Talking to Diajeng Lestari, the CEO of HijUp
by Intan Abu Daniel
There’s truly no denying it: Muslimah fashion is on the rise. It’s so much on the rise, that there’s going to be a whole fashion show dedicated to it in London this year. With Muslimah fashion so universally celebrated in the fashion world now, Muslimah e-commerce is now a force to be reckoned with on a global scale.
But just a few short years ago, this was still just a dream in the eyes of Diajeng Lestari – the young female CEO of HijUp, the self-proclaimed first ever e-commerce site to focus entirely on Muslimah fashion. Based in Indonesia, today the website is a platform for over 100 local Indonesian fashion designers, but back in 2011, Diajeng took that first leap into the e-commerce industry with a lot of hard work and a lot of faith.
“The e-commerce market was booming in Indonesia, and this motivated me to start HijUp. I started off with only three employees and a tiny space, and I did nearly everything! Two years later, the company had 20 employees, and today, we have over 120. The company has been growing well, we’ve been growing with our tenants, and insyaAllah we’re just getting bigger and stronger.”
In Brunei for the weekend to take part in the Islamic Designers Festival held at the International Convention Centre, Diajeng Lestari graciously sat with media and local fashionable folks for an intimate sit-down lunch, where she shared some of her views on the Muslimah fashion world and its impact on the economy in her home country of Indonesia.
“In Indonesia, we are faced with many challenges on how to build our economy, and we’ve had to focus on entrepreneurs to help drive the economic growth. We had a huge crisis back in 1998, and that encouraged me to make this work, to make the economy stable for my own family, and then encourage my fellow Indonesians to create businesses because it would be good for our economy. So it’s great to create the HijUp platform because I’m not creating my own brand, but instead pushing local fashion designers and their creations out to the world. At first, the industry was small, but today, we have fashion designers who have established their own connections and are very stable with their career. It’s good for the economy in Indonesia, and maybe even in the world.”
Catering to customers from all over the world, HijUp has seen a lot of success since its inception in 2011. Starting the business was a challenge in itself, but as a Muslim woman, there were other challenges that Diajeng needed to focus on.
“We started from zero, and in a start-up business, you need investors to help the business run. At the time, most of our investors came from Japan, and unfortunately some of them underestimated women! I had to deal with questions like, if I have children, how would I run the business? Would it be sustainable, since you’re already married and likely to have children? And yes, I’m pregnant now, and this is my second child, and the business has been challenging. But we need to work past that challenge, so I hired a man – my cousin – as Chief Operating Officer (COO) to run the show when I’m on my maternity leave or have to take leave for family-related reasons. And today, he runs the day to day business of the office and as CEO, I concentrate on business strategy and the development of the business. As a woman, we need to have a work and life balance. We can run a successful business; we just need to make sure that we recruit good, hardworking and trustworthy people who can commit to the job and do the right thing.”
HijUp has been a great platform for the established and budding local designers in Indonesia, but how about the rest of the world? Diajeng responded, “InsyaAllah, this year we will open our doors to regional fashion designers, and hopefully also expand to men’s fashion. Collaboration is important in Islam, and it’s great to see and meet a lot of fashion designers in Brunei.”
And a final word of advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs: “Every woman is unique, and we each have our own strengths. Don’t compare yourself to others, as we each have our own unique journey.”
Check out what Muslimah trends are in store at www.hijup.com.