Sisters sew up market gap with online modestwear shop

Having struggled to find fashion-forward modestwear in regular shops, Sabiha and Sameera Badsha decided to launch their own online store, Haya Collective

30 November 2017 - 11:42 By Siphiliselwe Makhanya
Kaleidoscopic Robe from Haya Collective.
Kaleidoscopic Robe from Haya Collective.
Image: Supplied

Sabiha Badsha has always loved beautiful things - luxe textures, dainty details, clever design.

Little wonder then that, over the years, she's gone from being an avid fashion consumer to becoming one of its most promising producers.

Badsha co-owns Haya Collective, a local online boutique for sartorially-minded women who prefer their hems floor-length.

''We describe our ideal customer as 'the modern modest dresser'," says Badsha, who herself covers up to express her faith.

''She's a fashion-conscious woman, who prefers loose tailoring and more covering. She's a contemporary woman who enjoys dressing conservatively, with more moderate fits and cuts.

"While modest dressing is often associated with religious observance, we are selling to women from all backgrounds and lifestyles."

Working with her sister Sameera, Badsha launched Haya Collective in 2015.

Their affinity for fashion is generational.

''I come from a family with a strong background in fashion and textiles. My late grand-father was a tailor and went on to start a zip business.

"My father is a narrow textile manufacturer. "From an early age I saw how textiles were made, and the processes behind the materials used in manufacturing.

"Throughout my life this had a strong influence on me, persuading my passion for the industry."

Amira Pleats skirt from Haya Collective.
Amira Pleats skirt from Haya Collective.
Image: Supplied

The glossy pages of global fashion magazines added to her fascination.

''I don't think I realised I had a personal sense of style as much as I have memories of always being interested in fashion.

"As a teenager I would enjoy paging through Harper's Bazaar, Elle and Vogue. I enjoyed seeing the way things were styled, the way looks were created and, most of all, I loved the advertising campaigns sprawled over double spreads, filling pages and pages even before the contents page appeared."

She said she began taking an analytical approach to fashion, working to understand what went into achieving a look and what would be the best way to recreate that trend.

''I loved reading about the business of fashion - which holding company owned which brands, the hierarchy within design companies, the drama of creative directors moving from design house to design house.

"My favourite part was seeing a new creative director infuse his or her sense of style within the parameters of that design house and taking mental notes of the evolution of designs presented each new season.

"I also appreciated the craftsmanship side of fashion - seeing creativity and physical hours of work resulting in something so aesthetically beautiful."

Badsha was recently chosen as one of 12 fashion entrepreneurs from around South Africa to participate in Standard Bank's 12-week Threads Accelerator Programme.

It is meant to nurture sales, administrative, financial and marketing skills in the South African industry.

Badsha and her sister found their niche through personal experience. As students they founded a small boutique, which they closed and resurrected as an online store.

''Our personal sense of style evolved almost in parallel. We both faced the challenge of finding modest garments in regular stores.

"Sameera sparked the idea of starting our own line, designing the ideal, modest yet fashion-forward garments. We noticed that no local online modestwear store existed and we were excited to take the idea live."

This article was originally published in The Times.