Islamic Lifestyle

INTERVIEW-Founder of UK’s Amaliah talks modest fashion

| 07 March, 2016
Amina Akhtar
INTERVIEW-Founder of UK’s Amaliah talks modest fashion
Photo: Sisters Selina Bakkar and Nafisa Bakkar, the founders of UK-based modest fashion platform Amaliah / Courtesy Amaliah

Every week there seems to be a hot new website geared towards Muslims. With so many fashion bloggers and retailers finally catering to the modesty market, it would help if there was someone to curate it. And now there is: Amaliah, a one-stop shopping destination for fashion-conscious Muslim women.

Created by 23-year-old Nafisa Bakkar, who works with her sister, Selina, Amaliah uses a worldwide cast of bloggers, pulling in fashion from retailers as varied as Asos, Topshop and boohoo.com, and the site is easy to manouevre.

We chatted (via email) with Nafisa about the site, her ambitions and what lies in the fashion future.

Why did you start Amaliah?

It started as a personal frustration. I started making more of a conscious effort to dress "modestly," so to speak, and found that it was becoming increasingly difficult to shop for a modest fashion wardrobe. Finding a maxi skirt is a great example. They often have a slit, it would be half see-through or it would be short and the front long at the back. 

I realised lots of women faced the same thing. I figured I could either moan or do something about it!

When did it launch?

We launched less than four months ago, but I had been working on the idea for a while and gaining the right knowledge to execute Amaliah. 

What’s the mission behind it?

Our mission is to represent Muslim women in fashion in a way that the mainstream fashion industry doesn't. We are passionate about bringing together a community. There are lots of people doing amazing things in the ummah (Muslim community) and we want to channel that onto a platform.

At the moment we are doing that through posts, such as "That's not hijab," where we invite sisters to talk about when they have heard that phrase. The aim is to inspire and empower.

We are also going to be doing a "Coming back to Islam" series. And lastly we have interviews lined up with change-makers in the ummah, including Hijarbie founders Haneefah and Mariah Idrissi.

We are passionate about using our platform to inspire individuals to effect change. 

How many bloggers do you use?

We have partnered with 30 bloggers and they have their own profile page. But we have used more than 30 on our content feed. 

Where are they from?

Around the world. Tunisia, Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Canada, the UK.

Do you syndicate content?

Yes. There is already great quality content out there, and our aim is to have a platform that represents it. 

Will you be planning on offering your own unique shopping items (i.e. your own brand) anytime soon?

Yes, we are working towards having our own line.

What do you think of the current state of modest fashion?  A lot of brands are getting in on the action.

I think it is really positive that mainstream brands like D&G and Uniqlo are moving into the space. It's a really exciting time, as the market is relatively new and massive. Everyone can have a piece of the pie, and I think the key is for us to work together.

With Amaliah we are helping others, whether it be brands or bloggers, to make more impact. Amaliah's very existence is built on the fact that we believe community is a powerful force for change. We created Amaliah to amplify the talent, voices and impact we have as a community, fashion or otherwise.

There’s been a rise in Muslim content, from hijabi bloggers to MuslimGirl.net. Why do you think that is? Are Muslim women finally finding platforms or is it more a response to what’s happening in the world or is it both?

Firstly I think it's a product of the digital world we live in. We are able to amplify our voices through hashtags and tweets. I also think the word Muslim has become an extremely loaded word and hijacked by the media, so it is a case of us reclaiming the word. Lastly it is a case of no one is representing us, so we are stepping forward, taking ownership and representing ourselves.

What are your goals for the site? Do you want to eventually design? Launch a shop? Have a publishing company?

All of them! We want to exist in as many verticals as possible. Ultimately we want to be the go-to hub for Muslim women. 

Have any of the brands you featured asked to partner up (because, hello, huge opportunity here)?

Yes. We are currently exploring how to maximize the partnerships. Super-exciting. 

Do you have style advice for girls who are keeping modest but want to show some flair?

Be yourself, I think it is easy to get consumed by what the trends say and what bloggers are wearing. The core is, be yourself. You can definitely be modest and fashionable, Amaliah proves that. I think it's also important for you to define for yourself what your modest fashion style is. It's easy to sway and wear things that perhaps you wouldn't wear otherwise. So set yourselves your own guidelines. 

And what about career advice for someone just starting out and wanting to go off the beaten path like you did?

Learn, learn, learn and never stop learning.

Also build your self-belief. I was working on Amaliah for a long time before I launched it, and it was simply that I didn't have the self-belief. Self-belief is not a fluffy concept. It is the core of everything. Everything around us, the technology you use, the institutes you study at, the companies you work at.

They were all founded on the basis that someone had the self-belief that they could create something that would change how you interact with the world. Forget upskilling and experience if you don't have self-belief, you will ALWAYS be limited. Look at the people you surround yourself with. Surround yourself with those that nurture the good in you and erode away the bad.

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