Asil Attar is a famous iraki businesswoman with a 30 years career in the Fashion industry. Today, she tries to inspire and empower people to follow their dream with Turban thinker, a podcast where she invites creatives and industry shapers to share their experience.
Born in Iraq, Asil Attar grew up in the UK and studied in the US. An international background which paved the way of her worldwide career, where she has led International companies of the fashion industry for more than 25 years. Although she studied interior design at university, she soon turned herself towards fashion as an accessories buyer for Harrods, the most luxurious brand and multi brand. There, she worked very hard and her efforts paid off, making her one of the top 100 most powerful Arab women in 2012 by Arabian Business magazine as well as one of the most powerful Arab women in the world according to Forbes Middle East. Today, she is a famous motivational speaker who tries to empower people in their entrepreneurial endeavors. Zoom on her journey from the shop floor to the top.
In 2009, you became CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Fashion, one of the biggest retail group in the Middle East. What were the main challenges you faced? And what did you learn during the process?
The greatest challenge for any CEO is that it is your absolute and total responsibility not just for the profits of the business but for every single decision that you make and the impact it has on its human capital. It is an incredibly stressful position that very few people realize. This role provided me with huge learnings, how you manage resistance to change, how you lead and guide hundreds of people towards a single vision, how you motivate and inspire others. People have always been my number one focus and by default profits increase exponentially, that is something that has been a consistent factor in my style. I hope that this current pandemic has made businesses and groups think long and hard about their leadership style and how to navigate these changes, because it’s not just about profits, it’s about people and guess what, profits come pouring in. To build and sustain a successful business your employees and customers need to resonate with a company that is led through the integrity of its message.
In the past decade, you’ve been the first female CEO for three of the Middle East’s leading groups, most recently as the CEO for Damas Jewellery, their first female CEO in over 100 years. What do you feel is the most difficult as a woman leader?
Female leadership is a shocking minority especially in CEO roles globally, single digit numbers. The Middle East, especially Dubai, places a great deal of emphasis on female leadership and is the example for many to follow. There are so many challenges that come with being a female executive in a male dominated executive world and even more so with Woman on boards. However, I have never allowed that to hinder my progress or interfere. I have invested a tremendous amount of hard work and gained experience, talent and confidence which has earnt me the reputation it has and I always encourage women to follow their dreams and never feel that they are held back because they are women or feel that they cannot achieve. I hope that Covid has made companies wake up and recognize that they must hire female leaders, we approach things very differently, with empathy, multi-tasking and emotionally engaging, the key ingredients that you need to succeed in this post pandemic environment.
You have recently launched two things, your Masterclass and The Turban Thinker podcasts, tell us about each one.
The Turban Thinker www.turban-thinker.com is a digital & social media-based talk show and socially integrated platform centred around the last two and a half decades of my journey in fashion, retail, art, travel and lifestyle. 28 years have allowed me to meet some of the most inspiring creatives, artists, designers, industry shapers and businessmen and women. The main objective of the show is to “Inspirate, motivate and empower” others to follow their ambitions and dreams, being the best version of themselves. I also launched my masterclass www.asilattar.com as I now actually have the time, which is a series of 10 masterclasses each one with around 10 subheadings, sharing my 28 year career in the business of fashion. It’s entitled ‘Shop Floor to CEO’, where I will be sharing around 100 videos and 100 subjects within, fashion, business, empowerment, strategy, brand, turnround etc.
The turban thinker refers also to the one that you wear. In which ways your spirituality affects your vision of entrepreneurship and management?
That’s beautifully put and absolutely correct, my faith guides my every decision and the way in which I live, I wanted to showcase to the world that it is #cooltobecovered, that I am an empowered Muslim a successful female entrepreneur and business leader and am very proud to be the example for others to follow.