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Interview with Juliya the mind behind Zafirah Fashion, Dubai based modest fashion concept

Crowd of fashion designers coming from western countries is helping Dubai to be the fashion Capital of MENA Region, But very few got the position and reputation like Juliya got as a luxury and modest womenswear designer. We got the chance to catch her online in her busy schedule.  Juliya gave us an exclusive insight into her life as a fashion designer in Dubai today!

 
HI JULIYA,
DFM: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?
JULIYA: My name is Juliya an Ukrainian Fashion Designer. I graduated as a journalist. I arrived at Dubai in 2008, and I used to write advertising and PR articles for different brands, mainly for real estate. My partner and I had a consulting company. My personality features- laziness, passiveness, adaptability, creativity, competitiveness.
 
DFM: WHEN DID YOU START YOUR OWN BRAND WHAT INSPIRED YOU? 
JULIYA: I started my clothing business in 2011. I had a shop in Jumeira with my partner, we brought ready-made outfits from Turkey. I was new in Dubai, and my taste was very far from Middle Eastern style. Then I noticed that I don't need to travel to get bestsellers. I decided to order from the local factory for my first batch of long dresses. Surprisingly for me, the factory owner called me and asked if he can buy up all 100 dresses because he likes them and he wants to see them in his show room. I said "no" because I was curious how people would react on them. I sold those 100 pieces in one week. I didn't study as a designer, only at the art school, and I didn't even have a chance to learn stitching - I started with bulk quantities…
 
DFM: WHAT MAKES "ZAFIRAH FASHION" DIFFERENT FROM OTHER ONLINE MODEST CLOTHING BOUTIQUE?
JULIYA: All my dresses are very simple and free size. We started from exhibitions, and that was the only possible way to sell the outfits. Then it's became the basic of all collections. My aim was to sell in middle price segment. Let's say Zara prices for those who don't like to wear mass fashion. People say that my dresses are different. Honestly this is the best compliment because to make something different in fashion world is next to impossible. Maybe because I'm Ukrainian, and even if I do my best and copy something typical Emirati, it won't look Arabic.
 
DFM: HOW MANY YEARS HAS "ZAFIRAH FASHION" BEEN IN OPERATION AND HAVE YOU REACHED ANY IMPORTANT MILESTONE?
JULIYA: I used to have shops in Batuta mall, Festival city mall, Jumeirah, JBR, and participated in many exhibitions. I had an ambitious dream to participate in the real fashion show, but I didn't tell it to anyone – I didn't want people laugh at me, because everybody knew that I didn't study as a designer. Since 2013, whenever I had extra cash, I ordered some sample for my "future fashion show" … not all of them were successful, but when in 2018 all of a sudden I was invited to participate in real fashion show, I already had my samples! Organizers had 3 lots for the new designers, and one was given to me… I was excited to the moon and back, I took my samples to the best haute couture tailors in Dubai design district, and I made 16 looks. It cost me around 50 thousand dirhams. That show was very successful! After that, I was invited to Italy for fashion show with my collection, I've got cover of Italian magazine, article about me, then number of mentions in Dubai media, participation in reality TV show, and another 2 fashion shows in Dubai.
 
DFM: TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR COLLECTION?
JULIYA: My casual line is a mix of everything because having so many retail spots, I needed to satisfy the taste of ladies from different countries… whatever had good response in Festival city mall, wasn't selling in JBR for example. I had a great possibility to experiment with styles and cuts, that was wonderful!
 
My catwalk collection got names such as "4 elements", 8 black looks and 8 white ones like yin and yang. I used Swarovski crystals for the element of fire, sequins and floating organza for water, feathers for air, and flowery 3D embroidery for the earth.
 
DFM: THERE'S SO MUCH PRESSURE FOR DESIGNERS TO COME OUT WITH THEIR GREATEST COLLECTION SEASON AFTER SEASON. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG DESIGNERS JUST STARTING OUT AND HOPING TO MAKE A PLACE IN THE INDUSTRY?
JULIYA: Number one advise- just do it, but minimize your risk. Prepare a few items, try to sell them online or in exhibitions, see the response of people, feel yourself doing this- how happy you are here. You can share the exhibition booth with someone, you don't need any license for that. It's much easier than you could think!
 
3 mistakes which you can do-
Make things complicated. "I need to study sketching, this and that, go to Italy "… no!!! Make your dresses first. Maybe you will understand it's not for you, maybe you will succeed and won't have a time for study, maybe you can do both, but I strongly recommend to try yourself first before spending years and thousands for education. I can paint, I never even needed to make a sketch… only now I feel the need to study more in the field of fashion design.
 
You are already professional, and you decide to conquer the market very fast as you know everything. Stop!!! Try with a few dresses, you might rearrange all your ideas after only one exhibition! My friend arrived to Dubai with 1000 dresses, amazing top quality, but not suitable for Dubai market at all… and she already set up the whole production line.
 
You think you can do everything by yourself. You need to 1) create an idea 2) implement the idea (stitch) 3) market your items 4) sell them. Think carefully before starting, what you can do the best, and for what you need an outsourcing. Very talented designers are going to nowhere with huge disappointment because they are bad in marketing and sells.
 
It's always important to support our own stable of talented Dubai fashion designers and ensure when we make that important fashion purchase, where possible it's modest. Don't forget you can see more of Juliya's designs on her website and follow her on Instagram @zafirah_fashion for more on her great stylish designs.

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