Cultural Branding Interview with Rozan Ahmed of Bougi.com

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On Tuesday, December 3rd, we here at The Fashset had the pleasure of having Ms. Rozan Ahmed, Founder of bougi.com, as a guest speaker for our event. She gave us all an awesome and very informative talk about what it means to have “Cultural Ownership” when branding your entrepreneurial ventures and enterprises. Before she took the stage, I was so lucky to be able to sit down with Ms. Ahmed personally and ask her a few questions…

1) The FashSet: “What exactly is cultural ownership in your words?”

Rozan Ahmed: “In relation to business, cultural ownership is knowing who you are and being proud of who you are and assembling your message of sale. So for me, cultural ownership is almost like a protection of heritage and in business you have to think about how you are maintaining your heritage. It’s kind of a local approach to global outlook, and basically shying away from this globalization idea that tends to make everything the same. I think when everything stays the same, it’s hazardous to our human development. I think we should stay true to who we are and stay true to our culture and heritage, while still maintaining a sense of locality within our global appeal. I strongly advocate for a revolution of self, and this is what will help someone as a start-up company in terms of finding their niche.”

2) The FashSet: “If you could give one piece of advice to someone trying to open a business in this market (the UAE) what would it be?”

Rozan Ahmed: “I’d start by saying from an operational perspective, that networking is very important in Dubai and this region. If you want to grow your business and develop awareness around your business, then you need to really, really network. Try to find anything and everything associated with your brand from a business perspective. Also, if you are an entrepreneur who is more “creative” minded then I would strongly advise you to seek the advice of an expert, like a business consultant. There are many companies right here in Dubai that can help you in starting your business. And the Last thing is to ask yourself, what are you setting up in Dubai or the UAE region for? Are you not of the region but are interested in the market here? Are you of the region and just want to set up at home? What is your position and depending on your position, assert it. Don’t ever try to be something you’re not. I think that’s the key word of advice here. So by everything you do by the means of your business, make sure that it is true, it is honest and it is open.”

3) The FashSet: “What do you think is the biggest challenge in setting up a business in this region?”

Rozan Ahmed: “Yes, I think the disrespect of deadlines here is a big challenge one must overcome. Two things: the disrespect of deadlines and also lack of professionalism. ALSO, when coming to this region I was amazed by how terrible content is, and for me content is everything because it shapes social influence which shapes buying power which in turn shapes economic power, so for me, that’s what I’m here to change. But I am starting to see change and starting to see my avocation and my language and my forthright kind-of-approach, I see that now in content. Even today for example, I was reading an article from one of my friends at Harper’s Bazaar Arabia and the language was much more revolutionary…like I’m seeing it happen, I’m seeing change. So there is definitely progress but we still have a long way to go in terms of content. I see Dubai as this beautiful set of veneers but with loads of rotting gums. Unfortunately, there is not enough address on these problems, but that’s what I’m working towards, and that’s what bougi (my company) is about, it’s about addressing what needs to be addressed…but through art, fashion and entertainment….through what is comfortable.”

bougi22510_2_innerbig 4) The FashSet: “Now a bit of a ‘fashion’ question for you: If you were going on a trip and could only pack three things in your luggage what would they be….basically your three ‘staple pieces’ associated with who you are?”

Rozan Ahmed: “ For me, one would definitely be a one-piece like a jumpsuit, because I find them very quick and easy, so yes definitely a jumpsuit. Second, definitely – a black dress. And then a final fashion item would probably be a really good, sturdy, reliable handbag. Something like my Louis Vuitton ‘neverfull’ because when I travel, everything is always so mental and I can just throw everything in my neverfull and it’s just easy. I’m often referred to as a fashionista or whatever but I’m actually very practical, so in fashion I like practicality.

5) The Fahset: “One thing I was noticing was that gorgeous statement piece of a necklace you have on. Can you tell me a little bit about it?”

Rozan Ahmed: “Well first I’d like to say I think style is an expression of who you are. I travel a lot, so I feel I represent or I am a ‘culture protector’ almost and I really, really am fascinated by different cultures around the world so this (necklace), I was visiting a type of Indian style market and I was actually looking for fabrics for inspirations, but then I found this, and I was like, oh my God, I’d love to pair this with some zebra print or something….you know, I like to clash cultures in what I wear.”

6) The FashSet: “Where do you see the fashion industry in this region five years from now?”

Rozan Ahmed: “Well I think season two of Fashion Forward (Dubai) was monumental in the sense that it brought about a sense of critique, which I think is something that this developing fashion industry needs. It needs development and within development, comes critique. For a long time this kind of thriving scene of so many different so-called fashion designers who, you know, didn’t really know what they were doing, let’s be real, and there were a lot of attempts of having these fashion platforms to showcase these poor designers, which also failed, but then Fashion Forward came about and kind of like ripped this sense of reality into the fashion industry…you know they didn’t give you a choice. If you were a designer you had to meet certain criteria, you had to present in a super manner, they didn’t give you a choice, And also the developmental aspects of Fashion Forward, like all the talks and this need to ‘address’ being incorporated into the setup was just fantastic, which is why I agreed to speak on the panel and I am very supportive of the panel. I think the industry as a whole, as an ecosystem, still needs further refinement and we need to let go of the ego a little bit and just focus on skill and talent and production and so many other basic nuts and bolts that come hand and hand with this industry. So it still needs work, but I believe Fashion Forward is a fantastic leap towards being better. I mean honestly speaking, Fashion Forward was more organized than Paris fashion week! So this is a great first step and a great example but I still felt that a number of the designers, or what was on display, was well…like the stage can’t be better than the performer, right? I felt some of the performers (designers) weren’t as good as the stage. So there is still some work to do, but it is getting there and I have always said that entrepreneurship is the Middle East’s revolution and the zest to build and create is incredible but what we need to do now is, again, ask yourself, what are you creating for? Are you doing if for status or are you actually fulfilling an art? And this is my worry with fashion globally – is it the ‘status’ of fashion or is it truly the passion and art of fashion, you know what is your perspective? And that’s where, you know, I think we need more concentration on.”

That wrapped up my interview with Ms. Ahmed. If you would like to find out more about her or her company, please visit www.bougi.com

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