IT has been almost a month since Red Velvet, the romantic television drama series starring Neelofa and Alif Satar, ended.
The 20-episode Malay drama, an adaptation from a novel of the same name by Acik Lana, aired on Astro Ria and Astro Ria HD from Oct 23-Nov 23. In it, Neelofa played Helena who forms an unlikely friendship with obnoxious baker Izzat (Alif Satar), whom she soon falls in love with while working at his bakery.
Hijab brand Naleofar Hijab has rolled out a collection of instant tudung, shawls and scarves inspired by the role played by Neelofa and the tudungs she wore in the drama.
The collection features six designs — Sweet Helena, Sweet Helena-Swarovski, Fluffy Helena, Milky Helena, Creamy Helena and Silky Helena — with styles and colours inspired by cakes and desserts. The limited edition variants of these designs are embellished with Swarovski’s latest patented cut, Xillion Rose crystals.
Although the drama has ended, the Helena collection is still selling like hot cakes. According to reports, most of the designs have already sold out on Naelofar Hijab’s e-commerce site (some designs were snapped up within minutes of the launch on Oct 26).
The satin square scarf Milky Helena is a cult favourite and the company is reprinting the design to meet the high demand for it.
Coming from a business-oriented family and having a passion for fashion, it’s no suprise that Neelofa, whose real name is Noor Neelofa Mohd Noor, is now a fashion entrepreneur herself.
Naelofar Hijab is a brand under NH Prima International, a company founded by the Kelantanese beauty and her sister Noor Nabila. The move into the hijab business came after Neelofa’s personal transformation and her decision to don the tudung in 2014.
Besides Naelofar Hijab, other muslimah fashion and lifestyle brands under the family-owned business are Naelofar (apparel line), Naelofar Abaya, Naelofar Casual, Naelofar Telekung, Bella Vista (beauty supplement) and Lofalens (contact lenses).
Since its establishment in 2014, Naelofar Hijab has produced more than 80 collections of tudung, most of which are sold out within minutes of their launches.
In line with its tagline, Effortlessly Chic, the brand strives to be different from other homegrown hijab brands by reinventing the image of the hijab to one that is chic, modern, practical and hassle-free for confident women.
“This is not the first time Naelofar Hijab has come out with a drama tie-in product. Last year, we produced the Warda collection which was inspired by the character I played in Surihati Mr Pilot. Due to overwhelming response, we decided to do something similar again and that’s how Helena came about,” says Neelofa.
She says her sister is in charge of product design and production, while she takes care of the marketing side of the business.
The brand’s instant shawls have been a hit from day one. Besides retailing online and at bazaars, more than 100 stockists have been appointed across Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore to cope with increasing demand.
In 2016, the actress and television host said in an interview that the brand registered RM50 million in sales with the international market accounting for 10 per cent of its revenue — a big achievement, particularly for a company which had just set up business for over a year, but not a surprising feat for Neelofa who has millions of die-hard fans and followers who dream of looking like her; they buy whatever she wears or displays on her social media network.
Apart from drama tie-ins and aggressive marketing strategies via social media such as styling tutorials and OOTD (outfit of the day) presentations by the star herself, the company’s move to introduce new and exclusive collections more frequently within a year has also helped boost sales.
Besides Helena, this year alone also saw the launch of the luxury line Lady Lofa and the art-inspired Maya. The brand also unveiled its special collaboration with AirAsia and AirAsiaX in which the airline’s female pilots donned the white Naleofar Hijab tailored to meet their workday needs.
But is it easy to stay at the top of the game when tudung mainly comes in standard designs and their uniqueness is vague? Does having the designs patented as intellectual property rights make a difference in the business?
“Originality matters and it can make a difference. But rather than focusing on getting our designs patented, we chose to focus and invest more in R&D as well as producing and marketing more new designs in new ways. To differentiate our products, we try to make them exclusive by adding accessories or unique embellishments such as the Swarovski crystals,” says the 28-year-old.
FASHIONING THE FUTURE
Last April, Neelofa was listed among the 300 honorees of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2017 list under the Retail & E-commerce category.
The recognition has given her the opportunity to talk to a global audience, both in Manila, the Philippines and in Boston, USA, about fashioning the future through her business and her determination to change the common stereotypes associated with women who don the hijab.
It seems like she is unstoppable in taking Naleofar Hijab to greater heights. Currently, the brand’s products are exported to more than 30 countries and the number is growing.
And while you are reading this, the young entrepreneur and her dedicated team are probably busy making preparations for Naleofar Hijab’s new and bigger flagstore in Kuala Lumpur.
How does Neelofasee Naelofar Hijab in 10 years?
“I’ll be 38 by that time. My dream is to see Naelofar Hijab become a household name internationally, with the brand having its own warehouse in Malaysia and all the major cities in the world. Ultimately, I hope to do more to portray the tudung or hijab as part of a holistic lifestyle and not merely a fashion piece. I also hope I can change the perception that hijab-wearing women are restricted and can’t be themselves.”
NAELOFAR HIJAB WINS HEARTS
AININA Zain, 42, from Dungun, Terengganu bought her first tudung from the earliest Naelofar Hijab collection in 2014. She is now a devoted fan and owns 30 pieces so far.
“I fell in love with the brand’s tudung since I first bought the Babe & Basic collection. Besides the designs, I like them because the fabrics are very cooling; I feel comfortable wearing them even though the grocery store I work at has no air-conditioning. The tudung, like the instant variant, is easy to wear too,” says Ainina.
She buys tudung from Naelofar Hijab several times a year.
“I once bought six colours of the same design. I usually make my purchases online but when I’m in Kuala Lumpur, I drop by the brand’s boutique in Taman Tun Dr Ismail. Apart from tudung, I also buy perfumes and inner scarves from the brand,” she adds.
Student Nur Azmina Najwa Rasmunawir, 15, from Sungai Petani, Kedah, admires Neelofa for her beauty, brains and talent. She also looks up to the actress as her role model.
Nur Azmina is among Neelofa’s 5.3 million followers on Instagram. Like others, she looks to Neelofa’s Instagram site for styling tips and OOTD inspirations.
She says her first tudung from the brand was the Yasmine bawal. “I saved up my pocket money to buy that tudung. I like it because it is beautiful, easy to iron and hassle-free to wear. I still remember when I wore it for the first time. I was on an outing with friends and I was so happy and excited because it was like a must-have item for me!
“I’m saving up to buy more from other collections. Next on my list is definitely a piece from Helena,” she says.
TIPS FOR THE PERFECT TUDUNG
MOST tudung collections from Naelofar Hijab are made of soft and slippery materials such as chiffon or satin which are tricky to wear or style, especially if one is a novice.
But have you wondered how Neelofa’s tudung always looks perfectly “arched” or curved at the tip on top of the forehead? Is it her inner scarf that does the trick, or is it all about placing as many pins as possible?
Well, the secret is spray starch. “To get that flawless tudung look, all you need to do is apply spray starch the area where you want the tudung to curve or shape nicely on top of your forehead. Let it sit for a while before you iron it. You can wear it after that.
“That’s how I do it. That’s how I’m able to maintain that perfect tudung look throughout the day no matter how hectic my schedule,” says Neelofa.