Tired of searching for functional but modest sportswear, two women in Qatar are working to design their own collection.
And this morning, they have launched a crowd-funding campaign to support their work.
Oola Sports is one of Qatar’s first homegrown companies to specialize in clothing for women who want to cover up while working out.
It is the brainchild Haya Al Ghanim and Amina Ahmadi, who grew frustrated with finding the proper sports attire while training for and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro nearly two years ago.
The women spent more than a year creating and fine-tuning their ideas for loose-fitting activewear with a designer.
They are now appealing to the public for financial help to actually get their clothes made.
Through Indiegogo, they aim to raise some QR55,000 (US$15,000).
Any additional money raised will go toward producing more items for sale, and contribute to a modest swimwear line, the women said.
People who donate will be able to pay a discounted price for items from the first collection.
It features non-slip, breathable head scarves as well as loose and sweat-wicking sports tops that are longer in length and have full-length sleeves.
Other items in the planning include a long-length jacket for working out or traveling, and specially-designed pants.
Short-sleeved t-shirts and sports towel have also been designed specifically for the crowd-funding initiative, but won’t be part of the debut line.
Those interested in contributing can spend anywhere from $15 for a microfiber towel to $69 for a hiking top.
The buy-in prices offer donors a discount of up to 25 percent on what the items are expected to sell for when they properly launch on the website, CEO Al Ghanim said.
The high-performance hijabs are likely to be among the most popular items in the inaugural collection.
They come in different colors and separate pieces that can be linked together according to the coverage and look the wearer wants to achieve.
Each part is made of breathable material that takes sweat away from the body. They’re designed to be non-slip, with press-studs linking the separate pieces to ensure they stay attached.
Al Ghanim only became active in sports three years ago, while studying for her MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston.
There, the 31-year-old said she was inspired by a 78-year-old woman who finished the 26-mile Boston Marathon.
Since then, Al Ghanim has taken up running, cycling and hiking across the world. It was her “frustrating” experiences trying to find suitable work-out clothes that ultimately inspired her to set up Oola.
Speaking to Doha News, she said:
“Everybody in Boston runs, so I started running. I tried to mix and match some clothes so they were modest and conservative enough for me to wear.
I had to find the right material for a hijab, which was near-impossible, and I found clothes which were extra, extra-large in size so they were loose enough to be modest.”
When she returned to Qatar, she tried to continue exercising outdoors, but found it even harder to find suitable clothing.
But it was the experience of training for, then climbing, Mt. Kilimanjaro with architect and Qatar Foundation employee Ahmadi in January 2015 that really drove the pair to action.
“I thought: we need suitable designs for sportswear in the right fabrics. I wanted something comfortable and chic so I wouldn’t be ashamed to wear it if I went out for a coffee after exercise,” Al Ghanim said.
Ahmadi added, “We made up our minds that we were going to go back home and do something about it.”
From idea to reality
By last June, Ahmadi and Al Ghanim had sketched out their ideas and linked up with fashion designer Lilian Gabriel Barbosa to develop their first designs.
Al Ghanim recalled: “There were challenges. The fabric also had to be breathable and light enough, but not see-through. We needed dark colors, but also bright colors to accommodate different tastes.”
They put together a trial collection, and tested it out on a group of women to check sizing, functionality and comfort, before fine-tuning the designs.
Through the new range, the women hope to inspire others to get more active. They are already working on future lines, which they plan to roll out if the main launch is successful.
“I want Oola to encourage other women to be active, challenge boundaries, enjoy the outdoors without thinking twice about apparel and comfort,” Ahmadi said in a statement.