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It's Her Business: Zainab J Ahmed, Founder of Pretty Sassy Lady

Zainab is not 'just another' sustainable clothes designer. Her entire brand ethos is focused on a commitment to the environment, modesty and inclusivity — it also helps that her clothes are incredibly stylish.

Welcome, pretty sassy lady! Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hello! My name is Zainab Jagot Ahmed. I’m a marketing professional (my career

started in fashion), an award-winning weaning cookbook author – my two cookbooks

published by Ebury Press), and now I’m also a modest swimwear brand

entrepreneur.


I live in Leicester with my hubby, daughter and my two cats. I love holidays, eating

out and movies! Anything to do with the MCU and good old-fashioned movie franchises like Ghostbusters and Back to the Future.


Talk to us about your business...

My boutique modest swimwear brand is called Pretty Sassy Lady. It’s a sustainable

slow-fashion swim brand that aims to prove modest swimwear doesn’t have to be

boring; with bold designs and colours inspired by the high street, surf style and pop

culture.


My fashion swimwear collection is made of ‘Swimwear Co-ord Sets’ including rash

vests and skirted swim leggings (but can be bought separately too), and is created

with everyone in mind regardless of religion or cultural backgrounds, making them

perfect for holidays abroad and year-round wild swimming.


My swim co-ords are a fresh take on the burkini. I purposely chose to design my swimwear to look more like activewear and less like a ‘traditional’ burkini, to promote inclusivity, hence why I refer to them as swimwear co-ord sets (although I do use the term burkini at times as it’s a widely understood term), but I promise, it is for everyone.


As a Muslim, being green is part of our Islamic way of life. The Quran teaches us as human beings we have a responsibility to look after the Earth.

So from a personal point of view, creating a sustainable business was very important to me when I set

up my venture.

Here are my brands green credentials so far:

  • All swimwear is made from high-quality sustainable fabrics containing ECONYL® yarn, a 100% regenerated nylon fibre made from waste that would otherwise pollute the Earth such as fishing nets. It can be recycled infinitely - no waste, no new resources.

  • Locally manufactured in the UK under safe, socially responsible working conditions, meaning a lower carbon footprint as my swimwear doesn't have to travel very far to reach me.

  • Customer deliveries are made in eco-friendly, 100% recyclable packaging.

  • Plastic is not used anywhere throughout the manufacturing process. Even the hygiene stickers are eco-friendly, made from sustainably sourced wood pulp and printed in the UK. They look like plastic, but they're not.


Where did the idea for your business come from?

I was on holiday with my family in Turkey a few years back when the idea came to

me. As I’ve moved closer to my faith, I prefer to cover up at beach, so on that holiday

I was wearing a kaftan over my swimming costume both in and out of the pool. I was

swimming whilst wearing it, and it felt like a death trap! I was getting wrapped up in

all the fabric that was floating around me. I thought there must be a better way to do

this.


Existing burkini styles weren’t design-led or stylish which is why I didn’t own one, so I

decided to create my own range of modest swimwear which was fashionable and fun

to help other ladies like myself feel confident (and safe) in the water.



What have been your biggest learning experiences since becoming a business owner?

Patience. Depending on your what your business is, it can take a while to come to

fruition. In my case, it was new product development, finding the right UK-based

ethical manufacturing partner, and then unforeseen circumstances such as Covid.

I’ve had some extremely frustrating moments when I’ve thought I’m never going to

get this live, but if you’re passionate and keep plugging away you’ll get to where you

need to be. Just be patient and trust in the process.

Don’t be afraid to start again if things aren’t quite right.

I spent 2 years going through various designs of my swimwear, I whittled them down and was ready for production. Just as I was about to give production the go-ahead, on reflection, I wasn’t entirely convinced the design fit in with my brand look, values, and ethos. At the very last minute, I scrapped the design and started again. I’m so glad I did. I

absolutely love the new design and colours. Customer feedback I’ve received has

been incredible too so was well worth the last-minute amends.


If you could give one bit of advice to someone thinking of starting
their own business, what would it be?

Make sure you have financial stability before you start your business. Whether that’s

a good amount of savings or working your day job whilst your new venture is still a side hustle.

Financial stability relives the pressure off yourself to make the business work. Too much pressure and you can forget why you started in the first place.

If you’re financially stable, the excitement and motivation to carry on is always there.


What has your biggest success/accomplishment/achievement been
since starting your business?

Finally, being able to launch! In total it’s taken me over three years to get my

business live – I hit a lot of barriers along the way. I was due to launch in May 2020

but in March we were locked down due to Covid. As a swimwear brand there were

times when I thought there wasn’t any point proceeding as we didn’t know when all

the lockdowns were going to end due to all travel holiday restrictions, but friends and

family kept me going and said it was great idea worth pursuing. So being able to see

my brand live is a huge achievement for me.


Who inspires you?

My Dad. Growing up, me, my sisters and cousins spent a lot of time at our family-run

garment factory my dad owned with his brothers. I remember seeing how hard he

worked and loved spending time at the factory. I’ve always had a drive to start my

own fashion business, so you could say being a clothing entrepreneur runs in the

family.


What book/article/podcast really gave you that OMG moment?

I read an article a year or so ago about the bush fires in Australia, and how climate change was playing a major role in these extreme bush fires. I’ll never forget that little koala with his tiny burnt paws. I’m an animal lover and it hurt my heart to see that. Even though my faith reinforces we need to look after the planet, it made me realise this is happening now, and we need to do more to help the environment.



➡️ You can find Zainab:

 

Emma Downey | Founder, Women Who Do


Emma can be found glued to her laptop/kindle or embarking on her next favourite hobby. Avid cake-eater, Disney-superfan and passionate about female empowerment, Emma founded WWD in 2017.




You can contact Emma: emma@womenwd.co.uk



 

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