“We provide activewear that is both modest and looks good to shift the focus from body shape to the real goal of fitness — feeling strong from the inside out,” per the company’s posted mission.
That mission also includes producing clothing in ethical factories that use neither child nor forced labour, pay fair wages, employ women and have a good working environment.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, Abtouche says, with many women thrilled to have access to fashionable, high-quality workout clothes that they feel comfortable in.
It’s the type of positive feedback that has kept Abtouche going through difficult times — particularly when the COVID-19 pandemic forced Dignitii’s Toronto factory to close temporarily in 2020, leaving the company without revenue for eight months.
“There have been lots of ups and downs,” she says. “But I push forward because I know it’s helping so many people to get active.”
‘I feel fulfilled’
Other than her experience with a small local business — designing clothes that were sewn by her mother and sold to her friends — Abtouche doesn’t have a background in business.
“I’ve had to educate myself over the last five years, because I wasn't a business major,” she explains. “The first five years of any business are the hardest — you’re learning a lot, you’re making a million mistakes and you’re building the foundation.”
Still, Abtouche says that her university years prepared her to become the leader of a company.
“I loved my experience at Concordia, especially my extracurricular activities. I was part of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), and I met so many people there, including my husband!” she says. “I learned skills like public speaking, critical thinking and leadership through volunteering, organizing events and by being on committees.”
To recent grads who may feel uncertain about what’s next, Abtouche suggests they should stay true to themselves, even if their goals differ from societal expectations.
“I created my own job, one that’s aligned with my values. At first, people were asking me, ‘Why are you starting a clothing brand, why aren’t you doing your master’s?’ But I listened to my inner voice.
“Even though it wasn’t easy — and it’s still not easy — I feel fulfilled.”