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Salma Wadee in a turban by Zamaan.

A lot of successful fashion designers don’t start off with designing.

They pursue other careers and then go back to the designing board. Fatima Wadee-Waja is one of these brave individuals.

Although she’s always had a passion for fashion, Fatima Wadee – Waja founder of Zamaan first followed her humanitarian passion before heading into the fashion world.

With the love of making a difference in people’s lives, she ventured into medicine where she holds two degrees: Medical Science from Wits and Physiotherapy from the University of Pretoria.

“I’ve always had two passions in life, one being fashion and the other being humanitarian. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, that led me into my two medical degrees,” said Wadee-Waja.

Salma Wadee dressed by Zamaan.

Salma Wadee in an exquisite velvet dress by Zamaan.Picture: Trish Jivan.

The brand, Zamaan (life) takes its inspiration from the world and fusing different diversities, styles and aesthetics.

The logo represents the tree of life whose roots are authentically South African and branches expand globally reaching all women.

After three years of being in the industry, Zamaan has gained international recognition and Wadee says she enjoys pushing boundaries in the modest fashion industry.

“Six months has expanded into three years and I’m really enjoying it,never been so tired or worked so hard but having the time of my life. I’m enjoying pushing boundaries in the the modest fashion industry and very grateful for being recognised both locally and internationally as an upcoming brand,” she said.

Wadee-Waja was chosen as one of the international designers to showcase in Mercedes Benz fashion week in Turin, Italy this year.

The uniqueness and high quality fabric used is what makes her brand stand out.

“I’ve been told, Zamaan has a very unique signature. We are very fashion forward and we don’t follow the trend, we set our own trends in the modest industry. We source our fabrics from around the world, from countries that manufacture their own fabrics like Indonesia, India and Turkey. We manufacture both locally in South Africa and in Dubai,” said Wadee-Waja.

Detailed masterpiece by Zamaan.

Zamaan doesn’t have a stand alone store but mostly specialises in pop-up stores where young entrepreneurs are given an opportunity to showcase their work at no cost. The brand has also reached out to communities by giving seeds for every turban (ready-made doek) purchased, which were launched in August last year.

“When we launched our turbans last year, we launched it with a ‘fashion feeding families campaign’. So with our turbans, we gifted seeds. There were five olive seeds per turban that was purchased, one was for your community, another for under-privileged communities, one for your own home and two to gift out to family and friends.

We then realised that a lot of people cannot wait for 5-10 years for an olive tree to grow. In December, we started gifting out spinach seeds. We found that very nice because they would grow in about six weeks, the community could start eating from it,” said Wadee-Waja.

With every success comes great pressure to maintain the standard and still remain unique, Zamaan’s collection is usually inspired by what is going on around the world.

“When I design a range, I put a lot of research into it. I guess that comes from my medical science background. I study economics, politics and literature, architecture, what’s making headlines around the world. The way our globe is being shaped and I try and draw inspiration from that into creating my next collection,” said Wadee-Waja.

One of Zamaan’s masterpieces.

Her modest fashion wear is also inspired by her Islamic faith. She actually proves that Muslim women can still be fashion forward and keep their religious identity.

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Wadee further encouraged people who look up to her to stay humble and not compete with anyone but themselves!

Always strive to be better in their own respective professions.

“Don’t compete with anyone else, if you want to make a mark in any career, don’t compete with anyone else but yourself. Improve and raise the bar as you go along.

Be humble, don’t think of yourself as anything, we’re all here to learn. I had to start a whole new career adventure where people started one and a half decades before me.

For me it was very humbling to be at a peak of a career in medicine and then to pursue fashion. Being absolutely nothing in an profession where nobody knows your name, or that you even exist in this industry. Stay true to yourself, find your unique identity, take calculated risks and find your uniqueness in your industry.”