When Fawwaz Ibrahim moved to Canada from his native Nigeria at 15 years old, it was a bit of a culture shock, which included racism and stereotypes he had never faced back home.
“Leaving my family and friends behind to start a new life has been the most challenging thing I've faced,” he recalls. “I experienced a ton of cultural shock and was exposed to numerous stereotypes as an African/black man and Nigerian, to be exact.”
One of the things that helped him adjust to his new life in Canada was getting in good physical shape. Moving to Canada afforded him an active lifestyle he couldn’t have imagined back home.
“I used to be that scrawny kid, but one day I went to the gym and decided to embrace my underdog mentality and made a commitment to go to the gym every day,” says Ibrahim. “Coming from my background, I never really had the opportunity to be as physically active as I did when I moved here.”
After a few years of committing to his physical health and taking his life into his own hands, Ibrahim transformed himself into a new man. This would serve him again in April 2020, in early days of the pandemic.
At that time, after graduating from the University of Ottawa with a degree in civil engineering, specializing in structural and geotechnical design and analysis, Ibrahim found himself in a dark place, unable to do the very thing that helped him to adjust to life in Canada ― work out. With gyms closed due to the pandemic and his job search yielding few results, Ibrahim once again took life into his own hands, blending his love of fitness with his education in design to launch his own athleticwear company, Flawless Athlete.
The company started as a passion project, but Ibrahim was prepared to go all in on his new venture.
“The brand started as a social media page before we officially launched our online store,” says Ibrahim. “I needed to start somewhere — I did a ton of research, made a bunch of mistakes and spent a lot of my savings, but at the end of the day the work needed to be done one way or another.”
When looking for a logo for his new venture, he drew inspiration from Canada while also looking back home.
“Each part of the Flawless Athlete branding was designed to convey a message, from the red colour representing Canada as a symbol of hope and prosperity, to the African rhino showing stamina, strength and resilience,” he explains.
The company’s motto, Beyond Your Limits, captures the effort, discipline and dedication required to perfect a craft. Founded with the goal of helping people achieve their ultimate potential in sports and fitness, Flawless Athlete now offers various items, ranging from activewear shorts for women to muscle shirts for men.
As an athlete himself, Ibrahim knows exactly what athletes need when it comes to the clothes they wear while working out and is hands-on in the design process of every product. Behind every design is a belief that everyone has the potential, as long as they put in the work to improve themselves every day.
In just a few years, Ibrahim has already racked up some big wins, including his first runway show and seeing his apparel being sold at Anytime Fitness on George Street, all with the goal of getting Flawless Athlete clothing into more local gyms in Ottawa and Lagos, Nigeria this year.
Although Ottawa is far from a hotbed for athletic-wear, Ibrahim’s ultimate goal is to be one of Canada’s premier sports brands, as well as becoming a community for professional and casual athletes and also for immigrants like himself that need help adjusting to life in Canada. He hopes to one day source all of his materials in Canada in order to create jobs and help grow the economy.
“My goal is to build a brand that caters to national and local teams in major sports events. The brand name should be synonymous with athleticism, performance and quality. To get to that stage, I have been working diligently with designers, manufacturers, athletes and local gyms in Canada and Lagos, Nigeria to increase awareness and revenue. I believe my efforts will pay off eventually and, even if it doesn't, then the knowledge and connections I've acquired over the years will serve me in other ways,” he explains.
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