Fatima Batook is one of the pioneers of female fitness in Saudi. Not only does she have a number of fitness certificates under her belt, she is also the brains behind Saudi Arabia’s first activewear brand—Tima—encouraging women to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The certified fitness instructor also has her own female-only studio, Studio55, in Al Khobar. Here, she talks to The Fitness Guru, Dannielle Blaker, about launching Tima and designing for Saudi women.
DANNIELLE BLAKER: What does Tima stand for?
FATIMA BATOOK: Tima is actually my childhood nickname. It’s the last part of my first name. My mother had difficulty pronouncing my name, so she shortened it to Tima.
Are both your parents Saudi?
My father is Saudi and my mother is Singaporean. I was born in Singapore and moved back to Al Khobar when I was five years old.
Where did the idea for Tima come from?
When I first started the brand in 2012, it was more of a mission to encourage fitness among Saudi women. I thought it would be a cool idea to have a Saudi sport brand made by a Saudi female. I wanted people to be intrigued, and to hear my story and be inspired.
How did you start your design process?
I traveled around China, Vietnam, and the US looking for production factories and fabric, but I didn’t find anything unique until I went to Brazil. I felt that the body shape of Brazilian women was similar to that of females in the Middle East who are generally curvier. When I tried on the fabric, it was like a second skin and I knew right away that I wanted to bring this to Saudi for Tima.
So Tima is produced in Brazil?
Yes, I work with two factories run by women who employ females in need. These are divorced or widowed women who know how to sew and have become seamstresses. It’s important for me to do business with suppliers that support women.
Do you design your collections with Saudi women in mind?
Yes. When we started working with the designers, I told them what I wanted from a practical point and when they sent samples to Saudi, I asked the ladies that I train (of different shapes and sizes) to try them on and provide feedback until we got it right.
The women around me inspire the collection; I’ve even named leggings after people. For example, my friend Rasha is a revolutionary person so I named a legging after her—Rasha Revolution. The women that come to Studio55 constantly give me ideas; one girl suggested using florescent colors, which led me to launch a line called Glow. The fabric glows in the dark when we’re in the cycling studio. I also take inspiration from nature, as well as reach out to our brand ambassadors—Jennifer Chalouhi, the founder of Jump Fit Dubai, is one of them—for feedback.
Jennifer Chalouhi, one of Tima’s brand ambassadors
Are you designing your collection for it to be modest or conservative?
Not conservatively, we just take into consideration what the majority of our clients ask for. For example, our bottoms have higher waistlines and more coverage around the hips. I don’t create built-in hijabs with my tops as my clients train in an all-female studio and don’t have to cover up.
What’s the most sought-after piece in your current collection?
People love the comic leggings.
What are some of the popular fitness trends in Saudi right now?
People love Zumba, Bokwa, and Jagua dance classes. CrossFit, Spinning, and Pilates are also trending.
Mat or reformer Pilates?
Mat and chair Pilates. The reformer isn’t as popular right now, but it’ll catch on soon, I’m sure.
What fitness training qualifications do you have? I have my ACE (American Council Exercise) Personal Trainer qualification and I’m a CanFitPro (Canadian Fitness Professionals) certified Fitness Instructor Specialist. I’m also a qualified Spinning instructor and Piloxing trainer.
Where can ladies find Tima in Saudi?
SportsOne and KORE studio in Riyadh and SportsOne in Amwaj Mall in Dhahran sell Tima. You can also shop online.