Sarah-Jane Deeb, founder of The Hems, an online clothing store.
Picture: Adam Fine Photography
Sarah-Jane Deeb, founder of The Hems, an online clothing store. Picture: Adam Fine Photography

#YouthDay: How this Girl Boss created an online clothing store

By Sacha van Niekerk Time of article published Jun 16, 2019

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In celebration of Youth Day, IOL profiled young, successful entrepreneurs in South Africa who are making a name for themselves in their relative industries.

From design, right down to fabric and fit, The Hems exudes taste and individuality as a personally curated womenswear collection sourced from boutique labels abroad and sold exclusively online.

Full name: Sarah-Jane Deeb

Age: 23

From: Johannesburg

Professional title: Entrepreneur

Name of business: The Hems

Her story

Deeb left home with a humble suitcase on a solo mission. She was headed to the city of Saigon, Vietnam, for what she thought would be a year abroad teaching English after completing a Business Science degree at UCT. “Saigon oozed with energy even thicker than it’s humidity. The sheer amount of ‘unknowns’ excited me - alone in a completely new city with a lifestyle unbeknown to me. I was braver than I had ever been. All on my own, I explored,” she said. However, her little suitcase would get her so far… if she was going to make it, she would need a wardrobe.

After settling in and starting a wonderful job, she explored a new world of fashion. “Over the next 6 months, I built an entirely new wardrobe. I researched exactly where the cool-kids were shopping, had store attendants reveal their competitors and shamelessly stopped girls on the streets.My new wardrobe was classic, minimal and rotatable – a day never went by where I had 'nothing to wear'. I had finally found my personal style and all at a quality that was unmatched for its price. I was liberated."

Chuffed with her success, she thought, “This has to be shared. If not now, then when?” and spent the next three months curating the launch collection from her favourite brands. “The first collection is entirely Saigon-sourced. Although those that follow may be sourced from far and wide, they will always be hand-sourced so that each garment may tell a story. That’s the one thing I am most proud of: I have felt all our cotton, linens and silks; I’ve tried all fits and felt how they hang – it’s personal shopping that makes it different. People are loving it for exactly that.”

Advice for young entrepreneurs

Just do it: “Don't sleep on your idea. Spend the next month bringing it to life - if it doesn't start forming by then, put it in a journal and move on. You really can have everything if you set your mind to it - and yes - that includes a job or degree at the same time! But just remember, it's 24/7 - if anything, it's good commitment training that's for sure,” she said.

‘hèm’ is Vietnamese for ‘little road or alley’.

‘the hems’ are the roads I travelled to bring stories to your wardrobe.

Explore more of Deeb’s story at or on Instagram @shopthehems.

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