Interviewed by Shaima Al Tamimi ( @iamshaima)
- How did the Niftee concept start?
I studied graphic design at the Higher Colleges of Technology and was asked to submit a design project for one of my courses, so I thought of printing my designs on t-shirts. I have always wanted to combine my passion for both design and fashion, and this was the chance where I could experiment with both.
The funny thing is, I started getting a lot of requests from family, friends and college girls who loved the design concept of my prints. It sounded like a good idea to test the market, so I developed a concept and charged for my t-shirts rather than give them out for free. I never looked back ever since.
- What was it like to register Niftee as a business?
It all started as a “one-man” show. I wanted to keep every angle of Niftee under my control. It is always good to have big dreams, but clever to start small and take things step by step. I applied for Intilaq, a trade license that allows you to set up business from home. It is very convenient and keeps your overheads at a minimal cost. This, in turn, allowed me to focus more on my branding strategy and source the best quality textiles for my product.
- Do you only make T-shirts?
Nope. Even though that is how the concept started, I expanded into creating my designs on dresses, jumpsuits, cashmere and silk shawls.
- Who are your customers?
They are not easy to pin down, as most of my customers are from different backgrounds and ages. I try to introduce a new product every now and then to keep the brand fresh and interesting. For instance, girls and ladies mostly buy the t-shirts, jumpsuits and dresses because of the playfulness in their designs. Other ladies go for the personalized cashmere shawls and blankets that I customize with calligraphy prints of poems, proverbs, names or anything they request, and they are usually given out as gifts.
I have recently introduced t-shirts for men that depict a verse from one of the late Sheikh Zayed’s poems written in Arabic calligraphy Kufi style and designed with a modern twist to form an Argyle pattern.
A few months back, I was commissioned by the Office of Brand Abu Dhabi where I designed two silk scarves for the President of the UAE cup series, which were given out as VIP gifts at the races in the UK, Paris, Russia and the United States.
I get a lot of requests from companies to design shawls for their staff with the corporate logo.
I am definitely blessed with the support I have been getting from friends, family and international media.
- Over the past 3 years, what has changed about the strategy of running Niftee?
I started out really small, with launching few t-shirts every few months, but over the past 3 years I have realized that there is a void in the market, which I could fill with high-quality pieces and unique designs.
And because the fashion industry is always evolving, I revisit my strategy every once in a while in order to see if there is an aspect I need to work on, new elements that I should introduce, or wider segment of people that I should target.
- How do you juggle two jobs together?
It is all about time management (and having understanding managers!). When you love something so much, you will always have the time to do it.
- How do you measure the success of Niftee?
To me, a brand is successful by the number of supporters, positive feedback from customers, random blog posts about it, magazine/newspaper features, and finally, by the number of orders.
- Where do you see Niftee going in the future?
I always have big plans for Niftee. Whether it is by expanding the collections & introducing new items or working on a new look for the website. I am constantly updating the brand in order to reach a wider segment of the target market.
I am also studying the potential of stocking at several boutiques & department stores in the UAE and GCC, and the feasibility of introducing items other than apparel to the market.
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