Nada Alawi “Running a business is like a reality TV show. Every day is a different challenge.”

The story of how Annada came to be is quite the inspiring one. Nada Alawi was running a company she started with her father, when she felt she needed a change. She used to paint as a hobby, and she wanted art to be her life; not as a painter or an artist, but in a different way. Opportunity arose when she got invited on a trip to China for a conference. She began to think of China, and silk, and art… how similarly a square canvas was to a square scarf. She thought it would be an opportunity for her to explore while she was there. Nada ended up not attending the conference, but the thought snowballed. Nada wanted to share art and beauty. Taking art off the walls, and closer to a person, on the most luxurious canvas, silk, was the epitome of luxury to her. She continued to build on the idea, wanting to create a world-class luxury art brand that told stories of the Region and showcased the art talent in it.

She confided in an artist mentor and friend, who became one of two artists to develop Annada’s first-ever collection, and Annada was born. Nada began, with her sister and business partner, Noor, with a collection of 22 artworks on square scarves. Today, that has evolved into a smaller selection of artworks, but a variety of luxury mediums and sizes. We speak with her to find out more about her love for art and fashion, and most importantly, Annada.

The art of gifting is something at the heart of Annada

Tell us about more Annada.

At Annada we turn art into wearable fashion. We want the art to bring feelings of joy, happiness, and confidence to every day dressing in a luxurious manner, almost like a self-love ritual. Additionally, the art of gifting is something at the heart of Annada. The products are ideal gifts, and we want them to feel that way even when you make a purchase for yourself. An indulgence or a treat that evokes happiness. When we first started the brand, it was with a personal investment. However, we were lucky to receive financial support from a government entity in Bahrain that supports entrepreneurship. This allowed us reach we would not have perhaps had otherwise. We still had humble beginnings; our first store was the back of my car. Approximately 6 months in, we showcased our product to Saks Fifth Avenue in Bahrain, and we were placed in the store. Over time we built a loyal customer base, and that allowed us to grow. We opened our flagship store in 2016. What started off as a business run by just my sister and I, has grown into a team of 15 over the last few years. It is a journey we are very proud of.

What were the greatest difficulties you’ve faced when you first started Annada and how did you overcome them?

Running a business is like a reality TV show. Every day is a different challenge. But we stop looking at them that way. They become the next thing we need to tackle.

Tell us about the design process in Annada.

It always starts with the curation of the art. We love art that can tell a story about our culture, yet also have a universal truth about them. We often begin with approximately 70 artworks, which we then narrow down to a final collection of 5 to 10 pieces maximum that tell an overall cohesive story. The inspiration can come from a single artwork, or a sentiment that I wish to convey; there isn’t a specific formula. From there we use the artworks into creating the product selection. Which is a process in which we identify the most suitable vehicle to tell the story of each artwork individually, and as a collection.

I never turn down any opportunity to talk to young women

What do you believe inspiring women such as yourself can do to motivate young girls in their community to follow their dreams?

I never turn down any opportunity to talk to young women. I love to employ intelligent women who want to work hard and have a career. Education and training are very important, this is what I believe helps a person grow. I myself seek mentorship from women I look up to. This has also led me to mentor a few people a year in different ways.

Do you believe influential female entrepreneurs have a social responsibility to empower the marginalized women in their community? How do you suggest they do that?

Yes, for sure. I think one of the best ways is through job generation and mentorship. Making women feel great is also deeply embedded in our brand, and is part of why we do what we do.

What are your future plans for Annada?

Conquer the world! We are looking for partners to open Annada stores in different cities and countries around the world.

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