Originally a marketing major, she also thought about going into fields like sustainability farming and fashion modeling before settling on finance.
Now a senior at the Gabelli School of Business, Abdulhussein hopes to combine her interests through Al Ameerat, her startup clothing brand that aims to empower women through modest and stylish fashion. Its debut collection is set to be released this spring with the aid of a surprising partner: Bratz dolls, the billion-dollar media franchise known for its outsized influence on youth fashion and culture.
“Nothing has gone [according] to plan,” Abdulhussein said of changing majors and landing her first big deal. “But it worked out.”
Abdulhussein has created eight original designs for women that will be modeled by select Bratz dolls and made available for purchase this spring.
Seizing Opportunities ‘in the Middle of the Night’
Al Ameerat’s initial rollout will focus on fashionable and affordable designs of the abaya, a religious garment commonly worn by women throughout the Middle East. Growing up between Tanzania and Dubai, wearing an abaya was commonplace for Abdulhussein. But in the U.S, she found limited offerings.
“In America, it’s very old style, traditional. But if you go to the Middle East…you’ll see such a big difference. It’s very flashy, it’s fun, it’s trendy,” she said.
Abdulhussein partnered with her friend Mira al Aqrabawi, based in Dubai, to collaborate on the business plan and manage operations on the ground.
It was an offhand comment between the two that sparked the breakthrough.
“I was telling her, ‘You look like a little Bratz doll,’” Abdulhussein said, conjuring the fashion-forward dolls of their youth. “And then I was like, ‘Wait, this is a great idea.’”
Abdulhussein did some research on the spot and messaged a Bratz representative for brand collaborations, emphasizing the opportunity to expand into a new market—modest fashion—while simultaneously demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusion. She didn’t expect to get a response at all—let alone a few hours later.
“It was a happy accident that took off literally in the middle of the night,” she said.
Now she and her partner are finalizing their collection to prepare for their spring launch with Bratz.
From the Classroom to the Market
A global business major with concentrations in finance, business economics, and fintech, Abdulhussein credits her classes and professors for her ability to execute her idea so quickly.
“I couldn’t have told you anything about how finance worked before I got here,” she said. “It’s hard to forecast sales for a company that doesn’t exist yet. My analytics class was really helpful because I was like, ‘Alright, I have to make this balance sheet balance.’”
When it came time to finalize her pitch, Abdulhussein drew from hands-on learning experiences like the Gabelli School’s Consulting Cup event.
But Abdulhussein stressed that the ability to make connections was the most rewarding part of her experience.
“My professors put me in touch with good people. They taught me how to network,” she said. “Toy companies aren’t too scary once you’ve been reaching out to all these JP Morgan people.”
Abdulhussein still has big ideas. She hopes to sell out the first collection, donate a percentage of profits to a worthy cause, and eventually have a fulfillment center fully populated by women.
For now, she spends her nights on Zoom clutching pieces of fabric and trying to communicate her vision to tailors on the other side of the globe.
“You have to be patient,” she said, reflecting on the design process—and the path that led there. “It’s not always going to work out on the first try.”
Follow Al Ameerat’s progress on Instagram @ameerat.abayas.