As consumers in their teens, Hani (L) and Nisa Masir (R) noticed that when buying overseas – it was more cost-effective to buy wholesale rather than piece by piece. So when buying their favourite scarves and pashminas, mostly from Malaysia, they would opt to do so in bulk, and re-sold the remaining items online.
Hani was 17 and Nisa, 19, and while the duo likes to refer their first step into business as almost accidental, owning their own boutique and producing their own creations eight years later is anything but.
A year into their advertising and re-selling online, they ventured into the production of their own designs. Nisa’s custom-made jubbah amra, a loose princess-cut dress with built-in pockets made of ironless fabric, drew the attention of her friends and family – who started asking whether she could do the same for them. It snowballed from there.
“Before I knew it friends of friends also started asking for them,” she said.
Both sisters became more passionate about the business and their popularity in small circles began to grow, however their growth had to be put on hold as Nisa and Hani went abroad to the United Kingdom to further their studies, only concentrating on their business during summer holidays when they came back to Brunei.
In 2014, after Nisa graduated with a Masters in Human Resources and Hani a degree in IT, they rebranded and Covered by AnNisa was born.
But the idea of opening a boutique store was overwhelming, especially when it came to financing.
“People were saying you need around $50,000 to open a physical boutique, but we only had $8,000 saved,” said Nisa. The duo moved forward anyway, opting for a small, affordable location in Lambak.
Their followers increased and loyal customers kept coming back for more, recommending their apparel of headscarves, loose and comfortable dresses and clothes to their family and friends, increasing their fan base even more. Hani decided to pursue doing business full-time, becoming Covered by AnNisa’s Creative Director as they formalized their positions, while Nisa, who continues to work full-time, is their Managing Director, overseeing the strategic direction of the company.
While growing, they have chosen to keep their branding and approach personal – with their sizes even based on themselves and other members of the family.
“I am a size S and my sister is a size M,” Hani laughed, adding that their mother and other sister are regulars on the other remaining sizes.
Last year, Covered by AnNisa moved from Lambak to a bigger, more strategic space in Giant Rimba. They’ve grown to employ five; an accountant to keep track of their finances, a marketing assistant to help Hani with her creative work and three sales assistants.
With an eye on exporting, Covered by AnNisa has also found its way into Malaysian multi-label fashion store – Modvier – at their branch in Kuantan, Pahang.
“We still have a lot to learn and are taking it (running the business) as a continuous learning process as we move forward,” said Nisa.
The sisters stand by their bold tagline – Your #WEARCOVERED Expert – that is “exclusively designed, with a purpose, for you who stay true to your faith”.
Although its early beginnings may have been accidental, it’s the bond between these headstrong sisters that has kept Covered by AnNisa alive and well on its way to becoming a leading local brand that embodies modesty, practicality and exclusivity.
Watch: Inside Covered By AnNisa’s headquarters