Q&A: Lubna Najjar with Lubna Designs+Il Moda

From the July 31, 2014 edition

Lubna Najjar could have remained a fashion designer, but the 28 year old had bigger plans for the Columbus fashion scene. As founder of Il Moda, a brand development firm and showroom in the Short North, Najjar decided to marry her business sense with her eye for talent to bring other Columbus designers to the spotlight.

Najjar is dedicated to pairing Columbus’ up-and-coming designers with fashion insiders, much like she did for her personal line, Lubna Designs. Najjar plans to show the fashion industry what Columbus creatives can do, and why the Arch City is set to become the next fashion powerhouse.

Columbus is full of creative designers; they just need somebody to help with the business side. That’s what I want to offer with Il Moda. I ran the PR for my personal brand and got very good at it. I was able to get my designs published in six countries, just from being able to talk about them with the right people. There is so much talent [in Columbus] and I want to help my clients get the word out about their product so they can break into other markets like I did. Columbus functions in its own little bubble of local support; but when it comes to real dollars, you have to branch out.

It was pretty cool seeing my designs in print. At my first New York fashion show for Lubna Designs, I got lucky. A junior editor at the show wrote about me, which led to my first wholesale order. It was pretty damn amazing to get something I designed picked up, and then see my logo displayed at a boutique. I want to help designers in Columbus do the same thing. It’s so exciting to see one of the brands I represent take off.

My job is to dissect brands from the inside out. When I sit down with a potential client, I think about where the brand is today and where they are headed in the future. A lot of trust is involved when you’re speaking for a person’s creative vision, so it’s important to fully understand their expectations. Some people are happy creating on a small scale, and do it mainly for the artistic expression. My job is to help those who want to build a business from their creativity expand to larger markets.

Columbus is becoming a fashion destination. [Columbus] has been called No. 3 in fashion; it’s so hot right now. We have great learning institutions and some of the biggest brands in fashion headquartered here. People from New York and L.A. are looking to the Midwest for what is new and fresh. They are currently looking for what’s next; they are tired of working with the same designers. They want something homegrown and unique. Columbus designers have fresh ideas, and we want to create the necessary connections between industry professionals and our designers. We want to help our brands find their audience and bridge the gap between their creativity and their business.

Photo by Meghan Ralston