Meet the woman who has forever transformed the way we dress ; enter Stylist turned fashion entrepreneur Safiyya Laframboise. A Canadian native with Thai origins, Safiyya has been building a brand for under a decade — yet in that short time has managed to break glass ceilings in a male dominated industry. Custom tailored suits were an experience at the Italian tailor that your father and grandfather went to, to dress you for your business affairs. Today, the experience is for all men and women in business. With Safiyya Style at the forefront of an untapped market, the rules are forever changing. Setting a new playground for women worldwide to dress the part, feel the part and act the part of a successful business woman dressed in SS. Here is her success journey.
Tell our readers about your background in the fashion industry.
I’ve been passionate about fashion for the better part of my life. I feel like it’s been a spark inside of me from a very young age. I have been working in the fashion industry for over twenty years now. I started early, at the age of 12 — I was already doing trade shows in Toronto alongside my parents. I was selling high end jewelry and mounting the kiosks in preparation for the shows. My parents were in the jewelry business for many years and now they have transitioned into the health industry; they have always been entrepreneurs and have been my greatest source of inspiration and guidance. They have been married for over 30 years all whilst being in business together. That’s quite the accomplishment, especially in today’s day and age.
My husband and I have the same synergy and I really have my parents to thank for that. They truly led the way to what a family/business relationship should look like. We started something from scratch and I truly believe that a solid relationship is a great source of strength in business. Everything just made sense in regards to my husband and I, so naturally it made even more sense to go into business together. We perfectly complement each other in every single way.
Have you always been passionate about fashion?
Absolutely. My passion drove me to excel in each position that I held — I started at the bottom selling on the floors as a salesperson then became manager and then got promoted into head office to wholesale team; I literally worked in very aspect of the fashion trade.
I have always gravitated towards this industry and have always been super competitive. I always needed to work for the best fashion stores and always be at the top, and make a difference everywhere that I go. I was always keeping my eye on the sales statistics.
When did you decide to launch Safiyya Style?
Ten years ago I joined a network marketing business as en entrepreneur. I must admit that it truly built up my character while helping me understand the highs and lows of a traditional business. Unfortunately, something was still missing in my life. I just didn’t have that spark or the hunger for success in marketing. I will never forget one night I called one of my close relatives crying and explained to her that I was hitting rock bottom and needed a new challenge in my life. She reminded me that all my life until the moment I took this business opportunity, I was in the fashion industry.
I knew something needed to change in my life – that I needed to do something differently. My sister had asked me the simplest question “ why don’t you go back into fashion”. I knew my love for the industry but I also knew how much I hated working for someone else. At the end of our conversation she told me I should open up my own business as a stylist. I knew I didn’t want to be like everybody else and just be a stylist. I knew I wanted more in every aspect of my career.
I wanted to have my own suit business for men and women. I will never forget the push I needed to really go for it and make my dreams a reality; it was a simple sentence my sister said “you can never compete with Hugo Boss, they are just too big!” Just that sentence was everything I needed to prove her and everyone else I could do it. The next day I quit my job, and began the journey of my very own styling business. In three days, and without sleep, I built up the whole business plan and was ready to go. I truly owe that to my sister. Today, she is my biggest supporter and always there to help me when I need it most. I am grateful for her challenging me to thinking I wasn’t able to compete with them.
What was the next stepping stone in your business?
I started going door to door doing rally shopping for clients in Carrefour Laval and it’s crazy because every single time I went into a store I could never find what I needed for my clients. There was always something missing; the colors, the size, the styles, the design, the cuts. There was missing that “it” factor that would give my client the justice he deserved. I had a vision for his collection I could never find it. I hated that I couldn’t deliver to the client my vision because the goods were not available.
That’s exactly why I chose not to be just a stylist but also provide complete custom collection; this way I can create and compensate for all the lack I found in the marketplace. I can make colours that I believed in even if no one else thought they were the trend of the moment. I could finally be my best and give the world a piece of me; a piece of what makes me unique and turn my art into fashion and intimately inspire an entire industry. [quote this in BIG]
I came to Jean-Michel, my husband and advised him to join me in the styling and suit business because I needed someone to rely on to build this business. We then traveled the world to find the right suppliers and all the contacts I needed to do this business properly. We went to Asia, Africa, Europe and everywhere in between looking for the right suppliers. We literally went to see over 300 suppliers to test quality, and make sure we found the right textures. The clients were piling up and we’re so grateful for their patience as we really wanted to provide the best products for them.
We invested a lot of time, test trial into the goods that were just not up to par with my vision and the quality I was looking for, until finally after months, we found the right suppliers and we were able to start building this vision that I held so dearly to me.
What brought you into the suit market out of all the fashion textiles?
I worked in so many different stores from BCBG, Mens boutique, all the way to Dynamite HQ, to sportswear manager at Harry Rosen. Before I even finished college, I got recruited to go work. All this to say, I was always extremely competitive in everything that I touched in my life that I always by default recruited without a CV. There was always someone who wanted to work with me without me ever having to ask.
That being said, the last job I had was sportswear manager at Harry Rosen. The Regional Director at the time, contacted me to tell me that they had something for me. That’s when I truly knew I was going to be in the suit business. It was going to be the market I set out to conquer.
Interestingly enough, my first day on the job, I was the only young female on the floor whilst everyone else were much older and with at least 20 years of experience. I felt like I was in a shark tank and Harry Rosen embodies a very aggressive approach and only pay by commission. What none of them knew, is that I was their manager for sportswear department.
So the first day, a man comes in looks at me and tells me he has a flight in thirty minutes for a last minute business trip and has no carry-on, no clothes but had money and needed a complete wardrobe. I am extremely good with style and fit, I could look at you and know exactly what’s going to work on you. All that to say, in seven minutes he spent $15,000 and jumped on his plane looking like a GQ model straight out of the cover of the magazine.
That moment made me realize that wealthy men in general, don’t know how to get dressed and I knew there was a big opportunity to make it big in this business. My love for the suit industry all started thanks to that job I got at Harry Rosen. It made me realize that there is an untapped industry especially for a woman because men really trust women’s advice and ultimately want to look good for them.
I can really provide a full package for my clients in the sense that I know how they should look, feel and build self confidence when closing a major deal or in a meeting with clients. Being in the industry for 20 years now has allowed me to make them better versions of themselves. I see what is invisible to them.
I have a lot of respect for people I worked with which led me to never poach a single client from my previous employer. I always promised myself I would never be that person and that I would make it from scratch, and I was always true to that word.
LinkedIn was what made my business grow exponentially. For the past seven years, I have been posting at a specific time early morning on how men and woman should dress for the day. It was tailored to the day and in which season we were, basically a tailored fit for the day. I did that almost every single day. That is the exact recopy I used to build my clientele and today, I am so grateful to say we have over 25,000 followers on that app. What’s interesting is that I only opened my business page about a year ago because I was having so much momentum on my personal page. I have never paid a single dollar on advertisement to get a client.
I truly built the business from scratch whilst painting the respect I had for all the people who mentored me or gave me opportunities and always kept my integrity.
What has been the biggest challenges you had to surmount during operating your business?
I was diagnosed in May of this last year with MS : Multiple sclerosis which was a total shock for me. I’ve never in my life ever thought that this would happen to me especially since I was so healthy. At a certain point, I couldn’t even talk, drive, walk or write. The pandemic came at the perfect time because everything closed – so I couldn’t see anyone. It all started when I was in yoga class and couldn’t do certain poses that I was used to before. I went to get checked and I was diagnosed. It was a huge struggle for me. I had to “test” my level of energy and learn to consume and hone it. This is for life, there are treatments available but it’s not curable. It was a shock of compound events that I had to take a step back and really take care of my health first. That’s when I knew that doing me, and having my “me” time was so precious. I want to inspire other women who have any disease that it does not determine who you are or what you are capable of. I cannot stress enough the importance of taking care of your health first. I still do yoga regularly and take time off for myself. It is primordial to my health and my business.
We love that you work with your husband and show the dynamic of being two powerhouses. Tell us about how you got your husband involved and why?
Safiyya Style was born from a labour of love. Ever since day one, my husband was the backbone of the business. He is my best friend, my lover and business partner. He is my everything. We were working together in network marketing as I previously stated. I was so tired of that environment but he continued and like I said I asked him to come with me and told him we were going to make magic happen and create something beautiful together. He didn’t even hesitate for a second, he dropped everything and came on board and trusted the vision I had for us. We have such a high level of commitment and discipline together. He brings the best out of me, his strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa. We are truly our best when we are united and going for the same goal.The fact that we are the Yin and Yang pulling together makes such a powerful statement.
How did you get into the women’s market?
In the beginning, we only had a clothing line for men for the first six years of the business. We started the test trials in the men’s world and with all my experience I decided I was going to build that part of the business before venturing off into the women’s side. In 2021, while the pandemic was effecting the fashion industry, we stayed resilient and came up with new ideas to grow the business. We knew it was either going to break or make us stronger, and that’s when I had the idea of serving women as well because we were ready for that. The track record was already done for men so it was time for us to serve women.
I wanted to be able to wear a suit, and that’s when the idea came to life. It shouldn’t be only the men who look tailored when he goes to see clients. We opened a new women’s division because there was just simply the need for it. At first, that need was just for me because there was always something missing whenever I wanted to go shopping. If I’m the standard body type and I can’t dress myself, the industry needs a makeover, and I was going to give it the long overdue makeover it needed and disrupt this industry.
I began the test on myself first. I am truly a perfectionist when it comes to my clients and myself and the results are unbelievable. Everything had to be perfect. I have the most amazing fabrics you will ever find in stores and in every single colour your heart desires. We make sure that your personality goes along with your style and that is a key ingredient to our success.
I can make anything happen for my ladies and that’s what I provide alongside an unbeatable service and like our motto says; it’s all with Labour of Love. I want my clients to feel unique, special, and empowered to be the best version of themselves when they leave us. Our suits are tailored fit just for them and only them.
I love when I walk into a room and my clients and I are the best dressed in the room. That is always a must for me and the vision I carry for the business. It’s that competitive side of me that always made me want to be the best. I’m always trying to make a statement. Every time I walk somewhere I always get complimented on my suits. Every single time.
Walk us through the process of Safiyya Style experience.
We provide high end service in our clients homes while offering them a complete custom collection if they so wish. We are in it for the long run; we want to build a long term relationship with our clients, to better understand their needs. In our first phone interaction, I find out what is the problem so I can find a solution and understand their needs. After the first consultation, I know where we are going. The next step is to meet us at our showroom and begin the journey of making them become the best versions of themselves. I explain to them everything from styling, to production so that they are aware of the entire process. My husband is more in the back-end, he takes full body measurements and really manages the entire operation behind the scenes. All the logistics and operations. The second we leave that door to make a specific collection that’s when he goes to work to make all the back-end magic happen.
Where do you want to see your brand in 5 to 10 years?
We just opened a new showroom in the heart of downtown Montreal on Saint Catherine O. which showcases the experience of Safiyya Style from the fabric, to body measurements, to choosing designs and the fitting rooms to really enjoy the entire experience. Our showroom allows us to cater to more clients as it is by appointment-only. With our ever growing clientele, we are starting to run out of time to be able to cater to all of them. Hence we have a growing need to have showrooms in specific locations in the big cities nationwide.
The way I see the business growing is with these strategic showrooms that would maximize our time and allow us to take up as many clients as we want. By shedding all the lost time from travelling we can double our clientele and ultimately the business.
We want these fitting rooms to have everything from our materials to a showing room and be able to cater to them as if we were in their homes and once the day is over go back to our HQ and start making their orders a reality. It would be by appointment only.
This is the evolution of Safiyya Style. It took us seven years to get here and I couldn’t be more grateful.
I know from the bottom of my heart that we are here for the long run and in the next 10, 15 years to make my dream come true of every business person in the country knowing and wearing our custom created suits. We already have a wide infrastructure from west to east coast; In Canada ad well as the USA. “The Safiyya Style Show Rooms – the place where all the magic happens.”
What does success represent to you?
Success for me is Self Mastery in every aspect of your life. From mastering wealth; by building an empire, to health; taking care of your sacred temple that is your body, to growing your mind by meditating, writing, and to feel happiness by doing what I love with passion every single day. That is self mastering every aspect of your life, and that is true success to me.
Safiyya Style Showroom on Sainte Catherine O. corner Stanley. By appointment only.
Follow @Safiyya.Style on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Visit their website [safiyyastyle.com] to book your Safiyya Style experience.
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