First I want to say is that I ask Allah ta3ala for forgiveness in any of my wrongdoings all my faults are my own and I ask Him to protect me in my effort to speak the truth.
As designer and a intended vendor for IMFW I had been planning for this event since last year. I made a payment of about 409 usd (in July 2013) and 231 usd (early bird special in August of 2013) to cover my vending fees and extra ticket to bring my business partner from last year. The policies were that if you were vending at IMFW you needed to pay an extra ticket cost for bringing in a second person. From that time until now I have personally spoke with Shea on the phone, and met her at several fashion related events.
*Every time I called since last year to Muslima Conventions contact number, only Shea answered the phone. It seemed she was the only 1 pulling strings and handling the majority of the work.
*I spoke with her personally in February of this year and she told me about 1500 guests were confirmed everything was going well
*It was known that some of the funds she received were used for personal expenses. This is something she told me herself.
*She told me that all of her previous events were successful, she had been a seasoned vendor for years and she felt confident in the financial opportunity of IMFW
My business partner and I arrived in Delaware on March 19th Thursday evening around 12am. We left her parents home with a car and arrived at Hershey lodge around 4:58 pm. When we walked in we were directed by staff to go to the front desk. When we did we were informed the event was cancelled without further information.
I walked up confused and saw the same kind of confusion on all the sister's faces present. At the time majority of everyone there were the bloggers, host (s), designers/and or vendors (or their husbands). I walked further into the lobby and noticed Shea sitting down on a couch. She appeared very calm and collected and her husband was standing across from her in the same manner. She basically reiterated the following:
1. She had a contract with the hotel
2. The contract was given to her 3 days prior
3. She did not meet the requirements of the contract and the deadline of the contract was set at 5pm that day.
4. She apologized, blamed herself. And said it was the hotel's fault there was nothing she could do.
5. Everything else was covered...the lighting, food..etc, her only issue was covering the space.
6. She claimed "No one wanted to pay" that there were many who "bought" tickets and intended on paying at the door which was one of the reason she had a lack of funds.
Obviously there was shock, annoyance, and frustration. Several people spoke up and spoke with her directly or to the group. At the time she was not saying:
1. Why she didn't tell anyone about this
2. Why she didn't cancel the event beforehand in anticipation of not meeting the contract
3. When and how people would receive compensation or refunds
4. How much she had deposited to the hotel already
5. How much she needed to fulfill the contract
6. Where were the models, and other proof that the event was going to happen.
7. Why would she allow a policy for people to pay at the door for such a large ticket fee knowing she had a contract to fulfill (if that was the truth)
What was noticeable to me was her pointing out a Sales Rep. (her name I can't remember) She was an older Caucasian lady who I have never seen before or heard of. She repeated the same as Shea to the group. A few people directed their attention to her and asked her some of the pressing questions. Shea told her go ahead and leave "I don't want you to get attacked"
I never saw the woman again.
Here are some facts that I observed:
1. Designers were admitting to having paid different fees (charged different amounts). Many who paid on the phone never received invoices. I found out later that someone was told to pay through paypal as a "gift".
2. All of the bloggers and those who were told they would be compensated were told all to immediately vacate their rooms. Some of the bloggers who did have their flights paid for did not get confirmation on their tickets until 2-3 weeks beforehand
3. She did not walk around offering rides to anyone (from what I saw)
4. She was selling tickets until the minute of cancellation.
5. She asked another sister to cover "breakfast" that day and took even more money and has not yet paid that sister back, ignored her pleas to be compensated as well.
6. She at one point said she cancelled the event, and was challenged by a blogger who looked on social media and hadn't seen any evidence. She became belligerent and raised her voice at her.
7. There were no models present
8. No lighting crews
9. No food or catering present
10. No media (pictures, signs, schedules printed..etc) There were photographers but they looked just as confused as everyone else. They all left together after listening to the back and forth.
11. No other people associated with Muslimah Conventions (except the host who was in complete shock) was there which means that nobody else was there to answer questions, or was involved in the business dealings. It all appeared that the only person with any responsibility was Shea and the supposed media rep who spoke for 5 minutes had left. This observation bothered me the most because for an event that was supposed to cover 1000-2000 people, there should have been a team or staff or some sorts. It seems many of her businesses only have 1 staff and employee and that's her. That is my observation.
12. At one point Shea left the building and was followed by some of the designers and hosts who were worried she was going to flee. They stood behind her car and waited for her. She removed her children for the car (who had been inside) and brought them inside before the police arrived.
1. Police were called
2. They respectfully questioned some of us (briefly) and her and hotel staff
3. They told us that she only placed a deposit of 5,000 dollars on the contract when she had previously told as some of the bloggers 50,000 dollars the day before however.
4. The police told us that the contract was cancelled 3 days before when Shea claimed it was cancelled at 5pm the day of.
5. The police informed us because of the way everything had been handled on her end they could not do anything for us individually and we were advised to form a class action lawsuit against her to get the money. The police commented that he had no "sympathy for thieves" and could not make a conclusion of whether we would be compensated.
Just on a personal note I am a small business owner and a single mother. I had invested a significant amount of money last year, and this year in preparation for IMFW such as inventory and travel. This has hurt me and my family on many levels. And I cannot hope to imagine how it must have felt for the designers from Egypt, Singapore, Indonesia and Turkey and those that are still arriving today. Tears were shed. We consoled each other, tried to find facts and overcome in our own way. As a part of the Muslim fashion industry I find it disheartening that so many well known bloggers and business owners knew that she had a background and made no attempt to warn anyone. You know who you are. Some of you are speaking out now when you did nothing to stop it before subhanallah.
I also find it scary that we have uplifted members in our community to celebrity status and they did not use their clout to speak out against it. Some of these girls have claimed they signed a non-disclosure agreement (which I have not seen for myself) and some of them did not, yet they all kept relatively silent and ambiguous on their knowledge. I personally will no longer support your brand or businesses after knowing this. I commend the brothers and sisters who were in that lobby with me for hours who kept their composure relatively well despite the frustrations we all felt. I also wish to personally thank the bloggers, designers, business owners, vendors who have come out and spoken the truth. It is indeed much more difficult to put yourself out there and speak about this matter rather then remaining silent especially the sis behind PHKI for her poise well written article here.
This is a hit to the our community overall, not just the fashion industry. It has revealed our true characters as Muslims. Shea if you are reading this, mother to mother I mean no harm against you. I just beg you to make amends and return our money and to learn from this. I ask the brothers and sisters reading this to please curb your tongues and speak with respect and dignity about her and about this situation. Do not let this drag us down as a community. Let's turn this into an learning opportunity and truly take care of each other like true "brothers and sisters."
Shea N Bates behind InternationalModesty via instagram is now telling everyone who needs refunds to contact her via IMFW@gmail.com
Please note that if you paid with paypal OVER 45 days ago you can not make a legal claim online via the system. (that is if you paid with paypal money and not your bank account...sometimes paypal will pull money out of your bank account for payments). I called paypal earlier to day and they will be writing a formal letter to her to request the funds. Inshallah this will help solve the issue but she does have free choice not to do so. As a early mover in this event I hope she will honor her words in paying everyone in order of when they paid her. But I do advise everyone to call paypal and your bank to let them know of the situation at least.
From now (it is 3:24 EST) she has not put any information on the website saying the event is cancelled which means she could still be receiving money. Paypal may cancel her account.
Less important update as well:
First to all of those coming out of the woodworks to admit that they thought the situation was shady or saw evidence of some sorts
Here is the first and last comment I made on my Facebook page intended for you.
Whether you had a non-disclosure agreement or not. Whether said agreement actually legally bound you from speaking about not attending or saying anything or not. Maybe you saw a mug shot, maybe you heard, maybe you went to an event in the past and saw it with your own eyes. Maybe you expressed your sentiments to your friends (while being or NOT being bound to an agreement) and not to your fans/and or clients who trust you and probably lost money themselves...at the end of the... day that is on your conscious. I am not going to debate you on my business twitter feed (I don't even own a phone lol) But what I will say is that I disagree and those excuses (fears or unfound fears of repercussion) do not matter to me. From sister to sister I can't roll with it. If your fans continue to support and praise you so be it but you lost one in me and I am sure you (all) could care less. Subhanallah I just pray Allah swt helps me be one that speaks the truth even if it hurts. I pray that any all situations past and present people will consider me one of truth and that claim on my character is true. And I pray He surrounds me with those that speak the truth or recognize that when have fault in not doing so. And I pray if I ever fall into a situation in which I fail a test, I learn from it. Keep doing what you are doing sisters we shall agree to disagree. Peace and Love.