I’m excited to bring you this “In the Studio with…” series as we sit down with, converse with and go behind-the-scenes of some of our favourite creatives who inspire us here at The Modest Life.
For our first post in this series, our Editor Saltanat sat down with Eisha Saleh, creator and head designer at Baraka Women where, over a beautiful light lunch prepared by Eisha herself, they chatted about everything in this world but the following ten questions…
Tell us a bit about yourself…
My name is Eisha Saleh, I’m the designer-director at Baraka Women. I am Lebanese-Australian and have been in business since 2008.
How did you begin Baraka Women?
It all started when I first started to wear the hijab was transitioning from my non-hijab wardrobe to a new hijab-friendly wardrobe. As someone who was always interested in fashion, I was excited to build something new, but beautiful and modest clothing was just not available. The extent of hijab clothing in Australia were all imported from the Middle East and consisted of traditional Abayas. It made me depressed not being able to express my sense of style. After meeting someone who had been working in the fashion industry for ten years, it was clear to me that together we had to skills to start up a modest label to fill the gap. We spent 6 months researching whether it would work and from there designed the brand and our first collection.
How has it evolved from when you started it?
When we first started Baraka Women, we were essentially the first modest wear label available locally. As such, the community was in need of absolutely everything, from basic wear to hijabs. In the early days we started with these basics, like black pants, black dresses, coats and hijabs. As the years have passed and other brands have entered the modest market, we have been able to move away from producing basics to designing collections with our own aesthetic and style. We now have more control over our vision, ethos and designs.
What is your design ethos?
We believe in designing clothing that considers the environmental impact, in equality, safety and interest. This has meant that we need to design and produce our clothing in Australia. It is a process that I can manage from start to end right here, and feel comfortable with our factories’ practices. In terms of design, I choose fabrics that are conducive to modesty, but that are also feminine, and kind to the environment and people. We don’t simply use ‘on trend’ fabrics.
“We believe in designing clothing that considers the environmental impact, in equality, safety and interest…”
Describe your design process…what inspires a collection.
I am inspired by everything. It is incredible what captures my mind’s eye as I move about in the world. Sometimes it is colour palettes, flowers, food, architecture or even a mood I’ve been experiencing. I can’t really draw so I can’t express my thoughts this way. I often start with imagery that I have collected. I match this with colours and even jewellery, as is is an essential element of my own personality. All these elements direct my styling of a collection, and then I start draping on my dressmaker mannequin. This is my favourite part and I can be lost for hours in my studio deep in thought and design. My current inspiration is in tiling, both in the range of textures and possible pattern laying.
Tell us about your latest collection, what is your favourite piece.
My latest collection Transference is about how dressing a certain way can make others feel things about you. Or to be more specific, it is about how you can make people feel what you want them to feel. I kind of wanted to exert feelings of envy in a positive sense, so others feel the need to feel as good as you. These feelings translated into a more luxurious take on my usual designs. I’ve used mostly silk, lace and a hint of sequin.
My favourite piece is a whole outfit, the Olsen Freedom Top and Cascade Silk Skirt. I love them because they are so simple to wear with no fastenings or fuss. The will suit almost everyone and the fabric of the skirt feels so amazing against the skin.
What do you think about ‘modest fashion’?
I don’t particularly like that term. Modest fashion implies that anything else is immodest and I don’t think that’s the case. What I do love is choice; that I am providing another legitimate choice a woman can make about how she dresses. It seems superficial to me that we need to give a title to the industry, that we are still talking clothes in terms of covered/uncovered. I’d rather be talking about the creative process and how clothing can make women feel, and what women can achieve when they feel great.
“Everything is about faith…”
How much do your personal beliefs inform your work?
My beliefs are the nucleus of every thought. It is what drives me. To create for Allah’s sake and to provide choice for those who prefer a more demure appearance. It informs the choices I make regarding factories and fabrics to use, to how I deal with people in the industry and even the pricing on my pieces.
Everything is about faith.
How do you balance the nature and demands of the fashion industry with your personal beliefs?
In the beginning of Baraka Women, there was no balance. I thought I had to be the biggest and the best. But I think that was someone else’s dream. I’ve since realised that what I do want is to create special things, to head in a bespoke, boutique approach. This has enable me to have a better work/life balance. I always put family first now and create time for work around my commitments to them. I design better when I am not overloaded and pushed to the brink to meet deadlines and so on.
Where do you see Baraka Women in 10 years time…
I want Baraka Women to be a leader in ethical fashion and a developer of eco textiles. I would like to broaden our range, such as producing lingerie and perfume. We are also working towards having a few small boutique stores that my customers can experience Baraka Women on a personal level.