Bangs in Toronto: The Juma Interview
I’m in Toronto right now on a trip to talk to some designers, bloggers and all around cool people in the city as there seems to be a really exciting movement going on here right now. I would say one of the labels at the forefront of this excitement is Juma – a unisex clothing label that’s been making real waves in North American fashion circles these past few years. Mention Canadian fashion and Juma is a name that most likely comes up first and with Nicki Minaj recently spotted wearing their garms, it looks like the rest of the world is just catching up. When I was invited out to Toronto, having admired their work for so long, I knew Juma was a must-have interview for me, so I caught up with Design Director, Alia Juma to find out how it all began, how Toronto influences her and what the future holds.
How did you get started?
I always wanted to be in fashion, so after studying design at university, I put together a collection. I really had no idea what I was doing. At the time, my brother (Jamil Juma, Creative Director of the brand), was working in finance and he started to help me out, firstly on the business side, but he was really involved in design too, but he had a really good handle on the business side of things ’cause of his finance and engineering background. And it just all evolved from there, we fell into it together.
How long has the label been going now?
Seven or eight years. The first four years were definitely a learning curve, trying things out and it either worked or it failed. The best part of our company has been the past two and a half years – that’s where we’ve seen the most growth, the most potential and we’ve expanded. The past couple of years I’ve spent most of my time in Asia, between China and India, my brother is in New York and Toronto is our base.
Do you have any other family members roped in?
They help out. My father does all the accounting, our cousin helps us out with PR – they’re very supportive of what we do. They’re not working for us, but they do things whenever they can.
When you started, was there a specific design style you wanted to go for, or was it a really organic growth through your own experimentation?
The second one! It was experimentation. When we first started, the look was different and we evolved into the prints and our directional silhouettes. As you grow, you change, so does the company, so does your vision. So, we evolved into this look we have now and it took us some time to find our niche.
So what is your niche?
We’re a really directional brand, we focus a lot on digital images, digital printing. I’d say 80% of the collection is digital printed garments. We have the digital printed bags and the scarves as well, so that’s kind of our niche. We offer something unique, something you can’t knock off – it’s our own design, our own print.
What do you think Canadian fashion is about?
Every country has their niche and I think because Canada’s so diverse, there’s so many people from all over the world here, it’s hard to pinpoint what our stamp is. It’s hard to see what Canada’s signature is amid all that. We offer a little bit of everything. It’s eclectic.
What is it about Toronto that inspires you?
It’s hard to say because I’ve fallen in love with India and China and plan to move out there sometime in the future. I always feel like I’m coming home when I come here but I don’t feel like I’m growing much. Now that we’re traveling so much, all these different countries and cities have so much to offer in terms of inspiration. I’m not sure what inspires me here anymore.
So Asia’s gonna be your next move?
I hope so, it’s hard to say. I feel excited thinking about it and I go back as much as I can. I’m in Chinese school now, learning to speak the language, so I hope that’s my next move.
I saw recently that Nicki Minaj was wearing one of your designs. How did that come about?
It’s funny, I think my brother randomly met someone who likes our label and was doing her styling, so he’d approached my brother. She had noticed the prints and it all went from there. We did special prints for her, inspired by her Jamaica concert – so it’s banana prints and pineapple prints. We’ve added that into our Spring 2012 collection so she’s really inspired that for us.
What’s the future for Juma?
We just want to be happy in what we’re doing, maybe create bigger collections, expand internationally – we’re already in stores in Hong Kong, Dubai, Lebanon, so we just want to keep building on that.
Check out more of Juma’s stuff over on their website www.jumastudio.com