Here at Brimah and John, we have numerous inspirations! One of which are fabulous women, with a passion and a drive to do what they love and what makes them happy. These women are forging a path for themselves in their chosen fields and are an inspiration to us all. So what we like to do, is sit them down in the hot seat, shine a spot light on them... and get to know them a little better.
As a self-proclaimed shopaholic, y'all already know I got a deep love of clothes and fashion. I say, I won't be satisfied till I have a walk in wardrobe, but deep down I know it wont be till I have a whole house dedicated to clothes *holds head in shame*. So you already know I was excited when Soura of Boutique De Nana agreed to send me a preview of her upcoming collection! Check her out y'all, and don't forget your ma sha Allahs!
Tell us a bit about Boutique De Nana, how it all started and the concept behind it...
What is your background? What were you doing before the boutique?
Well, I am originally from Canada (raised not born there) my mom’s family is primarily Egyptian and my father’s side is pure Sudanese. I moved here as an international student in 2009 after graduating with an Honours Bachelors of Med Sciences to pursue a Doctors of Optometry Degree in Birmingham. I met my husband on a weekend, fell in love got married 2 months later, put my degree on hold and I have been waiting to become a home students to complete what I left off. While waiting I thought I would pick up a Master’s degree in advance health care systems. You must be thinking, “so scientific where is design aspect from all of this” lol. I have always enjoyed designing and setting trends ever since I could remember, but coming from an Arabic house hold my mom was always against me going for my passion in fashion design. I was told I was smart I needed to use my brain and focus on becoming a doctor. Thus, I was waiting for the right time and opportunity and that happened to be perfect while waiting to finish my degree. It was then the time to go for my passion.
How has you journey been? Challenges and highlights?
My journey has been awesome alhamdolilah, as I mentioned I had a passion in fashion design from day one but was not allowed to pursue it. Then obstacles like, being only able to design and not sew came in the way. But once those were out of the way it’s been a phenomenal journey mashallah. The highlights would be the amount of support I got from family once I started it was like we never knew you were that passionate and now that you've taken off nothing can stop you and we got your back. In addition, I have a creative family that were there from day one- the ‘Zollibeau Family’ a pair of sisters (One designer, another is a singer/song writer and their kind mother Linda). They run an ethical clothing label and I met in them in midst of the quest of learning how to sew. Sarah Valentin taught me how to thread a machine and told me it was always in me and ever since then there was no turning back. That very first time I made the cutest flawless dress for Nana. I guess it was in me already lol.
What inspired your clothes and designs?
My favourite saying is: “God is beautiful and He loves all that is beautiful.” Anything that is pleasant to the eye; a beautiful structure could inspire me or a TV show or movie like Sex and the City (SJP is the ultimate fashionista). I believe in fashion fusion, and meeting or mating the East with the West and all that sort of stuff. Being covered to me does not necessarily mean being cultural with no fashion sense. I wanted Hijabis to look like movie stars from an award show, without the need of layering. That was my issue dressing up as a Hijabi, always had to layer and the outfit would then lose its purpose or fashion sense lol.
What are your personal faves in your debut collection?
Oh God, everything is my favourite! They are all my babies, from the designing process, fabric shopping until they are made. I close my eyes and I see myself in what I am designing and I even imagine what shoes or makeup I will be wearing with them. The ultimate creative mind *fashionable geeky face*. But I must say my pleated skirts are a hit. This is proven by the amount of compliments I receive when wearing one.
Looking back is there anything you'd do differently?
I started trading like (wholesale buying and selling) since I never knew how to sew. I was sort of the fashionable middle man lol hooking sisters up from the community with nice abayas, jewellery…etc. that diverted me so much from being creative. I didn’t learn how to sew sooner, so I never launched BDN as a bespoke design house because of that. Thus, I would not do that if I were to ever start again.
What's next for Boutique De Nana? What would you say are your short-term and long-term goals?
I am always thinking about this personally and I am always trying to make decisions wisely- strategically yet logically like debuting a collection in the right season (summer, winter, Ramadan or Eid). So I guess after ‘Dream Catcher’, I will introduce an Abaya/ Kaftan collection for Ramadan and Eid. Long term goals would be to see BDN in large retailer shops like M & S and Debenhams *Determined face* (Sky is the limit!)
Who would you say is/are your biggest motivators?
Mama, I love you! She is honestly my ultimate rock, backbone, support system or whichever crosses one’s mind when it comes to empowering. I named my eldest daughter “Nana” Najiah after her and hence, Boutique De Nana. She is a true example of a fighter, yet delicate queen. She is now in Canada but her prayers and Dua are what keep me going all the way here in the UK. Love, love, love you Mama Nana. The second one would be my husband Ahmed, who never ever let me down when it came to pursuing my passion he could have easily refused and said stick to the medical field but honestly, he is my enabler and fuel. His words of wisdom and support help me get up when I am discouraged or fighting doubts. Ahmed, I love you for that xo. Then I have my sisters and brothers in no particular order Nada, Noona, Eiman, Mustafa and Nagi you guys are my life. I am also blessed with amazing in laws hamdolilah who always support me and pray for me Baba Ghazi and Mama Ikhlas, Mona, Mustafa and Elsadig. These are pretty much my motivators along with friends who can take up 3 pages if I mention them but they know who they are, much love and respect to them.
Let's talk a little about the woman behind the brand, share with us a short bio/description of yourself:
I am my mother's child
I believe in passion, I believe in fashion
In world peace and harmony
I am my mother's child and she is my favourite gift from God
I believe in doodling on the bus and making visions come to life
I am into science but my passion is in fashion
Modest Fashion is what makes my heart pound and where my mind gravitates towards
Uniqueness is key though
No one should have what you're wearing and if they do they must show their creativity in wearing it differently
Everyone is creative in their own way
I am different and so is my stuff
My Name is Yousra (Soura) and I am the woman behind Boutique De Nana.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is uniquely chic. I am really very selective and don’t like being tied to one style. If pastels are in I will refer to them once a week but I can also rock my camouflage jacket with a vintage Versace scarf and dark lips on an odd day. I think I am “a trend setting chic rebel.”
What's your hijab story? How did you start wearing it?
I was always a modest girl even when I never wore a scarf. Never did above the ankle or sleeveless in my life so that took away from the urge to wear a scarf until my second year of University back in Canada. It was a day before Ramadan and I would wear a scarf to the prayer room and take it off after of course. That day we had 3 reverts come and speak about their stories accepting Islam, the girl called (Cindy I think) talked about her struggle and the gentleman who was a Jew read Quran in the most touching way and after that conference I decided never to take my scarf off because people find Islam and struggle to learn more about it due to family pressure and language barriers but I am a native Arab who was blessed to be born Muslim and I still wasn’t giving it my best. Not that I am a perfect Muslim now but inshallah always in the quest to become one. ”O Allah, please do not take my life away until I am the perfect Muslim you want me to be.”
If you weren't in fashion, what would you be doing?
Health Care practice lol. It is my destiny that is on hold at the moment. Actually not entirely because I am technically still doing my Masters in Advanced Health Care practice.
If you could only keep three things from your personal wardrobe what would you pick?
My leather jacket, my YSL purse and my Scarf-ves lol.
Who's your style crush?
Kate Middleton is the epitome of class, a blogger called Dalal Aldoub, and one called Nadya Hassan (the fierce Nay) and of course Sara Jessica Parker- gotta love her.
What's one thing you can't go a day without?
Of course my scarf but also my watch lol. I have a collection of nice-ish watches a sliver MK, a black Swatch, another Golden MK and my Gold Guess watch, these are the ones worth mentioning but I have a bunch that I like wearing as well.
Tell us about something you've always wanted to do, but haven't yet? Something on your bucket list maybe.
Ermm, I always wanted to meet Sir Richard Branson and have him endorse BDN that’s the business woman in me. Also, I really want to go with my mom to visit Mecca and perform Umrah or Hajj with her. Her blessings are the key to my happiness.
Sunglasses at the beach, or Wellies on an adventure trail?
Of course sunglasses at the beach
Describe your dream getaway?
The Maldives. A private island just for me and hub with no worries or deadlines to meet lol.
Are you a book worm or film fanatic?
Neither for now lol. Unfortunately I never read a book in long time (except text books) and I am not following the movie scene. I honestly do not have time to do these things. But I hope I can return to the book worm I used to be.
What are your favourite books or films?
My sister’s keeper (both book and film), Wuthering Heights (book), Sweet November (film), and Love and Basket Ball (film).
What's your biggest pet peeve?
double dipping, and passing by someone with a B.O and estray hairs ew lol (I am quite the germophobe)
What's one thing you know now that you wish younger you knew?
Friendships that aren’t meant to be will never last and the time we invested in them will hurt when one looks back lol.
Any advice for all the women out there carving their paths in life?
Refer to Allah and your guts and you shall never lose your paths inshallah. Also, leave any hatred and jealousy so you can make it in life. These traits will hinder you and eat you alive. Lastly, pay it forward!
And lastly our favourite Brimah and John question,
You've got £250 to spend at www.brimahandjohn.com what pieces do you buy?
I think I will go for your gold abaya with green gemstones. I absolutely adore it! I love gold and green that’s why.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I would like to thank you for selecting me to be in your coveted hot seat and hopefully you now know a bit more about the “scientist gone designer” behind Boutique De Nana. Love you all and please be on the look for more BDN coming your way inshallah!