Hey my babies!
I haven’t written in such a longgggggg time! I actually have been writing for everyone else and neglecting my own loves!
And then it was the 24th of March like WHATTTTTTT, honestly, I did not have writer’s block. I had procrastinatitis, everyday I would sit by the computer and not even feel to type, I would keep saying, I will get to tomorrow, since March 14th until today, that’s ten whole days of UNPRODUCTIVE behaviour, like what the hell?
No,no, no, I promise you guys, you will hear from me weekly! And if I have to take a hiatus. I will let you guys know!
So without further adieu, here’s an interview I completed with a RAD, totally awesome Mogulista in her own right , Ms. Naballah Chi, a trendy, chic, muslim, designer. Let’s get to know her ok……
TM: How old are you?
NC: I’m 27
NC: I came back to Trinidad to finish my degree in Communication Studies with a minor in International Relations. When I returned, it turned my relationship into a long distance one. Although that wasn’t the intention, it just happened that way over time as we grew apart. From the beginning his parents never really accepted me; they are racists so that was always an issue. Over time they grew to accept me but from the beginning it was always awkward. Then there came a time during my time here where I didn’t really miss him anymore, I felt as though I outgrew him and I asked him for a divorce as I thought it would be better for us to go our separate ways. It was hard as we were married for five years but it was the best option as we both had our own thing going on. He had his job there and couldn’t leave as he wasn’t a citizen or a resident so for me going over there was easier because we were legally married and not just in the faith. I resided there and I had a job. I had to get a bank account so there were a lot of legalities associated with it as well. The divorce was finalized in 2015.
TM: Tell me about Naballah Chi, what stirred you to start the blog and the whole movement?
NC: I grew up in fashion. I was born into it. I grew up looking at my mom sewing clothes for people. She would sew curtains for the house and things like that. For Eid, which is the biggest time for us, she would sew our clothing (I was born into Islam). I was always sketching something because I loved art and excelled at it in school, so I was always sketching what I wanted her to sew for me and then I learnt to sew and started doing it myself. ( Wait, say what? sketch and sew, pure talent, that’s what it is)
TM: That was a big accomplishment.
NC: It was. I remember she used to try to send us to sewing classes but I absolutely hated it, wondering what I would get from sewing for people. I saw her sewing and that made her happy but I didn’t think there was anything in it for me. Later on I realized that sewing had a lot of money in it as people always want clothing and stuff made. I never did any formal training. Everything I learnt was from her. I also learnt some things on my own. I went on YouTube and learnt how to sew pockets, t-shirts, how to do hems and cut patterns. I attended UTT in 2015 and I did my diploma in fashion design. What propelled me to start my brand was that I didn’t like working 8-4 or 9-5. When I was in the overseas, one of the reasons I resigned from my job was because I wasn’t happy there coupled with the fact that I wanted to come back to finish my studies. It wasn’t the first job that I had and wasn’t happy. After a while, I just got fed up of that routine and I really couldn’t take it. I realized then that I don’t like 8-4’s or 9-5’s. I decided that since I really like sewing and I really love fashion, I should make it into a business. I could make money from it, be happy, make my own schedule, not have to take orders from anyone, not have to arrive for a certain time………because I like to sleep too. ( Sounds legit? Sounds familiar? Yupppppppp)
We by at work like
TM: Tell me about your brand itself, what it represents to you.
NC: My brand is for the Caribbean person. I started off sewing for women. My first clients were plus sized women and I never really imagined I would be sewing for plus sized women as I always sew myself sewing for average sized people. Then I realized that men would come asking me for clothing so then I decided to extend it to men as well. My brand caters to the Caribbean individual. It is very functional. A lot of the times you wear clothing and it is not really functional. It is not comfortable and I wanted to create something that would be comfortable, functional, stylish and have a Caribbean feel to it.
TM: So it’s not Islam based?
NC: No its not. I decided I am not going to just limit myself to sewing Islamic clothing only. A lot of people class me as a Muslim Designer but I am not a Muslim designer in terms of what I design and what I sew. I am a designer who is a Muslim but I cater to everybody.
TM: And how is that because the words woman, clothing, designer don’t really mesh at times in Islam. Probably now in 2017 yes but not so much in the years gone by.
NC: Well I always tell people being a Muslim and being stylish doesn’t have to clash. I try to be as stylish and as fashionable as I can within the boundaries of what is required of me as a Muslim woman. I still get a lot of backlash for it, not so much now as before because I think people realize that I’m me, I’m Naballah Chi and I am going to do what I want anyway, they don’t really come directly at me but you will hear it around. ( I love rebels can you tell?)
TM: How do you cope with that?
NC: I really don’t take on the negativity. I just focus on the positive vibes that I get from people. Negativity isn’t really doing anything for me. Sometimes I listen to the critiques and if there is something that I could take away from it I would but generally I don’t take on the negativity.
TM: How has business been for you?
NC: Business has been great over the last year. It has allowed me to travel which is something that I really love as well. I have been to a lot of fashion shows locally and regionally. I have also been invited to a lot of international shows but I just have not been able to attend. Sometimes I have multiple things going on as I am not only into fashion I do other things as well but I really want fashion to be the main thing for me. There are times when it is really slow. It has its seasons like all businesses. What I try to do is create a collection for an event. I don’t create a collection if there is nothing happening. So if I have a fashion show in Suriname or Barbados I would create a collection for that because I think it makes sense financially because if I have to create a collection I would be able to sell it at the pop up shops that they have. For local fashion shows however, you get invited and there is absolutely no pop up shop at the end where designers could benefit from it financially. So yes, you get to showcase your clothing and everybody knows who you are but at the end of the day that is not really my goal. I have to eat and I want to eat from fashion. I want for fashion to sustain me.
TM: How was it to be featured in Cosmopolitan?
NC: I was so surprised. They had read my Hijab story on my blog and they sent an email asking to feature me. I was shocked because I wasn’t expecting it. BBC had featured me previously and then when Cosmopolitan picked up on the Hijab story and wanted to feature me, I was really, really surprised. Sometimes you know you are doing great work but you never really know who is monitoring you and following you. You can read more about that story here : Naballah Cosmo
TM: What was the response like after?
NC: What I realized is when one news outlet picks up a story there is a domino effect where everybody else starts contacting you. I got emails from other places even as far as New Zealand wanting to feature me on their site but I try to be very careful about who I give an interview to. Most times I would do research on their background and see what their website is about. Not because it’s an interview and someone is coming to me I would just say yes to all.
TM: Take me through your design process.
NC: I get invited to a fashion show. Sometimes there’s a theme. Sometimes there isn’t. If there isn’t a theme, I come up with one in my head. I also monitor trends, what’s going, what’s not going, colours etc. I take a trip to the fabric store after sketching out my designs of what I think I want my collection to include. I go through different fabrics and colours to see which one will be good for a particular design. I get home, I have all my fabrics there, I have all my sketches in my sketch book and then I start cutting my patterns and sewing them. Sometimes it takes a day or two depending on the design, sometimes I have to leave some of them and come back to it. I complete my collection in about two weeks depending on how many designs I have. I normally do 10-15 designs per collection ( That’s A LOT OF WORK, WOW)
TM: Where do you see Naballah Chi in five years?
NC: Well I would like to have my own online store and eventually my own brick and mortar store where people can come in and try on as opposed to an online store that more caters to an international audience.
TM: Where can we get your stuff now?
NC: Right now I post a lot of my stuff on Instagram page. (Which you can find here https://www.instagram.com/naballahchi/ ) If I have promotional shoots for my collection I post those there as well and people can use the “Contact Button” to contact me. Because I don’t have my website yet people can order a piece they see on my Instagram by sending me their measurements and the piece they want.
I love, love, love her designs and work ethic!
She is going places!
You guys can definitely look out for her in LFW, NYFW and of course Paris!
Naballah looks amazing in her designs!
Remember if you need to learn more about me and my brand you can follow me here : Trinidad Mogulista
With love and hustle