train our locals(understudy programmes) so the locals master the skills and take over from the expatriates in manufacturing.
Can you elaborate on the growth of the fashion industry and what has changed, compared to when you started?
I initially started in 2013 but put the business on hold to focus on my day job and raising a family. From that time till date, fashion has become a global phenomenon. It has always been there but now fashion is in everything we do. With the emergence of social media, our Ankara prints are now internationally accepted. The likes of Beyoncé, Gabriel Union and many other international celebrities are seen confidently wearing Ankara outfits. Even the conventional designers use Ankara in some of their designs. In addition, we have more emerging designers like myself. There are a number of platforms that encourages and supports anyone who has the passion and drive to be creative. So why not if not…
What are the important details that one needs to pay attention to in order to excel in the field of Fashion?
1. Your target audience(know them and where to find them) 2. Good use of social media for marketing/ visibility 3. Strategic collaborations 4. Good Pricing 5. Branding 6. Good customer care 7. Quality 8. Fashion risks; be daring 9. Consistency 10. Passion
What are the challenges you have faced so far in running NorthArabia Couture?
Funding; it’s never easy for a start-up especially when you have a budget and you want to stick to it and price evaluations; with the fluctuation of forex, it’s not been easy sustaining and balancing cost of producing and your profit margin.
The industry is churning out a lot of creative designers, what is your view about this growth?
I am pleased by it, as I believe I am one of which. The more the better because very soon; Nigerians will embrace locally made fashion pieces more than the foreign counterparts. You will have a variety to choose from; be it street fashion, corporate, night life and lifestyle, so many. Our designers are truly pushing the envelope and the world should watch out because we are taking over. The way we are gradually taking over the music space so shall we in fashion. Hopefully, local designers have international collaborations.
How did you manage to finance NorthArabia Couture in it’s early days?
I had recently gotten married so I was wondering what to use some of the cash gifts I got; so I used a large chunk of it to start and also with the support of my husband, friends and family I was able to pull through nine months of constant sales at the time.
So, what makes NorthArabia Couture to stand out in the midst of the crowd?
Hmmm! That’s something I don’t often answer right away, I just pull out a piece and there goes your answer. In all honesty; it’s my fabrics. My designs are more of simple but classy. The wow factor is the quality of my fabrics. I don’t source them here; I research on unique Arabian fabrics from a couple of Arabian countries like Morocco, Dubai, Saudi and Oman then purchase them and make something to leave you in awe. I am big on quality. I may not have tons of outfits in the closet but I do have a number of quality outfits. For me, that’s it. Something that stands you out and also durable.
So what are your plans for NorthArabia Couture in the next 5 years ?
oh wow! I smile thinking about that. I hope that by the will of Allah, NC becomes a household name not just in Nigeria but even in the Arabian fashion space. Also hope to have a jaw dropping store where; once you step in, you wouldn’t want to leave, certainly not empty handed.
Facebook: NorthArabia Couture