The founder and Head Designer of NABILA, one of the first female entrepreneurs of Bangladesh to manage and run her own garment manufacturing company, and today a respected designer and business owner, Shamima Nabi represents the results of sheer hard work, dedication and perseverance. Let’s hear her story, in her own words.
The early days – a lifelong love affair with fashion
My love for clothing and fashion stretches back to my earliest memories. As a little girl, I was obsessed with creating outfits for my collection of dolls, and I got incredible joy from dressing them up in different attires for differen occasions. Perhaps because I have been able to translate what I love into my profession, that I am able to continue to produce new designs and concepts with growing levels of excitement, even after my decades long career.

Family and career – A delicate balance
I started my career in my teens, whilst completing my education and starting a young family. I was also the second eldest of 8 siblings and was entrusted with a great degree of responsibility at a very young age. Although these responsibilities made life challenging, it also taught me to be fiercely independent. I started my own garment manufacturing company in my early and produced garments for export to Europe; at this young age I learned how to manage a business and the inner workings of international quality apparel manufacturing. However, being a women entrepreneur in the 1980s came with a multitude of challenges. Working long hours and late nights in a male-dominated industry was perceived negatively by many in our society, nevertheless, with the relentless support of my husband, I was able to build a successful career along with a happy family. It was only after the birth of my baby girl that there was momentary pause in my work life. I wanted to fully experience the joys of being the mother to a little girl, and like many others, put my daughter ahead of my work.

Nabila and the Shamima Nabi Collection
It was once my daughter was in primary school that I formed my fashion brand, her namesake, Nabila, and was overwhelmed by the positive feedback my designs received. Over the years the label transformed into a nationally renowned retailer of South Asian fashion for men, women and children and I also had the opportunity to participate in several national and international shows and events in the process. I feel immensely thankful for the recognition my work has received. My daughter, now all grown-up, has joined me in the expansion of our brand, and has reenergised me into relaunching my own designer label within Nabila, under my own name. The first of this collection, the Heritage Collection, represents my love-affair with our traditional handlooms. It transforms jamdani and muslin into couture bridal and exclusive ensembles, and I hope it transforms the way we view these beautiful heritage handlooms of Bengal.

The future
Today, I work with the same dedication, motivation and excitement as I did thirty years ago, I continue to take on new projects and embark on new beginnings. I want to take the label beyond Bangladesh and want it to be a representation of our exquisite craftsmanship, and our rich cultural heritage. Despite having come a long way from my humble beginnings, I truly believe that in the path to success, the sky is the limit.