I had the pleasure of interviewing the beautiful Zena, Founder & Owner of Zena Presley. Her collection isn’t only vibrant and beautiful, but it also tells a story.

“Zena’s debut collection stems from her fascination with the African heritage, which is rich in emotions and compelling stories. Her collection represents the colorful and vibrant Africa contrasted with vivid imagery of struggle, fight, survival and hope.”

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Please tell us a bit about your business. What was your main inspiration to be an entrepreneur? 
 
I have always had a fascination with innovative fashion and I always felt like I wanted to bring more to the fashion scene, I was also highly inspired by the region’s acceptance and love for creativity and originality. I was first inspired a year ago by a specific painting I saw, its beauty was captivating, and as beautiful as it looked on a wall, I felt that it should be portrayed in more ways and more people should be able to enjoy its beauty. That is where the idea stemmed from to combine art and fashion, and I instantly fell in love with the concept. When I had the idea of merging art and fashion to create my clothing line, I really believed in the concept and instantly took the decision to pursue the idea and to start the Zena Presley brand. I started with a project plan and in a week’s time I was already designing my first pieces and getting in touch with artists and looking for fabrics.
 
What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment?
 
As a newcomer to the fashion industry, I really feel like the past few months were an achievement and I am really excited about people’s reaction towards my clothing line. I would say one of the highlights was being selected by Harvey Nichols Dubai as part of a summer pop up amongst some of the most popular designers of the region. It was great to have Harvey Nichols as my first stockist and is definitely a step in the right direction.
 
What are the challenges you face of being a Woman In Business?
 
There are always challenges regardless of gender in the fashion industry, however to this point I have seen a lot of support and encouragement and I had not felt much of an obstacle in being  a woman, especially in the fashion industry. That being said, there are some challenges as we move deeper into the day to day activities of having to deal with people at every step of the production chain, being a woman we sometimes need to work twice as hard to prove ourselves and to make sure we are given the consideration we demand.
 
What are the rewards?
 
It is highly rewarding to be able to manage a business as per my vision and my specific mindset, all the hard work and stress begin to fade when my business is performing and I start reaping the benefits of all the efforts invested in the business. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to build something significant from nothing, and being able to create a name that people know and respect, and achieving that is not easy at all, but it is sure worth it.
 
What is the best advice you’ve received? 
 
When I was first establishing my business plan and strategy, I was given a great piece of advice quite specific to the fashion industry. I was advised to start working with a PR agency from the very start, and that is what I did. That move was really a game changer for me, as I had the opportunity to learn from industry experts early in my career, and my brand was guided in the right direction to receive the recognition and attention it deserves. I really feel that working with a PR agency was a kick start to my career and really helped steer me into the right direction.

Who is you biggest role model in the business world and why?

Fortunately, there are so many women who are doing incredible today in terms of leading successful businesses and assuming leadership roles, there are countless women that come to my mind, however I have to select one of the ladies who are relevant to the fashion industry and that would be Miroslava Duma. I am really inspired by her energy and accomplishments and even more so by her style. She manages to run her business with the utmost class and I really see her as one of the women who are making an impact on the fashion industry.
 
What advice would you give to women who want to start a business?
 
My advice to women, and people in general, would be to focus on distinguishing yourself from others in the industry, always try to lead rather than follow. 
 
What mistakes have you made along the way and learned from?
 
Naturally, starting a business is a learning process and I have learnt a great deal since inception, and I have been applying all this knowledge in improving and better managing my business. The biggest learning area for me was the technical process entailed in transforming designs into finish products, I learnt a great deal about prints and how to best transform paintings into finished people, I also learnt so much about fabrics and the tailoring process, and I am continuously working in reflecting this knowledge into my clothing line and showing considerable growth with each new collection.
 
Whats your way forward of expansion? 
 
I have a lot of things lined up for the brand, both on the short run and the long run. I am planning to go beyond women’s wear as I see a lot of potential in other areas and I have a lot of ideas that I cannot wait to introduce. My ultimate goal is to be able to make an impact not only in the fashion world, but in the art world as well. In the meantime, I have just finished working on my SS16 collection that I am very excited to reveal during Dubai Fashion Forwad taking place on October 24th.
 
What’s your secret to success? 
 
Persistence is key! That is something that has proved correct through everything I have done, so it is definitely something I live by. I would surely have not been able to launch my clothing line without a lot of persistence, and more so maintaining it and growing it will require even more persistence and hard work. We all know that nothing comes easy, and in many cases you see young people with brilliant ideas that are wasted because they don’t follow through or go the extra mile required to make it happen. Maybe this has been said too many times already, but hard work pays off, that is a fact!
 
What do you do to unwind & relax?
 
I love spending time with family and friends, and I usually tend to spend my spare time doing so. I also love travelling and it is my ultimate therapy.
 
Tell us something no one knows about Zena?

Something a lot of people might not know is that I have a day job. I work as a project manager for Hewlett Packard by day in the IT industry which is a completely different environment for me. The IT industry is highly male dominant and my role is always challenging me in different ways and offers me a great learning experience, where I have managed to apply a lot of the things I have learnt to my personal business. Although in essence the two industries seem very different, what I have learnt and still am learning as a project manager can be applied in different scenarios when managing my brand, as many of the principles are the same.

 
Finally take me through a day in Zena’s life..

 A typical day starts with a light breakfast and I am off to work, within the working day I tend to always take breaks looking at art for inspiration or following up on day to day activities of managing the Zena Presley brand, I always take lunch at around 1-2pm and head home at around 5pm, where I catch up on some design work and then I workout for an hour. In the evening it is either more work or I spend some time with my family and friends, and that is always based on the amount of work I have lined up. I always try to sleep early but end up going to bed at 2am, which is a habit I am working on improving. 
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You can follow Zena on her instagram account @zenapresley and don’t forget to check out their website www.zenapresley.com

xoxo

Waheeba