Up close and personal with Charmaine Idris, founder of Diva Headwraps
Last week in an interview with Charmaine Idris, we sat down and discussed her fashion business Diva Headwraps.
Charmaine invited me over to her beautiful home in New Farm, which also happens to be one of my favourite suburbs in Brisbane. New Farm gives you the best of both worlds. You get a glimpse of the city life, overlooking the river and tall city buildings. In addition, it is also a calm, peaceful suburb with tree-lined streets and unique spaces for the arts such as the Brisbane Powerhouse.
I spoke to Charmaine about establishing her unique headwrap collections, the business of fashion and building her own fashion brand, ‘Diva Headwraps’. Her story is unique and encourages us all to view the definition of beauty differently. It encourages women of color to embrace the features of their skin and hair that the world still struggles to clap for. It encourages women from all walks of life to feel beautiful in their own skin. It also encourages men to do the same, by breaking down the sexist barriers that define what a man can and cannot do when it comes to fashion.
Nyarai Chapingidza: What inspired Diva Headwraps and how did the idea come to life?
Charmaine Idris: Diva Headwraps was inspired by:
Living in South Africa where I was constantly being reminded of my curly, frizzy hair and that I needed to hide it. Many women did, so culturally wearing a headscarf or what we call in South Africa a ‘doek’, was very much a part of growing up in Cape Town.
Living in Malaysia where I became familiar with the batik method of printing fabric. Batik is worn by men and women as part of their traditional outfits. When I was living in Malaysia, I often toyed with the idea that the batik designs could be varsatile enough to be incorporated in some way into a headwrap.
Living with a disability and using a wheelchair or motorised scooter, I’m always being viewed from a certain level, at the navel area at most. So to take the focus off any preconceived misconceptions about a person in a wheelchair, wearing a headwrap would actually start a different conversation.
I’ve always had my kinky hair in an outrageous hairstyle but then to add a headwrap to what I’m already wearing, I find it empowering to be able to do.
Nyarai Chapingidza: Do you find that it’s easy for people who aren’t necessarily a part of this headwrap culture to relate to your brand?
Charmaine Idris: Yes definitely! I’ve had women from all walks of life and from various diverse backgrounds contact me, here in Australia, the United States and even Europe.
We are constantly bombarded by the media as to what the perfect female body image should look like. So another important aspect of Diva Headwraps is to try and break the myth and misconception of that perfect body image. Diva headwraps prefers the term ‘brand ambassador’ instead of ‘model’. These are women that I have met through friends, socially, through networking, even on the street. I have no problem giving my card to a woman if I have a hunch that she could be my brand ambassador. I’ve never been turned down and since the establishment of Diva Headwraps, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with all kinds of women – shapes, heights, looks and even different religions.
Nyarai Chapingidza: What is your favourite thing about your business?
Charmaine Idris: Diva Headwraps has allowed me to connect with the community more often, to meet a wide variety of interesting women many of whom have in turn empowered me. Australia in particular has a huge, diverse, ethnic community and I wanted to embrace that multiculturalism and bring all the races together through being able to wear a headwrap. It has actually become a reality for me. My market is for every woman, not only woman of colour. It is a joy to get out into the community and to meet so many different women that every time I put up a post, I always mention how much I love my job.
Take for instance yesterday’s event. Diva Headwraps was invited to organise a fashion runway by the QUT African Students Association to celebrate Africa Day and I actually got to style headwraps for five male students, the most males I’ve ever done at any one time. The headwraps were a huge hit with this predominantly younger generation.
Nyarai Chapingidza: Headwrapping males, is that something you have done before?
Charmaine Idris: No I’ve only ever wrapped one male. When I brought in my previous collection, i actually sourced for the designs with the intention of marketing these as unisex. Yesterday was the first opportunity I was given to actually wrap five guys, some of whom approached me to ask if they could do the fashion runway in one of my headwraps. I was quite impressed that I didn’t have to ask, they approached me instead.
Nyarai Chapingidza: One question I would like to know in particular, especially being young and trying to find your way, what would you say has been the most challenging thing for you that you feel could inspire someone else who also has their own business or is starting their own business and how to overcome those challenges?
Charmaine Idris: I would say that self-doubt is one of the challenges when one is starting out a business.
Self-doubt and self-belief and then I have to add self-talk of which I’m a firm believer. When you talk to yourself in a positive way, it actually helps you to see a clearer picture and overcome the obstacles that you’re facing.For example, establishing Diva Headwraps in Australia was a challenge because of the misconceived religious connotations behind wearing something on your head. The challenges that one faces when establishing a business from the ground up can be daunting. But I’ve never forgotten the challenges I’ve had to face while growing up in South Africa and then again in Malaysia. I think these reinforced my vision.
Doing lots of research is very important. Knowing the type of product that you want to market and having a clear idea as to how you want to market that product, the rest is really trial and error.
I would also say that social media plays into it a lot BUT, you shouldn’t be hijacked by it.
Nyarai Chapingidza: What do you mean when you say hijacked, can you elaborate further on that?
Charmaine Idris: When I say hijacked by it I mean that a business owner can automatically fall into the mindset whereby if a post is not liked, the item could not be good enough. That doesn’t work for me, maybe because I never grew up in the social media age. I’ve never had to pay anyone to get likes on my page, it’s all happened naturally and that’s what I welcome, the organic, genuine likes.
I would rather have a few people believe in my product, than many people “liking” my product. It’s too transparent a word to drive me everyday. I prefer to think that social media does not absolutely define my product. That is determined when a writer/blogger like yourself comes to me and says,“can I write about you.” When somebody all the way in the States says, “I love your stuff can I have it.” When I’m invited to participate in a worthwhile event that embraces womanhood and empowers each and every one of us through their vision.
Diva Headwraps wants to be a part of all of that.
To find out more about Diva Headwraps please visit: www.divaheadwraps.com