“As I continued to wear my own designs, I further stood out among the crowd with my unique, modest style and eventually became a trendsetter among my small community. This influence soon made me realize that "style" is a profound tool of expression.”
One of the most important weeks in U.S. fashion happens in February at NY Fashion Week. Wrapping up #NYFW, we talk to Shaymaa Gaafar, founder of Shay Jaffar, who is a true believer that coverage is sublime, modesty is a choice, and glamour is self-expression. Read below to see how she got started, what inspires her, and how she continues to move the company forward.
Q.1) Tell us why you started Shay Jaffar.
My story started in a time when options were limited and uniformity was encouraged. Modest women were only given the basics, whlie being ignored by almost all fashion houses. Ever since my teenage years, I have always chosen to express myself through fashion. Supported by my technical skills, I designed all of my outfits; refusing to settle for the norm. As I continued to wear my own designs, I further stood out among the crowd with my unique, modest style and eventually became a trendsetter among my small community. This influence soon made me realize that "style" is a profound tool of expression. As a firm believer that fashion is a sincere reflection of individualistic identity and a tool of self-expression, I wanted to give women powerful choices in order to make them feel empowered, special and confident. Inspired by my mother's continuous support, I wanted women that I have never even met to also be proud of their own choices.
Q.2) Where do you draw your inspiration from when you sit down to create a new look?
NYC always inspires me. They say, if you can make it in NYC, you can make it anywhere. In my opinion, if your soul matches the drive and creativity that lingers in NYC's air, then you are destined for greatness. Even though I am still getting to know this vibrant city, I can already tell that we were always meant to meet. Our paths have collided because our energies have always been quite similar. When the world chooses to sleep, NYC and I prefer to dream further. Meanwhile, when the world accepts reality, we both decide to create alternative options. The big apple is a city that knows how to express itself and I am a woman who plans to not only speak her mind but also help other women utilize fashion as a tool of expression.
I want them to be able to dictate the perception of others and control exactly how they would like to express themselves. This peculiar advantage gives confidence that is both eloquent and life-changing. This sense of liberty does not only make women stronger; but, it also inspires them to give this gift to others.
Q.3) As a creative individual, how do you weave creativity into the rest of the business when you’re not developing your designs?
I love art! especially abstract art that expresses human feelings, sophistication, perceptions, and philosophies. I bring this artistic aspect to the branding of Shay Jaffar. I know that Shay Jaffar customers value art and beauty. They nonmainstream shoppers who invest in acquiring unique pieces that tell stories and embody meaning.
Q.4) Fashion can be a tricky business. From manufacturing to marketing, it takes a specific set of skills. How have you continued building Shay Jaffar as you’ve navigated anything you didn’t already know?
I have been navigating that by "the art of asking for help". Before I became part of the WIN Lab community, I was part of the Babson community as an MBA student. I have tremendous resources at Babson that are available to me and all of the Babson students who know how to ask for help. Many entrepreneurs might underestimate the number of successful tactics that they might craft just by asking for the right help at the right time.
Q.5) How has Babson and the WIN Lab pushed you forward in your business?
Recalling my first meeting with my mastermind experts then my 4th meeting with them, I would say that WIN Lab helped me think big and think strategically. It helped me understand what it takes to build -from scratch- a luxury fashion brand. The fashion group in WIN Lab has 5 fashion startups. Each time we meet it is like a small focused community that supports its members and care to give to each other. The whole idea of women supporting women has been a magnificent experience within the WIN Lab community.