“I’ve always had an interest in fashion, but so do many people. I think that once I had my kids I realized that I needed a more flexible job, and the best way to do that was to own my own business.”
Bayan Jondy, 31, is a therapist by profession, who didn’t anticipate fashion as a career. But now she is the CEO of a brand new hijab fashion line called, Zeena. So, how does one switch gears from therapy to fashion? We bring you the exclusive interview below.
What is Zeena? And how did it start?
Zeena is the company name, and our website is simplyzeena.com. Zeena comes from an Arabic word that means beautiful ornament or decoration – our clothes are designed to ornament and decorate the women who wear them. The reason I started the company is because I was frustrated with not being able to find the kind of clothing that reflected my personality and uniqueness; I was tired of wearing so many layers, especially in the spring and summer. I also realized that so many other Muslim women had this problem. It wasn’t uncommon to show up to an event & someone else would be wearing the same shirt or skirt that I was wearing. Our options were so few. It’s one of the reasons that I plan on making Zeena more boutique-like; so we don’t all have the same wardrobe.
So I decided to start designing clothes for myself. I would sketch different ideas, buy the material, and have all put together. I wore my shirts and skirts and enjoyed finally being free from the limitations of the mall and pricey boutiques. The feedback and response from my family and friends was overwhelming. They absolutely loved the clothes and began asking if they could purchase the clothes for themselves somewhere. It turned out they shared with me the same frustrations that led me to start making my own clothes in the first place. So I decided to take the plunge and start my own company.
Did you ever think you’d become a fashion designer?
Yes and no. I’ve always loved fashion, and always wanted to do what I love. But, to be honest, I never thought I’d have the chance to actually do it. I think many people have a passion and love for something other than what they actually do on a day-to-day basis, and I was certainly one of them. I’m now blessed to be working on my passion: designing. I love the fashion industry and love shopping for different styles. I always knew I wanted to make my own designs, but I never imagined it on this scale.
Where are you based out of?
I’m in the Washington DC area, but really the focus of Zeena will be online.
In the last 2 years we’ve seen many start up hijab fashion companies, but most of them seem to fade. What makes your approach different?
My approach has really been cautiously ambitious. I began designing, researching, and planning in 2008. I’ve spent the last three years carefully laying out my vision, convening focus groups and listening to what they have to say, working on our website, and nailing down our design and manufacturing process so that we can keep bringing great styles to our customers season after season. I really didn’t want to jump right out of the gate back in 2008 for exactly the reason you noted. I’ve also spent time building a great team – we’ve worked very hard to make certain all angles of the business are covered. It helps that we’re fully funded and committed to our end goal: providing fashionable, sensible, and versatile clothes for our customers. Having said that, I obviously can’t guarantee the success of the business, but I feel that I’ve done all that I can from a business perspective to stay afloat. Only time will tell.
We’ve seen one of your designs and it looks really modern and modest at the same time, who came up with the design and the concept?
Thank you! I’m still the principal designer, now with input from other members of the Zeena team. I want to provide a style specific to women in western countries. Designs that represent all of our different personalities and maintain elements of our culture as well. The design process is pretty intense – I’ve always got my sketchbook with me, and there are materials and samples galore in our workroom. We tweak each sample until we get just the look we’re shooting for.
What types of items will you be focusing on? Work wear? Casual? Formal occasion?
For our first season, we carry both casual and dressy shirts and skirts. We’ve also have scarves and jewelry for all occasions. After that, we’ll build on those items by listening to what our customers want us to make. I’m really hoping that with regular customer feedback, we can cater to the ever changing needs of Muslim women. I mean, I’ve been in hijab since I was twelve; I had never seen hijabi swimwear and quite frankly never even thought of it. Not that I plan on doing that in my line, but it was a good business response to the market need by other companies. I hope that we can do progress according to needs as well.
Are you designing hijabs to go with your outfits as well?
Yes, we’ve designed a few hijabs this season that are beautiful and practical for every day wear.
Where do you have your items manufactured?
All of our items have been manufactured in China. Each style is offered in limited quantities to maintain our boutique feel and because that’s what our focus groups participants have told us they want.
How can people purchase your clothing?
Everyone will be able to purchase our clothing and accessories at www.simplyzeena.com. We’ll also be having a launch party where our guests can buy directly. You can head to the website now and subscribe to our newsletter and emails. Subscribers will be the first to know of Zeena’s launch date. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
***We will be giving away the shirt you see above courtesy of Zeena, details coming soon, so stay tuned!***