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From law and order to fashion couture

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Fashion for the modern Muslim woman is being revolutionised by former law student turned fashion designer, Sumayyah Nasaruddin. Her website, Love to Dress, provides urban Muslim women with outfits that allow them to be part of the western society they live in, yet adhere to traditional Muslim dress standards.

“I would look for clothes in high-street stores and struggled to find something that catered for women like me.” Sumayyah explains. “I realised there was a gap in the market for young, urban Muslim women who wanted to dress in fashionable cuts influenced by western styles, but that fits with our dress code.”

In 2010, once Sumayyah had developed her retail idea and dress designs, she began searching for a suitable manufacturer. Two years later, Sumayyah still hadn’t found a cost-effective factory that could bring her clothing line to life. “I live in Scotland and knew I needed to look further afield to find a manufacturer. I couldn’t afford to visit China, and don’t speak Mandarin, so I hadn’t been able to connect with any of the numerous factories there.”

Sumayyah turned to an Internet forum for advice on how she could solve this problem and was told about Alibaba.com. Once registered with the online marketplace, Sumayyah took advantage of its AliSourcePro service – a targeted buying request form which verified Alibaba.com suppliers respond to. Once the quotations have been audited by Alibaba.com, the best 10 responses are then sent to the buyer within 48 hours.

AliSourcePro gave me real peace-of-mind as I could then contact manufacturers in China which had already been checked out by Alibaba.com,” Explains Sumayyah. “I felt that a lot of the potential risks had been taken away and immediately began liaising with three factories.”

From here, Sumayyah’s fashion dream became a reality as she put in bulk orders of 300 items each for her unique dress designs. “I was surprised at just how professional the factories were. They produced my samples on time and I was delighted with the quality and cut of the pieces.” Sumayyah finally launched her clothing line in Malaysia during June 2012, through pop-up shops, events and fashion bloggers.

The clothes were an immediate hit with a wide range of young Muslim women from professionals and academics to expectant mothers within urban pockets of the South East Asia. In her first week of business alone, Sumayyah sold more than 100 dresses. “The feedback has been amazing. Women are thrilled to be able to buy garments that reflect our changing culture,” Sumayyah says. “My customers have commented on the design, good quality and fair price of my clothes.”

Sumayyah now spends half her time in Malaysia and the rest back home in Scotland. Buoyed by her immediate success, she is keen to branch out and is planning to launch her range in Australia during the summer of 2013. “It feels like I’m living a dream and I have Alibaba.com to thank,” Sumayyah says. “It’s next to impossible for a small retail start-up business to compete by offering high quality, cost effective clothing but that’s exactly what I’ve been able to achieve by working with Chinese manufacturers.”

Sumayyah is so confident in her Chinese manufacturing partners; she is now looking for material manufacturers to handle the increase in volumes of styles and dresses in her collections. “Three years ago I thought it was impossible to find a Chinese factory to create my dresses. And now, it’s second nature for me. As my business grows, I simply go back to Alibaba.com to find the right suppliers for my needs - the whole process couldn’t be simpler,” Sumayyah assures.

Being a successful fashion designer is a long way from Sumayyah’s days of being a law student but she is definitely not looking back. “I have never imagined my journey as a law-graduate could lead me to this. It feels great to be able to an entrepreneur. I now recommend using Alibaba.com to all my family and friends who are looking to start their business. It really makes a lot of difference,” concludes Sumayyah.

Alibaba.com (Europe) LTD

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