in her shoes

The Model Who Became a Hot-Sauce Entrepreneur

Hawa Hassan wears Rachel Comey clogs. Photo: Victoria Stevens. Produced by Biel Parklee.

In Her Shoes is a column about what real women wear when they need to get things done.

Hawa Hassan isn’t your typical model multi-hyphenate. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, during the country’s brutal civil war, she escaped to Kenya along with her mother and four siblings. They lived in a refugee camp for a year before moving to an apartment. When Hassan was 7, her mom sent her to live with a family friend in Seattle, where she was eventually discovered as a model.

After working in the industry for 14 years, Hassan decided to move on. Inspired by her mom, she created Basbaas sauce, a spicy relish that features flavors common in Somali cuisine and takes its name from the Somali word for chili. The Cut caught up with the hot-sauce entrepreneur at her home office, where she talked about her love of bodysuits, athleisure, and wearing head-to-toe black.

On why she’s usually in sneakers:
I wake up at 6:30 a.m. every day and spend the first hour doing things for myself. Cardio makes for a great start — it tones the body and clears the mind for the challenges to come — so I try to squeeze in a quick class or a Brooklyn Bridge run. I’ll wear Nikes but I also love Chuck Taylor All Stars for running to the green market or demoing my sauce. They are comfortable, stylish, and easy to move around in.

On her day-to-night uniform:
If I have to go anywhere after hours, I’ll keep the same look. I live in skinny black pants, a black V-neck sweater, and black Acne booties — it works!

On what she wears to big meetings:
I love tucking black bodysuits into colorful skirts. Sometimes I’ll add booties with a heel. I’m tall but I don’t mind being even taller — it makes me feel more confident. I’m also a big fan of Rachel Comey’s shoes like these green clogs. They’re so easy and cool.

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On her typical Monday outfit:
I work from my home office so I get to wear athleisure until late in the afternoon. That means you’ll find me in black shapewear tights, gray V-neck shirts, and Nikes.

On emphasizing comfort:
I understand the need to be put together, but most of my days are spent running around to meetings with potential clients, farmers, store managers — it’s the life of an entrepreneur. If I’m not comfortable, then nothing gets done. You can be kind, graceful, and worldly without being in pain.

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The Model Who Became a Hot-Sauce Entrepreneur