HE Sara Al Madani: Failures Made Me Who I Am Today

The most prominent abaya designer in the UAE, and also an entrepreneur, HE Sara Al Madani (31) spoke with us about life, careers, motivation, and businesswomen in the Emirates. She had just come back from America, where she launched a new company, in addition to three other businesses she runs in the UAE. The impression is that she doesn’t want to be remembered as the designer who made an abaya for Madonna, but for many other far more important achievements: she entered the world of fashion at the age of 15 and today is the youngest board memeber at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi, has honoured her with the title Her Excellency.

Dear Mrs. Al Madani, you recently came back from Los Angeles. Tell us more about what it was like and what are you working on at the moment?

I love Los Angeles very much. I was there because I have, recently, opened a new business that is based in both Dubai and LA. It’s a creative company that sells innovative ideas and makes everything you can imagine come to life through technology. The company is called Social Fish.


Most people interested in fashion start their careers after the age of 23, after they finish their formal education. You were a girl, only 15, when you entered the world of fashion. Who helped you the most and who hindered you the most at that time?

I was very young when I started, only 15. Still, my mind was older than my age.

No one helped me back then, because everybody thought I was a child who was going through a phase. I also financed myself to start my business by selling electronics and doing small jobs here in there behind my parents’ back.

I learned the hard way that if you want something done right you have got to do it yourself.


You made a whole new image out of the concept of abaya. Who are your clients, and how do locals react to some of the extravagant pieces you design for your Rouge Couture brand?

I recently renamed and rebranded my fashion line, now it’s called Sara Al Madani Fashion Design. I cater to anyone who loves modest clothing. My designs are very edgy and fashion forward – it takes a person with a strong personality to wear them.

I remember that when I first started, a lot of the locals didn’t digest my designs very easily, and it took them time to get used to what I was doing. But change takes place whether we like it or not, we eventually adapt to it.


What is the most notable criticism of your designs that you have heard?

A lot of people say that they are too edgy, too avant-garde, confusing, and much more. Honestly, it does not bother me at all.


You were only 27 when you became a member of the SCCI (Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry). This prestigious role was given to you by Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi, ruler of the UAE emirate of Sharjah. How did this happen?

I guess hard work pays off. I woke up one day and I saw His Highness had posted on Instagram a list of people chosen for the new board. My name was on the list, making me the youngest board member.


What is your main role in SCCI, and what are you working on at the moment with other members of the chamber?

I am working on a project called ShjSEEN with the chamber, actually I handed over the project 3 months ago, because we had already completed it and launched it.

As a board member of the Chamber of Commerce I have to work unselfishly for the benefit of the city and the Chamber. We take strategic decisions, financial decisions, and much more.


What do you think is the crucial issue that stops other Emirati women from thinking like you (regarding venturing into the business world)? We know there are not so many female entrepreneurs in the Emirates. Do you talk to them, are they maybe intimidated in a way?

I am not a professional public speaker, and most of the topics I touch on and talk about are about empowering women. We do have a lot of entrepreneurs who are women in the UAE, and I guess the reason they are not taking this route is because they lack the confidence to take on the business journey.

There is no reason for them not to be doing what they want or to stop them from doing business, because the country and our leaders are supporting, pushing, and empowering women.

Women do not have any excuses not to pursue their dreams.


Women are natural multi-taskers, but still, it is very hard being a mother and businesswoman at the same time. How do you manage to balance these two aspects of your life?

Balance is a beautiful myth that doesn’t exist, you create your own balance, and you adapt to it. Give everything and everyone as much time as you can give and be happy about it.

For me, I believe that human being are capable of doing so many things at once, but only if they want to.


What would be your message to all of those young Emirati women who are thinking of entering the business world but are afraid of failure and the possibility of negative reactions from their community?

People will always try to influence you with their negativity, therefore always stay positive and believe in yourself. Don’t wait for anyone to accept you or accept what you’re doing, just believe in it and you will do it.

Failure makes you. It doesn’t break you. I wouldn’t have been the person I am today if I hadn’t failed over and again. After every fall I kept learning and getting back up on my feet.


What is the motto that gives you strength when you are feeling down?

It takes a lot to bring me down, but if I do get down, I always remember that God’s delays are not God’s denials.

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