Rotana Al-Hashimi studied architecture and interior design, and later pursued her love for fashion by taking a one-year course in fashion design. Rotana, her label, was launched in 2006, and was the first Saudi designer to introduce colored abayas to the market. A few years later, she was asked to dress Carolina Herrera.
Q. What were some challenges you faced in making the big change?
A. Of course, I faced a lot of challenges, but I had to motivate Rotana AlHashimi. Even though not everyone accepted the change, I still went on with what I wanted to do, because I knew one day, they will love it and find it so stylish.
Q. How did ROTANA develop over the years?
A: I followed the customer-oriented approach to support my brand. My experience with customers and clients, helped in building ROTANA and her personality. I always referred back to customers and their feedback regarding their experience or opinions, that helped me in following the people rather than the market trends.
Q. How did ROTANA begin and how did you feel about it?
A. It was exciting! I felt like I was learning nonstop, just like going to school. What made me so motivated into starting ROTANA was making something that suits our atmosphere and culture. I wanted to change the mindset of people in regards to just wearing “black abayas”.
Q. Where do you source your fabrics from?
A. Both internationally and locally.
Q. Do your international customers purchase from the designs you already have or do you make new ones for them?
A. They usually like the ones I already have, as they are very practical and meet their needs.
Q. How did you come to dress the famous fashion designer Carolina Herrera?
A. In 2011, she came for a visit to the kingdom. The magazine Sayedaty contacted me and requested me to make an abaya for her. For two weeks, I worked on designing the abaya for her, trying to figure out the style and colors she likes. So, I ended up making the perfect abaya for her that suited her skin tone. She adored it!
Sayedaty published the magazine with her photo wearing one of my pieces with love.
Q. Explain why you don’t use social media as the main medium for marketing?
A. I understand the importance of social media and digital marketing, but I don’t find it to be my main source of quality and admiration from customers. In my opinion, being consistent on quality and value is what makes your brand name boom.
Q. Did you ever think of diversifying your brand into other sectors?
A. I wanted to make ROTANA bags and shoes, but I saw the importance of outfits to be more than anything else.
Q. What differentiates you from other brands?
A. Each brand has its own story and identity. I believe each brand needs to be consistent about that and keep swimming.
What’s your future plan for ROTANA?
A. I do not plan ahead of time; I like to take my time and perfectly finish off each year with quality and brand value.
Do have any advice for upcoming designers?
A. If you have the idea, do not hesitate to start and experiment. Success comes when you start from scratch. You will learn so much starting from zero, mistakes to what customers want, and how to build the character of your brand.