Meet Lubna Najjar, Fashion Designer and Brand Manager Extraordinaire
The IL Moda founder runs her own well-known labels while helping other aspiring designers build theirs.
Lubna Najjar serves as a leader for the Columbus Fashion Council, the Council of Fashion Designers of America Connects leadership committee and the Central Ohio Better Business Bureau. In addition, she recently co-authored The Power of Branding in Fashion: 2000 and Beyond, a textbook used in classes at OSU. But these are just her side gigs. Najjar’s primary focus is IL Moda Brand Development, which she founded in 2012.
IL Moda offers a slew of options to take budding brands from concept to market. Najjar refers to IL Moda as “full service,” meaning it can help with everything from big-picture ideation to the nitty-gritty of supply chain management, hiring designers and running e-commerce storefronts.
The branding chops that have led Najjar to hold so many leadership positions stem from her own efforts in the fashion industry. She founded Lubna Designs as a passion project in 2011, making clothes for her step-daughters and friends while she worked on her MBA at Franklin University. Soon, her designs were on runways in New York and she was receiving retail orders. She sold a spinoff label, LD Sport, in 2016.
Now, she wants to share what she learned with a new generation of up-and-comers. “Consulting is expensive for businesses, but the brands that are new to market are the ones that need it the most,” she says. And she has gotten them international attention, with features in Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, British Vogue, Good Morning America and more.
Some of IL Moda’s current and former Ohio-based clients include Encinas Designs; P’tula activewear; Tru Kolors, founded by Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce; and a line of denim created by former OSU basketball player Jimmy Sotos, which was set to release in May.
Another notable client is HER Denim, which Najjar started herself in 2021—as if she wasn’t busy enough. HER Denim produces organic cotton jeans meant to last a lifetime, with some of the company’s proceeds going toward women’s causes. Five percent of profits are donated to organizations dedicated to closing the wage gap for women and minorities.
As a self-made Palestinian-American woman, Najjar is familiar with this struggle. “It’s very much a passion for me because, being a female minority in this country, I had to create versus navigate,” she says. “When you try to just jump into the industry, as it is defined, it is hard to navigate as it is.”
How do you juggle so many positions and projects simultaneously? I consider myself a pretty high-functioning individual and I thrive on productivity! A lot of my different projects going on have so much synergy and relation that it’s easy to juggle them, but it keeps my right brain balanced with my left brain!
What makes you want to dedicate so much of your time to bolstering up-and-coming brands and creators? I dedicate so much time to bolstering other brands because I’ve truly made a career out of it. Within my agency, IL Moda Brands, our consultancy is based on helping brands go concept to market. We take pride in seeing innovators and creatives become brands and businesses.
Why is so much of your work Columbus-centric? Many of our agency clients are across the country, but due to family and the opportunity city that Columbus is, our business has really thrived here. We have big-city vibes with small-city opportunity and I’m so thankful for that!
Which of your projects and roles are you most proud of? I am most proud of my personal brands I have built over time. I am so excited to be able to take my successes and formulate that into master tools within [the] agency to help other brands grow.
This story is from the June 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.