Popularly known as Edmonton’s Muslim Fashionista, Wedad Amiri is constantly challenging stereotypes about Muslim women through her modest-fashion designs. My Salaam contacted her just as she returned from Maarkah: New York Modest Fashion Show, where her designs had been featured.
The Canadian designer was absolutely thrilled about the event. “The experience was amazing and I learned so many new things. The main reason I did the fashion show is because of the exposure it would get.”
And it’s not just her own brand that she’s excited about: “[A]nother notable modest-fashion brand at the event was hijabi Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad’s Louella line.”
Back in 2014, frustrated at the lack of options available for Muslim women who prefer to dress modestly, Wedad founded Afflatus Hijab, an online shopping store, which now largely sells casual and evening wear.
She had to start the business from scratch, learn how to create a website, and effectively use social media for branding. She worked full-time for nearly seven years, funding Afflatus Hijab through her savings until it became self-sustainable. She finally quit her time job last October.
What sets Afflatus Hijab apart is that the brand makes an extra effort to promote women empowerment and marginalised voices. Wedad majored in sociology at the University of Alberta and named her first set of designs after powerful women, including Ibtihaj Muhammad, Ilhan Omar and Halima Aden.
“We wanted to change the narrative of how Muslim women are being seen,” Wedad said. “Then we switched focus to celebrating both Muslim and non-Muslim women. Pieces from a recent clothing line were named after strong indigenous women who made an impact in the society.”
She continued, “Each piece in our latest collection is named after a woman who is struggling with their mental illness. We decided to wait before a full campaign on mental illnesses because I didn’t think our community was ready to talk about it, but we are now ready to have these conversations, and they have been powerful.”
One of the pieces from this collection is a forest-green velvet dress that has a drooped modest neckline. It was named Manal Assiff after a 36-year-old chemical coordinator and mother of two. Her struggle with anxiety is detailed on the Afflatus Hijab website with this advice: “Find something that you are passionate about or that brings you joy and focus on it. Remove toxic people and relationships from your life and talk to a trusted friend or family member and know that you don’t have to deal with anything alone.”
Wedad gets most of her dresses manufactured in Viet Nam and most of her customers are from North America. She is currently busy expanding her brand’s online presence and wants to see Afflatus Hijab in stores. Having her own store is also a top priority. But if there’s one thing she isn’t worried about, it’s competition.
“There is competition in Canada when it comes to modest fashion, and it is always good,” Wedad said. “All the brands have something different to offer. It’s tough to know how many fashion designers are in Canada. But I am not too worried about competition; whatever is meant for me is meant for me.”
She also has a few bits of advice for youngsters planning to launch their modest line: “Launch your own brand because you love it and not for the money aspect. There will be a lot of ups and downs, but be consistent, unique and humble about everything.”
Aflattus Hijab. Image supplied
© MySalaam.com 2018 All Rights Reserved