Halimah Suad is the owner and creative director of sgb vintage (short for sui generis boutique), a fashion-forward vintage clothing e-shop. The Philadelphia native who’s now based out of DC always has had entrepreneurial ambitions. In the mid-90s, the unkempt, anti-fashion trend of grunge led her and her friends to the thrift stores where they’d scour the racks for ripped jeans and grandpa sweaters. Halimah then developed a serious thrifting habit which eventually led to a love for vintage. She began to handpick fashionable vintage pieces,developing an eye for pieces that could be mixed and mingled with contemporary looks. In 2005, sgb vintage was born. The premise was an e-shop that catered to the everyday fashionista which Halimah describes as headturners with audacious style who aren’t hung up on labels but still like to look good and shop without blowing their car note. She aimed to promote individuality through vintage fashion with less regard to what’s “in” but rather by offering one of kind timeless pieces that would allow shoppers to monopolize their looks.
The road hasn’t been without its unexpected bumps. Since ’05, sgb vintage has closed and reopened twice. Halimah was determined to make the latest 2012 relaunch the best ever. After solely existing as a vintage retailer, Halimah sought to expand the reach of sgb vintage. When the shop reopened in 2012, Halimah added wardrobe leasing services. She now partners with area stylists, providing a portion of her multi-era vintage inventory for fashion photoshoots, shows, events and video/theatrical productions.
Halimah has also positioned sgb vintage as a platform for local emerging creatives. She partners with up and coming models monthly, dubbing them as sgb vintage covergirls and promoting them in the e-shop and social media. She also actively pursues area recording artists, photographers and make-up artists in efforts to collaborate and create buzz for sgb vintage and some of the area’s most deserving talent.
How did you launch your career and get to where you are today?
sgb vintage was born out of the scary thought of spending the rest of my adult life doing work that barely interested me. And of course a great love for all things old school, namely clothes. I was literally sitting in my cubicle back in ’05 thinking of a way to escape the 9-5 corporate grind and still eat and buy a pair of shoes every once in a while.
I found a web designer on Craigslist, called up a photographer friend and recruited my best friends’ nieces to model the clothes for me. 8 years later, I’m still here. Oddly enough, I feel like I’m just getting started. We’ve relaunched twice since our first site back in ’05 – the most recent relaunch, last year, being our best effort. So I’m bubbling with even more determination than when I first started. I’ve come so far but have so far to go.
What have you had to sacrifice along the way, if anything?
Free time – what’s that? I’m slowly peeling the S off my chest and planning to build a small team next year, but for now it’s a one-woman show. There’s no such thing as days off; there’s not much free time. So doing all the buying, networking, styling, measuring, planning shoots, fixing buttons, writing item descriptions, site maintenance, social media and still finding time to take my dogs for a nice, long walk and fix my husby a good meal … you get my drift.
How do you define success?
I love the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” That sums up success to me. Figuring out your passion and spending time emerged in it – that’s success. Doing exactly what you love and having the freedom to shape your career and life under your own terms – success. It’s fearing less and going for it, win or lose, more.
I read a post on Facebook the other day that said “Success is a habit. Work toward your goal every day.” sgb vintage isn’t world renowned (yet!) but I feel blessed to be working at something I love.
How do you balance work and life?
They overlap; I don’t even fight it, most times. I’ve learned how to mix business with pleasure. Like when I go on buying trips for vintage pieces for the shop, I pack up the dogs and the husby and we make it a getaway. It’s a family affair; we stalk shops and estate sales during the day and then hit new restaurants and explore the area’s night life.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Busier! I’d like to have a small but rock solid staff in place helping me keep sgb vintage afloat. I’d like to have expanded my business travel to other coasts and across country lines and be a louder voice in the vintage clothing and lifestyle community. Without revealing too much, I really want to marry vintage retail with a workspace of sorts for other creatives within the industry, but more on that later. And ultimately, I want to morph into the fly lady who runs the best brick & mortar vintage and second-hand shop in the city – which city remains to be seen.
Who is your role model or mentor?
I’m inspired by young entrepreneurs who are really focused on their craft and building their brands like me. Many of them I only really know by their social media handles. Our common grind and stick-to-itiveness keeps me going.
What advice do you give your fellow entrepreneurs?
One – Don’t stop. You’ll want to quit; you’ll doubt yourself, but don’t stop. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint at heart. Two – I remind myself all the time: no risk, no reward. If you’re too caught up in not failing; you’ll stay stagnant. Three – Everyone’s story and path and vision is different; don’t get too caught up in what everyone else is doing. And last but not least, remember why you started.