We’re pleased to announce Saadia Khan as AM Women’s fifth American Muslim Woman of the Month!
When we think of women’s empowerment, we think of strong, confident women who know their worth, and are determined to reach the success they deserve and can achieve no matter what obstacles are in their way. We think of women who use their own strength, confidence, and knowledge to help uplift, support, and empower other women.
Saadia Khan is a strong and successful go-getter who truly represents this as women’s empowerment is at the center of all of her work. Originally from Islamabad, Pakistan, and a mom of two children, she never allowed any obstacle or cultural barrier get in the way of her dreams. And she’s determined to help other women in Pakistan do the same through her fashion brand, Indus Threads.
Indus Threads is an online fashion rental platform that offers unique pieces by high-end South Asian designers. In addition, her newest collection featuring embroidered, South Asian-inspired Western styles will be handmade by underprivileged Pakistani women artisans to empower them with opportunity and more dignified, consistent income.
Her passion for supporting women is at the heart of much of her other work as well. By day, she is a software engineer turned technical program manager for Cisco, an Information Technology Company, as well as the Silicon Valley Chapter lead for Pakistani Women in Computing. She uses her knowledge and experience to mentor and guide younger women in the tech field.
Whether it’s helping them build their resumes, preparing them for interviews, or connecting them with industry leaders who can offer them useful advice and inspiration, she is providing young women with an empowering support system that will give them the confidence, knowledge, and resources they need to achieve their goals.
And now she’s starting a new endeavor to help influencers, brands, and entrepreneurs navigate the complex world of social media through her online platform, The Trendy Tribe. She is promoting unity and teamwork by creating a community that will lead to more collaborations, inspiration, learning, and growth for all those involved.
You may be asking how one woman can do it all, or how she can stay positive and work towards such an uplifting effort amongst the seemingly overwhelming competition that exists nowadays, especially among women.
In our chat, Saadia gives us all of the details about her various inspirational ventures, and offers advice for how you too can reach your goals, and even start your own business with positivity, self-love, courage, and determination. Read on to learn how you can empower yourself and others through her invaluable insight and experiences.
What is the idea and inspiration behind Indus Threads?
Indus Threads is highlighting and promoting South Asian culture and South Asian designers. It is a platform where South Asian designers can showcase and promote their products in the global market. When I started Indus Threads five years back, this effort for rental was also to help consumers enjoy luxurious South Asian designers without paying a hefty amount, especially since these outfits are not worn very frequently.
Being a South Asian myself and living in the U.S. for almost 12 years now, it was a personal struggle that I went through. I would go back home to Pakistan, buy all of these outfits, and wear them once or twice because you have limited social circles over here, so you cannot keep wearing the same thing again and again.
I would wear them a few times, and then get stuck with them. My closet would be full of South Asian outfits I didn’t wear anymore. Back then, there were no South Asian rental companies, and I thought, ‘What if I had an option to rent these outfits?’ And that’s how Indus Threads started.
How did you come up with the name & branding of Indus Threads?
Indus is one of the longest rivers in Asia. It goes through India and Pakistan, and then flows into the Arabian Sea. It is where the whole Indus civilization was. That is where the inspiration came from for the name, and then Threads is because of the unique hand embroideries, threadwork, and the different weaves and textiles, which are specific to South Asia. That is what most of our work is focused on.
How does the rental process work?
We offer four-day or eight-day rentals. [Customers] pick the days, and reserve the outfit, and then we ship them out. We do shipping within the U.S. only, and we do two-day shipping. When we ship out the outfit, we also provide return labels, so it’s free shipping and free returns. But after COVID-19, I am having second thoughts about doing rentals. We never thought about such a thing, but it’s a lot of liability. COVID has given us a totally new perspective, so, I might just do purchase instead of rentals.
What are your long-term goals for Indus Threads? Where do you see it going in the future?
I’m bringing in a new collection which I am very passionate about. I have a team of designers in Pakistan who are going to design outfits for me, but I will be bringing in Western outfits, so we’re blending east and west together. It’s going to be our traditional, ethnic South Asian fabrics, embroidery, and details, but with modern, Western cuts, so it’s something that you could wear every day for work or anything.
So, they will design outfits for me, and then the fabric is going to go to Pakistani women artisans who are going to work on it. Once they work on it, the fabric is going back to the designers to get staged, and then it will be shipped around the world. With COVID-19, things right now are at a total stop, and nobody is working in Pakistan, so once things start to settle down, we will have a better idea about our timeline and how we will move forward with the collection.
“The thing that really drew me was that these women had so much passion in them. They had such an urge to move ahead, to step out of their comfort zones, and do something for themselves and their families.”
What inspired this new collection?
I was in Pakistan last year, and I got an opportunity to visit these very rural areas and meet women artisans who were super underprivileged. That is when I realized that these women need a platform and exposure to the international market because the work they were doing was beautiful, but it was very limited because they did not have an opportunity to take their work somewhere.
The thing that really drew me was that these women had so much passion in them. They had such an urge to move ahead, to step out of their comfort zones, and do something for themselves and their families. So even though they don’t have that much opportunity, their passion and hard work is immense.
Being in the U.S., an advantage I have is that I am directly linked and can talk to these women. Usually in our South Asian countries, because these women are limited to their own areas, there is a third person who connects these women to the customer. Most of the profit goes to that third person, and these women are left with nothing.
So, when I started Indus Threads, my biggest thing was fair wages. I will be providing these women with fair wages because the amount of handwork and effort they put in is priceless. I’m also providing their kids with education so that the women can actually feel empowered that they’re making lives better for their families, and their kids.
That’s amazing. It’s such a great initiative and will be an awesome addition to the company and brand. The story behind each piece, and the fact that they are handmade, makes it all the more meaningful.
Yes, exactly. Before, we were just renting out designer outfits, so that supply chain was not constant enough for me. But this new collection that I’m bringing in will be the supply chain, and everything will be very transparent. I will be able confidently tell my client that this top they’re buying was made by this artisan, so I’m super excited about that.
We are moving towards sustainability and ethical production. My biggest passion of empowering women is being fulfilled by this, too. We plan to hire these women on monthly wages. I personally think that charity is not a solution to their problem.
This is more dignified work and continuous income for them. They feel empowered that they are getting something because they worked for it, and then they feel better about themselves. I am super excited that I will be able to contribute towards that.
“If you provide them with the opportunity and the right guidance, women can do wonders.”
I love how passionate you are about women’s empowerment. It is so inspiring and refreshing to see.
I am a huge advocate because I feel women are so hardworking and passionate. If you provide them with the opportunity and the right guidance, women can do wonders. I’m big on women supporting women. I’ve always supported other entrepreneurs and other women who are in the tech industry.
Just having a woman, or someone you can talk to about your career goals, your path, or your entrepreneurial journey helps a lot, which is actually a huge aspect of this new project I am working on.
I completely agree. We are so much stronger when we put our hands together. We need more women like you to contribute towards that effort and set a better example for young impressionable women. That is so exciting, what is your new project?
I did an event last November for Indus threads where we showcased our brand and clothes. We partnered with all of the smaller businesses and services within the Bay Area, and we brought all of the influencers, brands, creatives, and content creators together, and gave them a platform and opportunity to showcase their services, expertise and skills, and that really kicked off.
For example, there was a fashion brand there called Saffron. It is based out of San Francisco, and we connected them with influencers at the event. Influencers wore their clothes, created content around it, and posted it on their websites, so that created awareness and more visibility for that particular brand. Our sponsor was a coffee brand based out of UK, and he got an opportunity to step into the Bay Area and U.S. markets as well.
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This was the premier event which prompted us to create this global platform where we could connect brands, entrepreneurs, creatives, influencers and the community.. . Big thanks to all who made it possible : @maharajah_coffee @desistandard @thekatrabox @masalamylife @saffronlaneco @ornate_jewels @industhreads @modernindianmedia @djbrownbuoy @jcartsphotography @lahondawinery @shalinitin_srivastava @arjitasethi @amyvaishnav @mauli_vaishnav @natashaidnani @angelaxuvb @ariasrinivasan @karishmapratt @nehaltenany @makeup_by_madihagoheer @kissed_by_kaur @saffatt . we have a lot of fun things lined up stay tuned for updates on the launch of @t3.thetrendytribe , . . 🎶: @bensound . #t3clique #influencermarketinghub #brandvisibility #buildingacommunity
It was basically an opportunity to collaborate with different small businesses, creatives, and influencers. Even now, I still see those relationships that were built through that event. People are still working together and trying to promote and help each other.
So that got me thinking, and kicked off another thing that I’m working on, which is to create an online platform with a network of brands, entrepreneurs, content creators, creatives, and then the community itself.
The purpose of the brands being on the platform would be to create brand awareness and enhance brand visibility. Influencers are there so that they can connect with these brands, create content with them, and enhance their individual portfolios. So, we’re building relationships where these people can come together on one platform and collaborate with, help, and learn from each other.
Do you already have a name for the website?
How will the website be structured?
When you login to the website, there will either be an option of being on the website as a brand, influencer, or a community member. If you sign up as a brand, then you can login and actually initiate or request a collaboration with influencers. For example, if a brand is launching a new product, they may want to use influencer marketing. They are going to have a request collaboration form that they will fill out so they won’t have to go into our database and search for an influencer themselves.
They will list their basic requirements for their collaboration like what location, how many followers, the engagement rate they are looking for, what their budget is, and based on these requirements, we will give them a curated list of influencers who fulfill their criteria and who agree to work with them.
Once a brand submits a request, we show it to all the influencers who meet their criteria. Then, we filter out based on who agrees or denies their request, and we send the list back to the brands to pick the influencer they think resonates the most with their product. So, there will be no going back and forth for them like there is now because we do all of the dirty work for them.
And how about if you’re an influencer? How would you use the platform?
You would sign up as an influencer, and you get a totally different account where you can actually collab with different influencers within the same location or industry, depending on what you want. Then, you also get the visibility for the brands. If you’re on our network, you are going to be one of those that we will shortlist to the brands, so then you can actually monetize your passion.
Influencers will have an inbox where they will get all of their requested collaborations with brands or other influencers, and can share their challenges with and learn from each other. So, our website is like a meeting point for brands, influencers, and the community.
“The love for myself and being proud of who I am really helped me with not being ashamed of promoting or living with a different culture in American society.”
How would a community member use the platform?
A community member could be anyone, maybe an illustrator, makeup artist, DJ, anyone with a particular skill, or any other person who just wants to enjoy and follow an influencer or brand. When they login to their account, they will see all the brands in their neighborhood, or they can go through locations.
They will also have a list of all the brands and influencers on our platform, all of the services in their area, and all of the free products and sales coupons available. We will also have blogs with different materials based on different industries that they will get to enjoy.
We will have a lot of workshops and retreats where we bring industry experts who are going to have small workshops and sessions to help influencers and entrepreneurs with how to create content, monetize their blog, on video making, photography, and all of the things that collectively help an influencer build their career. So it’s also going to be a knowledge transfer platform to help entrepreneurs, but the biggest aspect will be creating networks and relationships.
That is such a great idea, and something I have not seen done before. It will definitely make the collaboration process easier.
Yeah, it was a struggle because I had to manually search, and I was spending so much time looking online and on Instagram. I had to go into different hashtags and accounts, and then check the location, industry, followers, and everything.
But now you will have a platform where you can just go and filter by location or industry, and you’ll find a list of influencers that match that. These filters will make things easily searchable for the user or community member.
“If you love yourself and know your worth, nobody can pull you down.”
I think it will be such a valuable resource, especially for those just starting out, and don’t already have relationships with brands or influencers because it can be a lot to figure out, and navigate on your own. What is the platform’s overarching mission?
Our brand’s purpose is to help smaller brands, businesses and nano-influencers because social media influencer marketing is its own world, and has become totally different, so there’s a lot to learn and share. Like the name says, it’s “the trendy tribe,” so the whole concept is to bring the tribe together and build a community.
When you start off as a brand or with any service or anything, your tribe and community is a very important part of your work. If you have that support, you can do wonders. It’s about efficient value creation where we provide a platform for brand, influencers, and the community to help them do more collaborations, get some support, and help each other grow.
That is so important because there can be a lot of competition between influencers for brand deals, but at the end of the day, there’s enough room and opportunity for everyone if they work together.
Exactly. You cannot put another person down to get your way up. I mean, when you work together, you grow together, and that is much more helpful and so much better than competing, and pulling each other down.
Yes, I think there’s so much power in community, so I love what you’re doing and am excited to be a part of it. But, I am sure it is not always easy–as a Muslim Pakistani woman, how do you navigate life and fashion here in America? How do you break through the cultural barriers and norms?
That is a struggle for any minority living in the U.S. I’ve always loved my culture, and with age that love is getting deeper and deeper. I guess that comes from a lot of self-love and self-confidence. The love for myself and being proud of who I am really helped me with not being ashamed of promoting or living with a different culture in American society.
I feel being in California also helped because it is super diverse and very openly all different cultures, so I’ve never felt unwelcome because of who I am. Even if I did in some situations, self-love really helped me.
They say if you love yourself, you will not have any issues convincing the other person to love you. I’ve always loved talking about my culture with the people around me, and have enjoyed showing them pictures from my past and from my country. I’ve always done that.
“I’m always talking about how it’s not about competition, it’s about community. Let’s build a community of women and help each other”
You talk a lot about positivity and confidence, as that is at the center of a lot of the work you do, and you seem like a very strong, independent, free-spirit. How do you keep that positive, go-getter outlook on life?
I feel that is very important for us as women because sometimes we get pushed down for being from a totally different culture. If you love yourself and know your worth, nobody can pull you down.
You have to have that positive outlook towards everything because that helps you grow as a person, in your career, or in anything you want. You need to know your self-worth and what value you’re adding. This will give you the confidence to do anything that you want to do.
Since you’re a big supporter of women empowerment, how can women be better supporters of other women?
I feel women can be the biggest enemies of women because sometimes there’s this element of jealousy or competition. I’m always talking about how it’s not about competition, it’s about community.
Let’s build a community of women and help each other, even small things like if you like someone’s outfit, compliment her. If your friend is being promoted, or if she’s achieved her career goal, congratulate her. If your friend or someone you know needs help, be a listening ear. If you are in a position in your company where you can help another woman, mentor her, help her with her career goals, and guide her. If your friend is a small business entrepreneur, buy her product and support her, even if it’s just by promoting her business on your website, social media, or amongst your friends.
I personally feel like success stories help a lot. If I listen to someone’s success story, that is a big inspiration for me. Everyone goes through some struggles to get to the point they are now, so sharing those struggles and lessons learned really helps people. All of these things can motivate the other person so much. There’s no point in competing. Everybody can learn from each other, and grow together.
“Never be afraid of failure. No experience in life goes wasted. Every experience teaches you something.”
What advice do you have for other women who would like to start their own business or have an idea for something, but are afraid? How can they turn their dreams into a reality?
Number one, do not be afraid. Fear kills more dreams than anything else. I’ve had self-doubt so many times, and when I think of something, I’m like, Is this going to work? Is it a good enough idea? Is it worth it? We all have self-doubts, but just do your research, and make sure that what you are trying to do makes sense.
If everything else looks good, your fear should not be that one thing that stops you from doing it. Just execute. Worse case, you fail, and that failure teaches you something. When something does not succeed or is not as you expect it, that is also a learning point for you.
Once you fail at something, you come back with greater force. So, sometimes failure can be a stepping stone toward success. Never be afraid of failure. No experience in life goes wasted. Every experience teaches you something.
Check out the beautiful luxurious designs on Indus Thread’s website, and follow Saadia Khan, @saadia237, and Indus Threads, @industhreads, on Instagram for updates about her new collection. Join The Trendy Tribe’s mailing list and sign up for launch updates, events, and retreats on their website, and follow them on all socials @t3.thetrendytribe.
Stay tuned for next month’s AM Woman of the Month! If you would like to recommend someone to be featured, please email us at email@example.com.