For Founder Ghada Al Subaey, Qatar-Born Ready-To-Wear Label 1309 Is "Not Just Another Fashion Brand"
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With its current line of contemporary abayas, the Qatar-born ready-to-wear label 1309 may seem, at first glance, like just another fashion brand launched out of the Middle East. But dig a little deeper, and one will soon find that founder and Creative Director Ghada Al Subaey is on a mission to build something more substantial with 1309, which is a reference to her mother’s birthdate. “1309 is more than just a fashion brand,” Al Subaey declares. “It is a concept, a community we are trying to build, values that we are trying to promote... At 1309, we believe that the world doesn’t need ‘just another fashion brand’ that adds to the toxic waste generated by the fashion industry. Rather, fashion brands now need to adopt ethical work practices, and have solid social and environmental responsibility.”
And Al Subaey is putting her money where her mouth is- sustainable approaches govern 1309’s work and business practices, which can be seen in its sourcing of sustainable material and fabric for its designs, as well as in its efforts to be inclusive of women of all body sizes. “I landed on this idea [for 1309], as I don’t find the things that I want to wear out there in the market,” Al Subaey says. “This is because I am not a stick-thin woman, so most of what brands have to offer do not fit me as well as I would like it to. There is a lot of variety out there that is based on trends, but does not suit the type of body that I have. A lot of women’s clothes out there are trendy, but not really comfortable to wear. When we design clothes at 1309, we want our designs to fit women of all body types, and we want women to feel comfortable wearing them, and to feel good about themselves- as opposed to just wearing them to adhere to trends, or get attention.”
And the market is being very receptive to what 1309 offers, Al Subaey says- especially since it has managed to stand out from its peers in this space. “In the Gulf, there are usually a lot of ready-to-wear designers and abaya designers,” Al Subaey explains. “Usually, the abaya designers are very traditional, while the ready-to-wear designers are very Western. Whereas 1309 is trying to understand and design clothes for the modern Arab women of today, rather than copying other Western brands. We really try to understand and cater to our customer’s needs, for example being mindful of their needs, the trends, the weather in the Gulf region, etc.” And given how customers are already responding to 1309, it shouldn’t come as a surprise Al Subaey is dreaming big in terms of her enterprise’s future. “We are surely developing, and the goal is to become a 100% sustainable brand,” she reveals. “We want to grow the brand into homeware and beauty, as well as grow our 1309 community, and create an entire ideology and a universe of products around it.”
PUT YOUR THINKING CAP ON
1309 founder Ghada Al Subaey on how to spark a great idea
1. Look out for the needs of the market “To create a successful business, it is crucial to spot and cater to the gaps in the market, and be as innovative as you can, because in reality, there are a lot of things/concepts/ideas missing from the market. There are a number of products that people wish would be available in our market. There will always be a demand for things in the market that makes people’s lives easier. So. you should always think about that and ask people around you: what are they looking for, what will make their life easier, what is it that they feel is missing from the market? This applies to every industry, whether it is fashion or technology.”
2. Be invested in your idea “The most important thing is that whatever you do, you should be passionate about it. Because being an entrepreneur is not easy, it is a huge responsibility, and the passion for your work and business is what is going to get you through the hard times, and it is the same passion that will take your business to where you want it to be.”
3. Make it a point to stand out “It is important to be unique. In a very visually condensed society, where we see a lot of ads and social media visuals popping up in our face multiple times every day, create something that stands out. Do not copy someone- be innovative, create something new, and stand out. It is important to have a unique and genuine brand story, and a distinctive set of values that humanizes your products and your brand for people. This is what will get them to believe in your brand, and back the idea behind it.”