Rediscover Brunei Darussalam through the eyes of the People
Dk Hanisah Lia Pg Hj Mohd Salleh, 30, or Ness as she’s usually known (“I got this name when I was studying in Australia. Ozzies couldn’t pronounce “Hanisah,” so Ness it was!”) is a Human Biology graduate from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, and the co-founder of HayaaMusfirah (http://www.hayaamusfirah.com), local online retailer of clothing for Muslim women.
On a background in business.
I have no background in business except I think it is in my blood. My maternal late grandfather had a mini mart back in the day and my mom had a tailoring business as well. I didn’t have any interest then in “inheriting” my mother’s business and after I got married, my husband said he didn’t want me to work, but he did influence me to dip my feet in the business world so I decided to take up business just to fill in the time.
So! How was HayaaMusfirah born?
It was the brain child of Nabilah Taif and myself. A few years ago before we started in 2010, it was really difficult to find syariah-compliant hijabs (Syariah compliant here meaning to cover the chest as well as hair) - we had to order our hijabs from overseas. So we came together and pooled our money and started the business in April 2010. We both decided on the name as well. Hayaa’ means modest / modesty and Musfirah means elegant in Arabic. Our motto was you can still look elegant while covering up and maintaining your modesty.
In the last 5-7 years there's been a huge upswing of interest regionally (and globally!) in both Muslimah-friendly fashion, and the digital market. Where do you think HayaaMusfirah fits into this scene?
In comparison, I personally think that HayaaMusfirah’s standards are not similar to most local Muslimah businesses but maybe have more in common with a few regional businesses. My personal opinion on the “Muslimah Friendly” fashion trend is that most are not quite syariah-compliant. There are only a few global companies that I am aware of that sell syariah-compliant clothing (i.e. loose clothing, hijabs covering the chest, etc). Two of them are Shukr (http://www.shukr.co.uk) (UK-based, I think) and Indonesian brand Kivitz (http://kivitz.blogspot.co.uk) (OK, I’m biased. I love Kivitz!!!). Most regional Muslimah companies sell a mixed clothing line, of syariah-compliant and not-so-syariah-compliant clothing, unlike Shukr and Kivitz.
HayaaMusfirah's particular niche of the market is focused on syariah-compliance. Can you tell me a bit about how HayaaMusfirah has interpreted this compliance? How important is this to you, and has there ever been a point when you've been tempted to expand or bend what this compliance means?
Before we started we did extensive reading on how to make sure the business does not deviate from the teachings of the Quran and Hadith. We did some research on the attire of a Muslimah, the dos and donts, what is admissible and what isn’t. While there are differences in opinion by different scholars on the attire of the Muslimah, we decided to take the middle stand which is to follow the modern trend but if it goes to a point that the trend goes against the ruling we hold on to, then we will not continue that line.
Yes, many times we’ve been tempted to “bend the rules” and we did a few times but every time we did, we found that we would make fewer sales than usual. Even when the clothing line was in demand in other Muslimah businesses, it wouldn’t sell as well with us.
Strange but true. I suppose it turns off our customers because what appeals to them, I think, is the uniqueness of the business, how we focus mainly on syariah-compliant hijabs and attire. But once we deviate from that, we lose our appeal and become “normal”. I think. Hehe.
When I started Projek Brunei, I threw this phrase around a lot - "Everyone has a Story." I envisioned this blog being a point of reference to help others discover and rediscover Brunei - not through headlines or the often flippant digital news cycle, but rather through sharing stories about people.
The blogging landscape has changed a lot over the past few years. This is stating the obvious. I read the textbook too - "Adapt or be left behind." I have even advised others to consider the same anecdotally, for example, "Blogging? Who has time to read anymore? Switch to Instagram. That's where the crowd is." Truth be told, I am thinking about it...not to jump off the blogging bandwagon to a different platform or micro-platform, but to evolve the narrative of this blog to go with the times. (Memes anyone?)
Yet, I find myself averse to change. I find myself stubbornly holding on to the sentiment that "Everyone has a Story" and this style of storytelling. Then again, I do owe it to you, the reader, to at least offer fresher packaging.
Watch this space.
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