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Women in Charge: Meet Tasneem Ismail Founder of Something Pretty

From Passion to Enterprise, Tasneem Ismail's Journey with Something Pretty. Tasneem Ismail's love for fashion began with her admiration for the stylish women in her life. This passion eventually led her to establish "Something Pretty."

Leaving behind her corporate retail job, Tasneem took a leap of faith to pursue her dreams in the fashion industry. She combined her fashion sense and business expertise to create a venture that brings international fashion to the local market, making high-quality styles accessible to everyone.

After a career as a buyer for a leading South African retailer, Tasneem Ismail combined her passion for fashion and corporate expertise to carve out her niche in the market. She traveled overseas to personally curate a collection of ladieswear, showcasing it at exclusive events across South Africa. Now, with three stores, a growing online presence, and an upcoming expansion in Dubai, her vision continues to thrive.

Something Pretty houses a beautiful collection of ladieswear that is imported international. Something Pretty has grown from its initial pop-up events, to the boutique that it is now. Since opening their stores at The Constantia Village in 2018, Willowbridge Centre in 2020 and Piazza St Johns in Seapoint in 2021, Something Pretty has become a local institution with a loyal and consistent following.

Image Supplied: Something Pretty Boutique

GLAMOUR: What's your earliest memory of fashion that later developed into your passion?

Tasneem Ismail: I remember clearly as a young girl, that I loved the idea of being stylish, and quickly learned how fashion contributed to this. I was aware that I had an eye for beauty at a fairly young age,and remember distinctly admiring my mother and her friends’ sense of style, and making mental notes to myself of the kind of lady I wanted to be like/dress like one day.

As a young adult, my love of clothing and shopping was cemented. Post university, not sure of the next step, I distinctly remember my best friend telling me “ that if only I could shop for a living, what a perfect job that would be for me!” The advent of my buying career stemmed shortly thereafter. She often reminds me of this, and I catch myself feeling so deeply grateful that I stumbled upon a career that I love and am able to do every day.

GLAMOUR: How did your passion for the fashion industry come to fruition?

Tasneem Ismail: Having studied a business degree at university, with no intention to pursue a career in fashion at the time, it was a stroke of good fortune that I managed to succeed in attaining a job as a Fashion Buyer at a national retailer. It was here that my love of fashion was nurtured, mentored and guided into a quantifiable skill.

GLAMOUR: What inspired you to create/start Something Pretty?

Tasneem Ismail: After resigning from corporate retail, the explosion of pop-up culture hit the Northern hemisphere. Whilst biding my time between jobs, I decided to host intimate pop-up events at boutique hotels in and around SA. There was a definite gap in the South African market for an experiential, curated shopping experience/event, as well as for a different fashion offering. Something niche, something European, something special, SOMETHING PRETTY!

In February 2015, we held our first pop-up at a quaint hotel in Cape Town. At that stage, the plan was for it to be an interim job. There was no long-term plan per se. Fast track nearly ten years and we have three stand-alone boutiques, an online store as well as a Head Office. Every step of our growth, has unfolded organically and gently.

GLAMOUR: How is the SA fashion industry different from the international market?

Tasneem Ismail: The South African fashion market tends to be a conservative step behind the international, particularly European market. We tend to play it a lot safer in SA, and we take a touch longer to embrace certain trends.

Having said that, our local fashion industry is incredible, and they are doing the most innovative things, with SO many local brands and designers that I am in complete awe of.

GLAMOUR: What motivated/inspired you to use international fashion pieces specifically for the SA market?

Tasneem Ismail: A personal love for European fashion, a desire to tap in top a niche market, coupled with a love of travel. A gap in the South African market for exclusive, imported ladieswear at a reasonable price point further fuelled this notion.

GLAMOUR: As a female entrepreneur, what have been a few challenges that you've faced?

Tasneem Ismail: Being a female entrepreneur of colour in what is still predominantly a man’s world, certainly has its challenges. There are so many layers to this, especially in a South African environment, but the overriding narrative is that by and large, female entrepreneurs do not get taken as seriously as male ones do, and when they do, they often have some sort of male force adjacent to them as a silent presence.

GLAMOUR: Shifting to an online audience, and providing those services, how has that impacted your business?

Tasneem Ismail: We transitioned to acquiring an online presence at the onset of COVID. This was out of necessity, but in turn has made us more global and relevant. We offer worldwide shipping which is wonderful as it expands our business to regions where we don’t have physical stores. It has definitely been a positive step, and we are very excited as to how this side of our business is growing by being able to serve our Something Pretty community worldwide, 24/7.

GLAMOUR: What do you enjoy most about being in fashion?

Tasneem Ismail: I am so grateful to be able to do what I truly love, and I truly love the fashion industry. I love it all; the manic pace, the detail, the trend forecasting, the range selection, the interaction with customers, working with my most incredible and talented team, the fluidity and ever-changing environment, the ability to travel to the fashion capitals of the world, the people, the constant learning, the failures, the stress, the drama, the tears.... I truly and deeply love it all, and being able to come to work and do this every day, is the biggest privilege.

GLAMOUR: What advice would you give to women who would like to become an entrepreneur/start a business in the fashion industry?

Tasneem Ismail: The best piece of advice I can give to women looking to follow an entrepreneurial path in fashion is that resilience and a thick skin will hold you in good standing. The envisioned and assumed glamour are the rarities, and the undeniable hard work and uncertainty are the guaranteed.

I strongly suggest that one gain some sort of work experience first. Learn as much as you can, from those that already know what they are doing. A solid work ethos and understanding of finance and business management goes a long way. To be purely creative is not enough.

Lastly, be resolute in your self-belief. This can be challenging at times, but it has always served me to drown out the noise, and rely on the intuition that one knows to be true. Be guided by that.

To be a successful entrepreneur is not a one man show. Believe in the team you have selected. Lean on them. Trust in them. In collaborative team work, is where the magic truly lies.

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