Can you tell us a little bit about your cultural background and how that has influenced who each of you are today?
Nas: We come from a rich culture with lots of traditions that were and are still present in our large family. Though we ourselves grew up in North America, we tend to lean on this culture and tradition to help guide us when it comes to how we conduct ourselves as women, our morals as well as how we raise our children. In fashion, it makes us so much more experimental with colors and patterns because the traditional garments worn in our home country have always been so beautiful and vibrant.
Nuni: We are originally from Somalia. It’s a beautiful and colorful culture, with strong and powerful values. Being a Somali woman is embedded in everything that we do. Growing up, I've seen so many examples of Somali women juggle entrepreneurship and motherhood, which has given me so much inspiration.
Can you each share your journey into entrepreneurship?
Nas: Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, I worked in the fashion retail industry. I started my career in retail while I was in college and later moved to NYC for an internship at Valentino. From there, I’ve held positions in Sales, Marketing and Product Development at Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch. I’ve always loved roles where I got to exercise my creativity muscle and at the time, I felt my job didn’t allow me to do that at all. After getting laid off in 2017, I decided it was the sign that I needed to start exploring what else was out there for me on my own. Once I had a discussion with my sister and realized we had similar goals, it was so much easier to have her by my side.
Nuni: I’ve always enjoyed fashion from an early age. I started off working in retail and then became a model doing commercials, print ads and runway shows. I decided modeling was not for me so I quit and went to university to make my father happy. After getting my psychology degree and trying out different career paths, I eventually figured out that I wanted to commit to working in fashion but on my own terms. I always wanted to start a blog and create my own brand. When I found out my sister had the same dream, we decided to join forces and start a fashion blog together. The rest is history.
How did you each become interested in fashion? Is there a specific memory, or experience that stands out?
Nas: My interest in fashion started really early on. Growing up as a child, I was a very clean/neat child and I really loved making sure I looked well put together every day. I remember around the age of 5 when my father would travel for work to the US from Africa, I would ask for dresses instead of toys. I loved hanging out with the adults, so I quickly started to observe the adults in my surroundings for inspiration on how to look good. From there, I would steal looks from my older sisters very often until I got my first job at 16 and started to splurge on all the trends.
Nuni: I was the youngest girl of 6 sisters, and I grew up looking up to my older sisters because they always had the coolest stuff. Going to school was exciting for me because I was the kid who always came to school with the flyest outfits and the latest trends that didn’t even belong to me.
Can you each speak to how you created your blog, ‘The Yusufs’?
Nas: When I moved to Ohio after getting married, I felt disconnected from my close knit family as well as my love for fashion. I no longer felt like I had an excuse to get dressed up in all of the beautiful clothes I collected over my lifetime at that point. I had no friends which meant a non-existent social life. So, as a way to continue to scratch my fashion itch and stay connected to my sister, we started The Yusufs together. As we started to contribute to the blog and gain opportunities, this allowed us to travel and meet often to work together.
Nuni: I realized that there was a lack of representation of black people when it comes to fashion influencers on social media. I found it hard to relate to influencers that didn’t look like me. I realized that there was space for people like us to contribute to such a creative field. Although there is still work to be done, it feels great to be a part of the change, and to be able to experience it with my sister.
Are there any specific items you both gravitate towards that spark joy?
Nas: There are so many but if I had to choose just one, I’d say I love a good tailored trouser. A well made pair of pants just flatters any figure.
Nuni: I love a good structured blazer because it makes me feel put together even during those times when I am all over place and juggling a million things.
How has your environment inspired you both?
Nas: Because we come from a less fortunate background, our environment has inspired us to seek more out of life, to welcome change and to always have a sense of appreciation. It’s a constant reminder that anything is possible.
Nuni: We grew up in Toronto, which is the fashion capital of Canada. Toronto is known for being one of the most culturally diverse cities. Being among so many different cultures has inspired me creatively throughout life.
How has motherhood played a role in each of your style sensibilities?
Nas: Becoming a mom three times over has changed my body so many times. To be honest, it’s taught me how to pivot each time with my growing and shrinking body and explore new ways to look good. It’s made me not limit myself when it comes to looking for sizes, silhouettes and colors. It’s made me so much more open minded when I look for clothes. I can shop from mens, plus size or normal sections and make it work.
Nuni: Before becoming a mom, my style was really feminine and girly. I loved getting glammed up and putting on a pair of sexy heels on my nights out. Now that I have my hands full, I’ve embraced more of a comfortable style. I have become really into sneakers, and found so many ways to style and incorporate sneakers into my personal style.
Any tips for people interested in or just starting their own creative ambitions?
Nas: I would say find your niche. A good niche would have a healthy balance of your knowledge in the subject, your passion and profitability.
Where do you each find inspiration across fashion & lifestyle?
Nas: Aside from social media, I always found inspiration in traveling. I love discovering new environments and just seeing how people in other countries are living and dressing.
Nuni: In my spare time I love watching runway shows and interior design videos on YouTube. It's always so inspiring to see other people’s creativity.
Are either of you working on any upcoming projects that you are really excited about that we can stay tuned for?
Nas: We are currently redecorating our creative content studio space located in Columbus, OH. We’re super excited about this because the pandemic has slowed down our business a little bit. But now that the world is somewhat normal again, we are looking forward to re-opening with a new and fresh look.
Nuni: One of our goals is to create a program that helps aspiring creatives, to teach people how to start their own brand by sharing with them our journey and providing different tools that they need to build their own brand. We have our own creative content studio and we just successfully completed our first semester and are working on putting a second semester together.
What makes you each feel confident?
Nas: I’m confident because I know and accept that I am an individual. With that said, I know that there is no one else like me. I take pride in that and celebrate it by finding ways to look/feel my best and exercise positive thinking practices often. Some of my favorite confidence boosters include working out, self care routines and aesthetic treatments. Taking quality care of myself gives me so much confidence.
Nuni: What makes me feel confident is a great pair of jeans.
If you could each give your younger selves any advice based on everything you know now, what would it be?
Nas: Don’t try to fit in. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to come from a different background. Embrace it because that is what makes you unique.
Nuni: Be more social and say yes to as many opportunities as you can because it allows you to build more confidence that you will need for when the right opportunity comes your way.
Which A.L.C. piece do you each think should be in every woman’s closet?
Nas: I would say the Aurelie skirt that I’m wearing. The fabric feels fantastic on the body. I love the construction of it with the little gathering on the front and sides. It’s just so flattering. And the length is just perfect. The Ridley jacket is a close second.
Nuni: Every woman needs a dress from A.L.C. My favorite is the Nina dress because I love how flattering it is on any body type. I feel really confident in it in my postpartum body and I can see myself wearing it even after I lose the baby weight.
What inspires you both the most about A.L.C. and our mission?
Nas: We love that A.L.C partners with female-led organizations that include charities and artisan collectives and factories. This is so important in female empowerment which we are all about.
Nuni: We love how A.L.C works to create pieces that empower women from all walks of life.
What do you both feel the fashion industry is doing particularly well right now?
Nas: We absolutely love that the fashion industry is increasingly becoming more diverse and has been more open to beauty of all shades and sizes. There is still work to be done, but we’re hopeful the future of fashion will be an even more inclusive one because fashion and style are a universal language.
How has your sisterly bond influenced you both as mothers?
Nas: Our sisterly bond influences us as mothers because it continues to prove to us how important family is. This trickles down to our little ones because they see first hand the value of building and maintaining relationships, appreciating and welcoming the different points of views of each other and how to resolve conflict amongst one another.
Nuni: Family is the most important thing in the world to us. Our sisterly bond has allowed us to learn how to respectfully and successfully work together. We love that our little ones get to grow up seeing how to have a healthy relationship with your siblings both professionally and personally.
What’s been the best part about motherhood for you both?
Nas: For me the best part of motherhood has been witnessing my children’s growth. I’m in awe every day at the strong little individuals they’re becoming and I can’t wait to see them flourish into adulthood.
Nuni: The best part of motherhood for me has been seeing the world through my daughter’s eyes. I love traveling with her and watching her curiosity blossom, and the hilarious way she navigates this world that is new to her.