Q. Who is Belen Hernandez?
A. While generating economic reports for Fortune and Time Magazine, Belen from Spain, met her husband on a business trip in Lebanon. Soon after, they got married and moved to Saudi. Though the most widely worn abayas at the time (ten years ago) were the black crepe ones, she didn’t feel they suited her. So, she started making her own for personal use. She then met Monica, a fellow Spaniard, who loved the abaya she was wearing and had designed. And that was the beginning of Thaa.
Q. What made you start your own abaya brand?
A. Since I was a kid, I have always had interest in fashion. When I was in Paris for university, I used to spend my allowances on clothes and accessories before other essentials such as food. So, it’s something that has always been part of my life.
When I moved to Saudi, I always wore short convenient abayas with pockets. I watched my mother in law work in that field and she’s the one who started to introduce me to it. Later, I started getting my own fabrics from Spain and designed them myself. I was always fond of colorful abayas, which were not trendy in Saudi at that time.
Q. How did changing your abayas back then turn into Thaa & Urban Couture today?
A. I always wanted to do something, but I didn’t know how to start. By chance, I met another Spanish girl who loved the abayas I made for myself. A few days later we spent more time together and decided to do something together. We made a very small collection of abayas for an upcoming event and we were so proud to sell 24 pieces, which was an amazing start.
Q. What is the story behind the name Thaa?
A. One of the letters Spanish and Arabic have in common is Thaa.
So, my husband came up with using that letter to name my brand. I loved how catchy, short, and unique it was.
Q. What is the main identity that sets Thaa apart from other brands?
A. We are very colorful, casual, and easy-to-wear. Besides that, our thoubs can be worn internationally as well; They have an eastern and western touch. I, myself, wear them abroad and a lot of people have asked me about them, especially my friends in Spain.
Q. Tell us the story about Urban Couture?
A. Urban Couture was born in 2008, it is considered as a sister brand. When my husband first moved from the States, he wanted some change in the men’s thoubs; So, he decided to design his own.
When I started Thaa, I made women’s ready to wear thoubs, which became quite popular. That is how Urban Couture developed into having both, men and women’s thoubs.
Last year (2019), we introduced abayas, which were different from Thaa’s.
Q. Why did you decide to set apart both the brands?
A. At the end of the day, they are completely different brands, with different identities. Thaa has so many designs and cuts, while Urban Couture is much simpler with an affordable price range.
Q. Where did the name Urban Couture come from?
A. My husband came up with the name. Since the style is so urban, we included it in the name.
Q. Do you have any regrets or mistakes you have made?
A. Well, when I look back at my designs, I say “I wouldn’t wear that, its so ugly”. Besides, that I don’t have any regrets, its all about learning.
It is a very competitive market, and I am glad we managed to handle it smoothly.
Q. What are the challenges of running two brands?
A. Of course, time, because at the end of the day I am the person running both shows.
However, if you make them very different from each other, you will not have a problem working on both.
Q. What advice would you give to any entrepreneur?
A. I would say focus on the brand identity and try to stand out as much as you can.
Q. What is the future of Thaa?
A. I would want Thaa to grow with sustainability and highest reach possible.