I quit my dream job in Parliament to open a clothing shop that has women queueing down the A6 for hours

I quit my dream job in Parliament to open a clothing shop that has women queueing down the A6 for hours

Posted by Syeda Sumayah Saadi on

The queue for the small Muslim women’s clothing store in Levenshulme wrapped around the corner on its opening day. Found on Stockport Road, Sumayah offers the type of fashionable garb that many young Muslim women have been crying out for.

This was something that the company's namesake, Sumayah Saadi, gradually realised as she built the business. She is the owner and founder of Sumayah - a ‘modest’ fashion brand that mainly sells abayahs, robe-like dresses predominantly worn by Muslim women.

“I did not anticipate so many people coming," she says. "We came at 9am to sort out the store before opening and the queue was already down the road. We were getting out of the taxi and girls were screaming and waving, we felt like celebrities!

“We saw around over a thousand customers that day and there was a non-stop queue for seven hours straight. It really highlights the fact that there is a space for businesses to thrive on the high street but it’s about bringing something new.”

Sumayah the company is just two years old. Popular on Tik Tok, it claims to be the app's number one ‘modesty brand’ - with over 145k followers who tune into Tik Tok lives where they sell hundreds of pounds worth of clothes in minutes.

Founder Sumayah is just 23-years-old and created the brand after leaving her ‘dream job’ as a parliamentary assistant in London. From Stockport, her passion for politics saw her serve as a member of the Youth Parliament and the Manchester Youth Council.

However, during the pandemic period, her life took an unexpected turn when she began making clothes out of boredom.

“I thought at that time I was working my dream job because I worked really hard from 15 to 18 acquiring so much experience to land my job." She told the MEN.

“When I was doing that job I realised I wasn’t feeling that spark and I wasn’t getting fulfilment in what I was doing. It came to Covid time and I was told to go back into my office after a period of working from home.

"I thought, 'this isn’t it, let me try something new.'

“During Covid I started watching Youtube videos on how to make clothes because I was just bored, and I thought 'let me start a hobby, get a new skill.'"

Sumayah bought a sewing machine, material and started making dresses. She began documenting her process on Instagram and, not long after, her followers started asking if she could make clothes for them.

From there she started taking orders and selling clothes and as the business grew she reached out to a manufacturer and opened a physical store in London that has since closed, but she is looking to re-open elsewhere in the capital city.

Despite their global reach, the company’s only physical store is back home in Manchester on the road that Sumayah would ride aboard the 192, while dreaming of owning a café.

She has plans to open stores across the country and world, but for her, the Manchester store holds great sentimental value because of how it has allowed her to help her mother.

“People would ask me, 'why Levenshulme?", she says. "My mum had me when she was 17, she’s had six kids, I come from a big family.

“My mum is still young, she’s only in her 40s, she was in a point in her life where she was getting low because she dropped out of college when she had me. She doesn’t have any qualifications and was finding it hard to get into the world of employment.

“I’m now in a position to do something for her and get her a job. So I thought ‘she’s based in Manchester, let me open a store there.”

While the clientele is predominantly young Muslim women, Sumayah says the company is currently undergoing a ‘rebrand’ to send a more inclusive message that the clothes are for anybody who is interested.

“I realised that there is a big population of modest conscious girls who really struggle with dressing modestly.” She explained.

“Or with their family background, they’re encouraged to dress modestly, but the options at the time when I started were very, very limited. What I really want to do with my brand is make it into a brand that celebrates that modesty is your own journey and whatever you take modesty to be, then that’s what modesty is.

“We’re showcasing that it doesn’t have to be specifically tied to a religion, it’s just about if you want to dress modestly then come to Sumayah.”

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