modest swimwear

Zainab J Ahmed and her stylish modest swimwear

Zainab J Ahmed and her stylish modest swimwear range

We talk to the founder of Pretty Sassy Lady about her ambitions, tough beginnings and filling the gap in the market…

Pretty Sassy Lady is a newly launched, sustainable swimwear brand that aims to prove that modest swimwear doesn’t have to be boring; with bold designs and colours inspired by the high street, surf style and pop culture.

Swimwear Co-ord Sets including rash vests and ‘swim & gym’ leggings are a fresh take on the burkini and come in 3 block print colourways – aqua, navy and black. The range has a contour fit design to help flatter the physique and avoid drag resistance whilst swimming and is created using sustainable fabrics. In addition, the co-ord sets also offer UV protection (UPF 50+), are resistant to sun cream, oils and chlorine, and are soft, flexible and quick drying. And the inclusive range has been created with everyone in mind, regardless of religion or cultural background – making them perfect for holidays, as well as year-round wild swimming. 

How did the idea come about?

My lightbulb moment happened when I was on holiday with my family a few years back. As I’ve grown older and moved closer to my faith, I prefer to cover up at the beach. I was wearing a kaftan over my swimming costume both in and out of the pool. I was swimming whilst wearing it, and it felt like a death trap! I was getting wrapped up in all the fabric that was floating around me. I thought there must be a better way to do this.

Existing modest swimwear/ burkini styles weren’t design-led or stylish which is why I didn’t own one, so I decided to create my own range of modest swimwear which was fashionable and fun to help other ladies like myself feel confident (and safe) in the water.

My swim brand also had to be sustainable, otherwise, I wasn’t going to do it. With global warming and climate disasters happening right now, I wanted to start as I meant to go on. So, my swimwear is made from sustainable fabrics containing ECONYL® yarn which can be recycled infinitely, it’s UK-manufactured under safe, socially responsible working conditions, I refuse to use any plastic during the manufacturing process, and everything is delivered to customers in recycled packaging.

What challenges did you face when launching a new business and how have you overcome them?

The challenges were endless. For me it was new product development and design, finding the right UK-based ethical manufacturing partner, and unforeseen circumstances such as Covid.

I spent two years going through various designs of my swimwear, I whittled them down and was ready for production. Just as I was about to give the production the go-ahead, on reflection, I wasn’t entirely convinced the design fits in with my brand values and ethos. At the very last minute, I scrapped the design and started again. I’m so glad I did. I absolutely love the new design and colours. Customer feedback I’ve received has been incredible too so was well worth the last-minute amends.

My challenges began well before my product was ready to market and there were times when I was going to give up. But with resilience, a lot of patience and support from my family to keep me going, I managed to get my swim brand live, albeit a little later than my original launch date.

What was the gap you identified in the market?

People assume modest means boring but I want to prove that it doesn’t have to be. You can be modest and still look and feel great. I struggled to find on-trend modest swimwear when I was looking, so this was the first gap I noticed.

The second was that the modest swimwear available wasn’t very inclusive. Whilst my swimwear is inspired by the burkini, I didn’t want it to look like a traditional burkini – it needed to be fun, fresh and fashionable, whilst still serving the same purpose. My Pretty Sassy Lady swim brand is for everyone regardless of culture or religious background. Someone may want to cover up due to sun-sensitive skin, may want to stay warmer in cool waters whilst outdoor swimming, or simply want to cover up for religious purposes, all are welcome.

I also love the fact that my 2-piece ‘swim co-ord sets’ have more uses than just swimwear. The swim leggings double up as gym leggings and the rash vest can be worn on its own under a wetsuit. Wear the full swimsuit as one piece or wear them separately.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself

I’m also an award-winning cookbook author published by Ebury Press - a division of Penguin Random House. I wrote two cookbooks dedicated to my daughter and her weaning journey, Easy Indian Super Meals and The Flavour-led Weaning Cookbook. Since then, I’ve won four awards for my books and am truly grateful to have been featured in broadcast and national press.

According to Amazon, my cookbook – The Flavour-led Weaning Cookbook, is frequently purchased alongside Joe Wicks Wean in 15!