Scarves that make heads turn

Izah Azahari

Starting as an experiment to find comfortable material for headscarves for their own use, two sisters, Rashidah binti Husin and Hamizah binti Husin, gradually gave in to the requests of their close relatives who encouraged them to start a headscarf business that is now known as Najaah Thara’.

Established in Brunei in 2014, the brand was inspired by the captivating beauty of nature and vibrant gemstones marked by combinations of colourful Swarovski crystals and playful patterns that add a touch of sophistication.

Offering shawls and scarves ranging from an ‘Essential Collection’ suitable for daily wear to a ‘Premium Collection’ made exclusively with one piece per design. Each piece is uniquely designed, intricately handcrafted and carefully detailed with Swarovski crystals from Austria to ensure a flawless creation.

The founders explained that when they decided to open the business, they only received a handful of orders, especially since Hamizah just finished her Higher National Diploma at Universiti Teknologi Brunei, while Rashidah just finished her Bachelor’s Degree in Kuala Lumpur, and they were unemployed. “When we first started experimenting with headscarves, plain shawls and squares weren’t really in trend as people were more inclined to printed headscarves and jersey material,” explained Rashidah. “We started using Swarovski because we wanted to have something different as we knew it was a premium product.”

The duo then slowly shifted to exploring lace scarves which they had initially handstitched. This took them about three days to sew on the lace perfectly, which was time-consuming as it would take them about a week to finish hand-stitching the lace and embellishing just one scarf.

Rashidah binti Husin and Hamizah binti Husin showing one of their Swarovski embellished square scarves. PHOTOS: IZAH AZAHARI
A scarf is embellished with Swarovski crystals

Finally taking the business seriously in 2015, the brand became a registered company.

Hamizah added that they started picking up customers who heard about them from word of mouth, and it gradually picked up after their initial participation in expos. From there, they ventured out and actively participated in exhibitions and pop-ups to gain exposure for their brand, especially during the Ramadhan season.

“Our trademark has always been our quality,” said Rashidah. “In such a small market, the customers that have come back for our products say it’s because of our workmanship and service.

“Every season we would have different designs, and we’re known for our shawls and squares, but we also cater to customers who want instant or semi-instant scarves,” said Hamizah. “Our speciality is definitely customisation for our clients, and the embellishments are hand-pressed by us so the workmanship is well-cared for.”

As one of the pioneering headscarf companies that started embellishing their scarves strictly with Swarovski crystals in Brunei, Rashidah explained that they focussed fully on headscarves and its embellishments purely because she enjoys the art of designing it, especially on their exclusive collection as she has more freedom and space to create a design pattern.

Taking inspiration from world renowned fashion houses such as Chanel, Dior, Ralph & Russo and the like, they enjoy designing customised scarves the most.

Rashidah explained that it is a process of both art and luxury, enabling women to express their confidence and elegance on a scarf, and the added consultation with customers allows them to create a bond with them.

“My sister and I have always been creative since we were children, experimenting with handicrafts and arts. Plus growing up with an aunt with a traditional songket shop, she became one of our biggest influences when it comes to handicraft, on top of our ever-supportive parents,” added Rashidah.

“Our parents always encouraged us to explore the things we wanted to do in life. Of course, we struggle from time to time especially in this economy, but we’re surviving and growing every year with more customers and the need to create something different for them,” said Hamizah.

With support from their extended family and friends, the duo does not believe in forcing their products on people, and that is why they remained small as they are not rushing. “From a business perspective, not pushing your marketing aggressively may have its downside, but I believe customers who appreciate your products will come back again and again. We want people to appreciate our products and wear them,” said Rashidah.

They added that one of the challenges of not having a physical shop is that customers have a tendency of wanting to feel and see the products in person, but they have found ways around the challenge through their pop-up and expo participation. Setting a target to open up a physical shop of their own in two years, the sisters are diversifying into having a men’s collection with Swarovski embellished studs to go with the traditional Cara Melayu attire as they strive to maintain their quality.

The founders believe that in order to survive in business, any aspiring youth who want to dive into business should never give up on that passion or dream, even if it gets difficult.