When Omar Lababidi came to Canada from Syria, he saw a gap in the retail market when it came to attire for Muslim women.
He bought a home in northwest Calgary with the intent to convert its basement into a clothing boutique.
Fancy Label, now two years running, offers a variety of scarves, abayas, coats, and tunics for all Muslim women of all backgrounds.
Lababidi managed and owned three women’s clothing stores in the Syrian city of Homs, with about ten employees on his roster.
Homs has been under siege and the target of constant bombings since 2011.
When the siege began, Lababidi said people inside the city began demonstrating peacefully in the streets.
He went out to demonstrate nearly every day for a year. After several months, he said the government started using weapons against them. The situation was becoming dire.
“We had no electricity, no water, no food. You (couldn’t) leave your house, (couldn’t) go to your job,” he said.
“It was very scary.”
After a year of living under siege, the family decided to flee Syria. Lababidi’s wife had dual citizenship in Canada, which would allow his then two-year-old daughter, Nour, to become a citizen in their new home relatively quickly.
The Lababidi family travelled through Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, Montreal, and finally, Calgary.
“My only thought was that I had to save my family,” Lababidi said.
Since arriving in Canada, the family has expanded to include two healthy and happy boys.
Almost two years since he welcomed his first customer to his home in Calgary, Lababidi is looking for a space to open his first retail store.
“Day by day, the people have started to trust us and come to shop. Now we have a serious intention to get a store within four or five months,” he said.
“It feels wonderful. Canada is a very nice, safe country to establish a business.”