Mihyar and Nayomi Abaya - Creating culturally specific brands.


When Mark Pilkington became CEO of Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group, he was faced with a dilemma – the Group’s International Fashion Division had been losing money for a long time, and seemed unlikely to ever make money in the face of powerful international competitors like Zara and H&M.

He therefore decided to divest this division, selling or closing its brands. Instead he opted to enter the Arabic fashion market. The logic for this was that this market was very fragmented, with many small brands which were very traditional in their approach. With the power of the Jamjoom Group behind it, he felt that it ought to be able to dominate the sector within five years. He therefore decided to launch an Arabic menswear brand called Mihyar, which sold Saudi National Dress – thobes, shimaghs and ghutras, igals and koufiahs, sandals and all the other clothes worn by Saudi males. This was a completely new area for Mark, and he had to do a lot of research in order to understand what the customer wanted. He decided to create the personality of the ‘Desert Warrior’ – a tribute to the tough Bedouin horsemen of the past. He also created a modern, high end store design, which he put into high end malls, which compared favourably with the old-fashioned street locations of the competitors. He also had to work hard to create the product quality and low cost supply chain that was needed. Once it was correctly launched, the brand grew very rapidly, and it soon dominated the larger malls in Saudi.

Based on the success of Mihyar, Mark decided to launch Nayomi Moda, a Saudi womenswear brand, selling Abayas, head scarves and other items specific to the culture. At that time the demographics of Saudi were changing, and younger women were starting to want more decorative abayas. This gave Nqyomi Moda an opportunity to position itself as a more fashionable brand, offering brighter colours and trims, as well as matching handbags and accessories. The brand was highly successful, and grew rapidly.

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