Jamil and Alia Juma are poised to expand their fashion and lifestyle brand, but breaking into the Chinese market comes with unique challenges.
BEIJING—It’s the first day of Juma Studio’s pop-up presentation at the Four Seasons hotel in Beijing and nothing is ready.
Canadian designers and siblings Alia and Jamil Juma are the faces behind this multi-brand shop launching across China this year. Jamil, on the phone and looking tired and slightly irritated by the showroom’s skeletal display, is trying to track down the rest of the merchandise.
“What time will the delivery arrive?” he inquires while travelling businessmen and fashionable tai-tais — colloquially known as ladies who lunch — drift into the upscale hotel, located in the heart of Beijing’s diplomatic community.
He’s assured more items will land later in the afternoon and nods an “OK” before hanging up.
“Well, you know how it is,” Jamil says matter-of-factly, referring to how common unpredictability can be in China. “But it all works out in the end.”
Jamil speaks from experience: Although raised and educated in Canada, he and his sister have called China home since 2013. Jamil, 38, is based in Shanghai, China’s fashion capital; Alia, 35, is based in the northeastern port city of Dalian, where the duo has a studio and small factory. They’ve been travelling back and forth to the Middle Kingdom for production since 2007, but decided to stay after a Chinese business partner told them of the factory space in Dalian.
[…] They have more than 100 points of sale globally — including Zane on Queen St. W., and at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum.