Clothes with Baraka

Here at The Modest Life we are passionate about supporting local businesses, women-run businesses, ethical-minded businesses… basically businesses that kick butt ūüôā

Baraka Women is one such business. Designed by Eisha Saleh, an all round incredible lady, the clothes are made with the modest dresser in mind, with the most beautiful fabrics, made right here in Australia.

With the release of her new “Pollyanna vintage” collection,¬†my sister and I jumped at the chance to play dress ups over a little catch up at my place…

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This print is so pretty and the fabric is luxuriously soft. Also, given that it is a wrap dress, it makes feeding baby easy. So basically it ticks all the boxes for me. Stylish, pretty and comfortable…

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We love the details on these pants, made from a vintage fabric.

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I’m wearing the Afternoon Wrap Dress.

My sister is wearing:

Outfit 1: The Emerald Day top with The Cornflower Pant in cream

Outfit 2: The Envy Layered skirt.

Photography: Z by Zahrah.

A hijab by any other name is…fashion.

The hijab has been getting a lot of attention lately. Women who wear the hijab (Islamic head covering) are becoming more vocal, asserting their existence in a world that has attempted to define them. Women who wear the hijab are speaking, shouting, writing, running, jumping, strutting, fencing, dancing and singing their way to recognition, in an attempt to redefine themselves on their own terms, to show the world that hey, we wear the hijab and we can do anything.

Anything and everything. NOTHING holds me back. 

I am a proud, hijab-wearing, independent, Muslim WOMAN who can make her own choices and do whatever she wants. 

And the world is seemingly responding. People seem to be accepting the fact that (believe it or not!) Muslim women who wear the hijab are. Just. Human. Female. Girls. ETC. who happen to cover their heads and most of their bodies.

Which is of course a good thing. Right?

The “modest fashion” market is recognised as a booming niche that big corporations need to tap into. From Nike, to MNG, corporations are wholeheartedly embracing (or cashing in on, whichever way you prefer to see it) Muslim women by creating collections specifically for them, all touting the #diversity trend.

Hijab style bloggers are now found in abundance and are making waves by normalising modest fashion.

In fact, we just had our first hijabi model strut the runways at NYFW, with many applauding this “huge step forward” for the Muslim, hijab-wearing woman.

I happen to be a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman, and somehow, I do not think this is a huge step forward for us. I think this is a step in completely the wrong direction. Why do I think it’s wrong? Because it reveals this desperate need to “show” the world that we hijab-wearers are “completely normal” and more so, that we can also do “anything”.

Furthermore, it still espouses the concept of the “self” that is the object of worship in this 21st century.

Most of these things that we seem to be stamping our presence into are things that have all been done before by women, who just happened to not wear the hijab. And I’m saying hijab specifically because there are models who are Muslim, but just do not observe the hijab. There have been Muslim female athletes who have competed in the Olympics, but they just don’t wear the hijab. There are Muslim female journalists, professors, doctors etc who just do not wear the hijab.

I know the struggles and difficulties that hijab-wearing women face, the stigma that is attached to this choice of ours to cover ourselves and how much we have needed to work to bring down these walls of misunderstanding, of ignorance, of fear, outside our culture, and within it.

But simply throwing ourselves into EVERYTHING is not going to help us either. When we make the decision to do things that are entirely against the core values of our religion, it will inevitably harm us. Our religion is based on guidelines that clearly show us the limits of what we can and can’t do. This is something that we should have confidence in, that we have a framework that shows us how to tread the middle path, not throws us into an open field, leaving us to meander along aimlessly. We shouldn’t be trying to mould the religion to suit our desires and wants in this life, we should be trying to mould ourselves to do what our Creator has decreed for us.

I’m going to take the example of modelling and fashion. It is by its very nature an exhibitionist, shallow and demeaning industry. It uses women’s bodies with the intention to objectify and exploit. How then do we applaud and cheer when a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman has now been “accepted” by this industry? How do we say to ourselves, YES, this is progress, when the whole situation is such a contradiction. When a Muslim hijab-wearing woman can strut Kanye West’s runway and met and was styled by him and his wife Kim Kardashian. Yes, let’s pat ourselves on the back and be proud of our “steps forward”.

As we seemingly take these “steps forward”, in reality, we are taking steps backward as the more we engage in such acts, the further we move away from a¬†core tenet of our Deen; the need for humility.

And the great irony is that as we scramble to show the world that we can do “anything”in our hijabs because we are striving to smash the Western narrative that Muslim women are controlled by men and were forced to wear the hijab, we are simply doing this in a way that still frames us within their narrative, within their definitions of what being a successful, independent, strong woman is.

That she must be beautiful. That she is valued for her appearance. That she must exhibit herself to the world in designer labels and a contoured face with fake eyelashes and lip fillers and plastic surgery, that she must strut down a runway to be an object, a clothes hanger… with a hijab on and an IG feed full of selfies to document all this.

It actually makes me incredibly sad. It makes me so sad because I think about the example that we are setting for our young girls. Are we showing them anything different? Are we showing them that we need to hold onto the rope of our Deen, and that this might (or does) look different from the “norm”, and that no, we don’t need to strive to be styled by Kim and Kanye, and that this is something¬†that we should be thankful for, that we should be confident in, as Muslims.

As Muslims.

Not as women. Not as hijab-wearing women.

But as a Muslim. As a servant of Allah (swt).

That we are able to be confident in what Allah (swt) has decreed for us and not just attempt to “break down barriers” simply for its own sake. Not because “hey, I want to be the first so-and-so to do this in a hijab…” so that I can “go viral”, oops I mean, “break stereotypes” and “empower women…”

What we are taking away from ourselves and our youth is the history, the beauty, the wisdom, the incredibly unique culture and religion that they come from and we are telling them that this is superseded by the need to fit into this (Western) world.

We are not taking back our own narrative. We are not redefining our selves. In fact we are fighting to be permeated, assimilated, obliterated into a culture whose values are against everything that the religion that we so obviously parade and hold up the flag with our hijabs, stands for.

This is not to say that “Western culture” is “wrong”. What I’m referring to is the capitalist, consumerist, exhibitionist, narcissistic, shallow and exploitative culture of fashion, of music, of Hollywood and so on.

Delpozo’s Fall/Winter 2017 Ready to Wear collection was interesting for me because the collection included this…

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Hijab? Nope. Just “art”. ¬†Just “fashion”. Just “ready-to-wear”. Just Vogue.

How different is it from this?

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It’s not.

Both are art and fashion. Both are simply garments. Both objectify women by placing them on a platform strutting to fast-paced music. One is designed by a non-Muslim, the other by a hijab-wearing female Muslim designer. Sure the intentions are different, but the outcome is the same. Both place the woman as an object to be gawked at.

And so, “hijab” by any other name is simply…fashion.

Unless, we define ourselves, our hijab, in the terms of the religion that we claim to follow. Unless we take back the definitions of what it means to be female and Muslim.

There is another way to “break stereotypes”. There is another way to engage with the fashion world. A way that does not compromise the values of the religion that we proclaim to want to teach the world about. A way that is confident and uncompromising and unique.

Yes we live in this world, but we do not live for this world. And our attempts to be seen as “normal”¬†should not come at the cost of our values. We should revel in the beauty of our religion and go out into the world confident in it, not for the sake of this world, or for society, or culture, or breaking down stereotypes, or acceptance, but for the sake of pleasing our Creator.

I am not raising my daughter with the mantra of the 21st Century,¬†“you can be anything you want to be…” I want to raise my daughter to spend her life seeking what it is that Allah swt has decreed for her, and to fulfil this purpose, not for her to pursue her passions, her desires and her whims, which can ultimately lead her to folly. I want her to pursue the path that Allah swt has written for her, one that teaches her to put her Self aside, one that teaches her to serve humanity, the one that teaches her to have mercy, compassion, and humility…

Featured image source.

Best on the Net

It’s been a big week in the world, with much to ponder on. Here are a few inspiring, positive and thought-provoking links to make this week that much better…

  1. A beautiful new children’s book compiles tales from Syrian refugees.
  2. Carla Zampatti designed a uniform for Westpac and included a style for hijabis.
  3. Check out this Kickstarter for a company designing activewear for women who wear hijab. 
  4. Finland is taking their awesome schools further by abandoning subjects for ‘events’ and ‘phenomena’ in an interdisciplinary format.
  5. Speaking of teaching, here’s a video that explores how there is no scientific proof that homework improves performance in elementary school. BAN HOMEWORK I say!
  6. The biggest supermoon is set to hit our world tonight, but it’s cloudy and raining here in Sydney ūüôĀ
  7. Did you read about the new screen time recommendations by doctors? About time they got onto this.
  8. Suzanne Barakat is an incredible ambassador for her religion, and this latest talk she delivered at TED is at once utterly heart-breaking but also motivating. She asks, what resources do you have and how can you use it for good?
  9. And lastly, I really want this dress.

‘Modest Fashion’ is an oxymoron…

‘Modest Fashion’ has become a catch phrase that is used to refer to a broad spectrum of clothing, generally in the milieu that is considered to be ‘covered up’. It may or may not include a head covering.

In the past five years, with social media platforms accelerating as popular bases for self-promotion, ‘modest fashion’ has experienced¬†a huge (and this is an understatement) growth. With the aid of ‘modest fashion bloggers’ and ‘modest fashion businesses’ that have cropped up, the industry is now worth over $300 billion dollars, and is set to grow. Mainstream fashion houses such as Mango, DKNY and even Dolce & Gabbana have tapped into the niche by producing collections specifically for the modest market.

Modest fashion bloggers have been a huge part of this growth in the industry. They have amassed (altogether) millions of followers across their social media, from Instagram, to Facebook to Youtube. More specifically, ‘hijab bloggers’ are increasingly sponsored by and affiliated with mainstream fashion houses, such as Ascia Farraj’s collaborations with Net-a-Porter and Dior, to name just a few. Recently, Covergirl included beauty blogger Nura Afia as part of their #LashEquality campaign- because every woman deserves to have “bold, sexy lashes” ok? Even women who aim to live modestly, which is the EXACT opposite of being ‘sexy’. Even H&M got in on the action by including a ‘hijab model’ in their campaign to promote their ‘Close the Loop’ recycling initiative.

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“Bold, sexy lashes for all”= EQUALITY FOR ALL WOMEN

All these examples point to greater representation of women who wear the headscarf¬†(or hijab) in mainstream media. I remember 7 years ago or so when I first put on the headscarf and was browsing the internet for inspiration or even a ‘hijab tutorial’, the only bloggers active were Hana Tajima and Dina Torkia. There were practically no companies catering specifically for women who chose to dress modestly, let alone for the customer who wore hijab. I bought my clothes and scarves from Sportsgirl, Witchery and other mainstream stores, enthusiastically buying any maxi dress that I could get my hands on with cropped jackets on top, or wearing short tunic dresses as tops with loose pants underneath. There were no straight-legged, peg-legged looser pant options back then. It was only skinny jeans.

Given the momentous change in the industry now, I think it would definitely be easier for a girl to make the decision to wear the hijab, or just dress more modestly, given that there are so many examples of how it is done, a plethora of companies catering to the modest consumer to purchase from, and also a general sense of empowerment given the increasing representation of modest fashion and bloggers in the mainstream media.

I’m going to throw a spanner in the works here though and discuss a¬†few problems¬†with all this. Sure, all of this increasing representation is great, but I feel that it comes at a cost. A cost of our core values and principles.

You see, dressing modestly isn’t just one, isolated value. It is and should be, part and parcel of a much greater ethos of humility that is central to the religion Islam, and to other religions might I add.

And what we are seeing in the modest fashion blogger is in fact quite the opposite of ‘modesty’. And no, I’m not talking about how they dress because I’m not here to nitpick at what people choose to wear. I believe that people are fluid in how they choose to dress, and that it transforms over time.

What I am calling out though are the bloggers whose Instagram pages are an endless stream of pictures…of themselves. Whether you choose to admit it or not, the “selfie” is at its core, a narcissistic undertaking. And we now have ‘modest fashion bloggers’ whose social media pages are full of photos of themselves in various outfits, close-ups of their faces… and not much else.

And this is what the public want. Do some research on how to “increase your followers on Instagram” and the type of post that receives the most traffic is one with someone’s face. It has become incredibly easy for somebody to take photos of themselves in a #modestfashion #ootd and amass hundreds of thousands of followers within months. Especially if you are “pretty” and “slim”.

Yes. This standard of beauty also applies to the modest fashion blogger.

The problem with this is that it essentially promotes and supports a culture of the self, of promoting a shallow version of oneself based on what you look like.

So sure, modest/hijab bloggers are much more visible these days, but how different are they from the average fashion blogger? What sets them apart?

What is more dangerous here also is that being swept up in the current of fashion blogging for the sake of mainstream acceptance promotes a culture whose values run counter to many of our religious principles.

We are just as susceptible of seeking acceptance by a culture that thrives on the objectification of women by creating a consumer culture and standard of ideal beauty by manufacturing beauty products and clothing en masse and literally brainwashing ALL women into thinking that they NEED these things to be presentable to the world.

If you have a Muslim hijab blogger affiliating themselves with these major corporations, then is it not creating an association between all the values that we should strive to espouse, and the values of these corporations?

Furthermore, it’s not just the polar opposites of humility and narcissism that is married in modest fashion blogging, there are other weightier values put at risk and being compromised here. Values that we compromise that have a much greater impact on the world.

When H&M used a hijab model in their campaign, the Muslim community (women mainly of course) celebrated this as a step forward in the mainstream “accepting”us and applauded H&M’s boldness. But who took a step back and looked at the company itself? H&M is well known for its unethical manufacturing practices. They represent all that is wrong with the fast fashion industry. In fact, their factories were involved in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. So whilst it may seem like a win for Muslim women to be ‘accepted’ and ‘represented’ by a company like H&M, the flip side to this is that we have just aligned ourselves with a company who epitomises values that run completely counter to our religion as a whole.

Islam has a strong social justice dimension. It heavily emphasises the importance of respecting human dignity, of treating workers fairly, but also of respecting the environment. It is evident that the cost of fast-fashion is not just on the workers who are forced to work in oppressive conditions, but also on the environment. This article for example outlines the climate costs of fast fashion¬†amongst other issues such as worker’s rights.

When a Muslim modest fashion blogger affiliates themselves with companies such as H&M, Zara, and other major designers/brands, they are essentially promoting the company’s ethos and influencing their ‘followers’ to purchase from these companies. This is the point of ‘affiliations’. That a company would seek an ‘influencer’ (i.e. blogger) who they believe will market their products, but more so, the ‘lifestyle’ that they promote.

A cynical side of me also thinks (ahem, knows) that these companies are simply tapping into an avenue of profit. Do you think they really care for more representation of Muslim women?

What’s more is that when we think of ‘modest fashion’ what do we mean really? I can tell you that most of the clothes that I buy and own do not come from a ‘modest fashion brand’. The few clothes that I have bought from companies such as these have only disappointed me in their lack of consistent sizing and general low quality of their garments, for example in their use of synthetic fabrics such as polyester.

Essentially, it comes down to marketing. That when a company like Mango create a ‘Ramadan collection’ and it has items such as this…

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and then you go onto their site, check out their maxi dresses and find an item like this…

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the question has to arise… isn’t it just all marketing? ¬†Isn’t it all JUST CLOTHING that we NEED to cover ourselves?

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“Modest Fashion” right? Or just clothing? Or just “fashion”? Image via Witchery (a mainstream company).¬†

I’m not here to be all cynical and whing-y. My intention in writing this is to call out some serious problems with the ‘modest fashion’ world that needs to be called out. We can’t be blind to these real issues, and we should be brave enough, courageous enough, creative enough and principled enough to challenge the ‘mainstream’, rather than do anything it takes, and compromise on values that form the essence of our beliefs, to simply be ‘accepted’, or ‘represented’.

And there are some brilliant examples of how people in the industry have done it right. Hana Tajima for example continues to assert her unique aesthetic and creative and artistic talents, and eventually teamed up with Uniqlo to create a collection specifically for Muslim women. It was available not just in the Malaysian Uniqlo stores, but also the US and Australia.

Ruh Collective is also changing the modest fashion marketplace, with its focus on ethical manufacture, transparency in their pricing and even (shock horror), moving beyond promoting the self and focusing on the garments themselves. Their campaign images do not show the faces of the models. They use their creative and artistic abilities to do something different. I’m not saying that I necessarily agree that a woman, in hijab, shouldn’t be photographed with their faces, but I applaud Ruh Collective’s efforts to appeal to a broader market by not portraying their models in hijab.

Also, it really shouldn’t be about ‘fashion’ at all for the one who chooses to dress modestly. The ethos of ‘fashion’ runs completely counter to what it means to dress modestly. Or live modestly. ‘Fashion’ is defined as “a popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behaviour.” The culture of fashion is linked to pop culture, by its very definition it requires acceptance by a mainstream, but also, it demands fast production methods of clothing so that one can keep up with ‘trends.’

Adorning oneself in the realm of ‘modesty’ is the polar opposite of this. It is quite literally about covering up your nakedness with good quality clothing that will last for years so that you don’t have to keep purchasing. Because constantly buying clothing is a sign of extravagance.

Dressing yourself modestly is about respecting and valuing the clothing that you possess, but not being attached to the item itself. The Prophet (pbuh) used to value his few clothes and even give them names. But when he (pbuh) saw someone in need, he easily gave the clothing to them.

Dressing well is also about ambassadorship… Because the reality is that how we choose to dress says a lot about who we are, and what we represent. Dressing beautifully is a good thing because we are naturally drawn to that which is beautiful.¬†And we should strive to be beautiful ambassadors of our religion.

All of this runs counter to the aim and purpose of major clothing companies, who want you to follow trends and keep purchasing to keep up with ‘fashion’.

So, all in all, ‘modest fashion’ is actually an oxymoron. Two polar opposite words married into one phrase made popular simply for the sake of acceptance by the mainstream, or used by companies for profit.

Let’s¬†be brave and do something different. Something that stays true to the source of why we¬†prioritise modesty in the first place… Let’s go beyond ‘fashion’ and looking ‘trendy’ for the sake of acceptance by a culture that runs completely counter to our core values. Let’s take back what it means to dress ‘modestly’ in the context of our religion and be courageous enough to assert this.

Best on the Net

I hope you all had a lovely weekend and are ready for the new week! Here are some lovely, positive and uplifting stories to make the start of the week that much easier…

  1. 30 Captivating Historical photographs that need to be seen.
  2. What a teen girl’s magazine cover looks like when a graphic designer gets her hands on it.
  3. And here is one girl’s magazine that is trying to do it differently.
  4. A loving father photographs his autistic son’s unique habits.
  5. An enchantingly-rare all white reindeer is spotted on the side on the road in Sweden.
  6. One school is replacing detention with meditation and it is brilliant.
  7. Rahaf Khatib on the cover of “Women’s Running” magazine is how getting featured in mainstream media should be done.
  8. The essentials of Maternity Wear, and a few more of my favourite maternity wear/post-maternity wear-able brands here, here, and here.
  9. Like, I really want this blush shirt dress that looks perfect for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  10. Oh and if you’re in Sydney, the “Raising Positive Children” workshop run by the Al-Ghazzali Centre is on this weekend. It is definitely one not to be missed. Register for it here. I’ll see you there!

Featured image via Nouba.

Ethically made Earrings

Written by Subhi Bora. 

When in Dubai, I wanted to buy gifts for people as well as something blingy for myself as a souvenir. I wanted something meaningful, beautiful, preferably made in the UAE, and with good ethical standards.

This seemed near impossible amongst the endless imported designer stores and H&M-like options.

BUT THEN I found the Gallery One store in Dubai Mall and bought beautiful pieces of art, made in the UAE! And I came across this beautiful brand of jewellery Vanina World, whose pieces are ethically made and use recycled materials. These particular earrings were made in collaboration with 2 NGOs based in Lebanon. I am super happy I found what I was looking for, all by chance.

We CAN do better with our purchasing power, so let’s do it.

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*Photos by Saltanat Bora (editor). Please don’t use without permission of The Modest Life.

Maternity Wear Essentials

Finding comfortable yet stylish clothing whilst pregnant can be difficult, and inevitably, regardless of what you wear, you are bound to look like you swallowed a large watermelon by the time you get to the end of your pregnancy.

Nonetheless, it is definitely a lot easier to find stylish and comfortable maternity wear what with the explosion in maternity brands lately, and also some non-maternity label clothing that can be adapted.

This being my third pregnancy, a lesson that I have learnt is to ensure that whatever I buy for my changing body will also last me beyond pregnancy. I remember after I had my first daughter and I started to leave my house that I realised that I didn’t have any breastfeeding friendly clothing. It seemed like such a frustrating thing to think about- and out went the maxi dresses. Try lifting that up and shoving a baby under to breastfeed. Not. Happening.

The following outfit options are actually clothes that I have worn many times throughout this pregnancy and most can be worn post-pregnancy, they’ll still fit me, and I can breastfeed in them.

So here goes…

Everyday, running out to grab groceries, visiting family etc. etc. 

Drawstring loose black pants, cotton man-style¬†shirt and oversized blazer (that won’t look oversized because of your swelling belly). Throw in some pretty accessories and comfortable loafer-style flats and you’re good to go…

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Blazer Kowtow Clothing Shirt Witchery Pants The Great Beyond Shoes Witchery Watch Mimco Necklace Target

When you REALLY can’t be bothered but need to look presentable and you just don’t do the whole track pants/active wear outfit thing…

Throw on these pants that you can basically sleep in but are not pyjamas (WIN WIN), a bamboo fabric black t-shirt and a light as air striped cardigan. Necklace is totally optional.

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Cardigan (similar) Kowtow Clothing T-shirt (not featured) The Great Beyond Pants (in Khaki) Sussan

Catching up with friends, which you might as well do before it becomes a figment of your imagination…¬†

Light-weight trench coat with chic black maternity dress and same black pants as above. Keep them straight-legged. A statement necklace will¬†uplift the look… Actually this trench coat is very versatile and sits really nicely. It’s something I know that I can wear post-baby as well.

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Trench coat Witchery Dress Target Pants The Great Beyond

Dinner

Throw on a one size fits all bohemian kaftan dress with a neutral coloured blazer and¬†block heels for a dinner date out with the husband¬†that doesn’t involve children climbing all over you, or temper tantrums over the choice of food… That’s if this is your first pregnancy. IF¬†this is your second (or third), then expect to get white rice stuck on this navy blue dress and LOTS of frustration served¬†with a side of, “why the hell do we take the kids out to dinner with us?” realisations…

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Blazer Kowtow Clothing Dress Tree of Life Shoes Witchery

A Wedding, or some fancy event that you’d rather miss so you can sleep early because you’re over 30 weeks pregnant and damn tired…¬†

A loose floral print gown that you can feel totally comfortable in because as stated above, you’d rather be at home sleeping… or attempting to sleep because let’s face it, by the time you get to 30 weeks plus, you ain’t getting much of that either… at least you’ll look pretty as a picture in this dress.

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Dress Needle and Thread Shoes Witchery 

I’d also recommend…¬†

The Great Beyond is an Australian company who make the most comfortable basics from bamboo. I practically live in their Luna Top in Black and their Europa Dress also in Black, although I am considering buying them in the other colours too. Of course, they’re not strictly maternity wear, but the beautifully soft bamboo fabric stretches easily without losing its shape, ensuring you can still wear them after pregnancy. And they are incredibly soft and breathable, which is awesome news for a pregnant woman in summer trying to do a grocery run. Layer them with the man-style shirt (from Witchery) worn open and comfy maternity jeans such as these. Which I have and currently wear practically every day…

Also, here’s another shot of this clothing rack that we prettied up with some trailing branches of bougainvillaea that was nonchalantly hanging over somebody’s fence, that I foraged (ahem, stole).

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*Disclaimer: this post is not sponsored by featured companies. They are the true opinion, as a result of real world experience, of writers here at The Modest Life.

*Please do not use images without the permission of The Modest Life.

In the studio with… Eisha Saleh

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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Delicious and light lunch that Eisha prepared… She has such a strong love for good hospitality… I genuinely enjoyed her company, and am now convinced we are soul friends ūüėÄimg_3082img_3088

I REALLY like ZARA’s new “Green” collection but…

Let’s admit it.

We have all been caught up in the hype of ZARA, and H&M. Personally, H&M never appealed to me. Their clothing always looked cheap and poor quality.

But ZARA? Yeh, sure. I’ve been totally duped by them several times. Although I have to say that for a while, I’ve also been dissatisfied with their quality and pricing. Not to mention that their clothing sizes seem to be shrinking. I pick up a size ’14’ and it DOES NOT LOOK LIKE A SIZE 14. Don’t even get me started on the kid’s clothing. Girl’s dresses that are supposedly in the 12-18month size range, fit my daughter when she was 6 MONTHS OLD. Not only are they generally small everywhere (like the arms and shoulders), but they are¬†so short that I can’t decide if it is a dress or a top.

Like, WHY?

Putting aside these issues though, the latest bandwagon¬†that these fashion giants are jumping onto is the “eco-friendly”, “sustainable” and “ethical” clothing “trend”.

ZARA just released their ‘Join Life’ (how sad is that title though? HONESTLY. “JOIN LIFE”?!!Yes, join life by purchasing MORE CLOTHING) campaign and it’s full of beautiful clothing in earthy tones and SO MANY modest options. #creepingmodestfashion

Are the clothes REALLY NICE? Yeh, sure. What also comes to my mind though is, why does this model not have hips? Why do they always have to be SO SKINNY?!

Take a look for yourself…

The collection is ZARA’s first foray into producing a ‘sustainable’ option, much like H&M’s “Conscious” collection. It uses “organic cotton, recycled wool and Tencel” to reduce their “environmental impact”. It claims to be “clothing that respects the environment” by utilising¬†these fabrics, as they use less water to produce and also employ reforestation techniques.

They are also taking it further than just the clothing by creating recycled boxes and providing clothing bins (just like H&M recently did) in their stores for you to dump all your old ZARA clothes that you no longer wear. Add in some green trees in their stores with big windows to allow in natural light, use the #recycle and #joinlife tags and ZARA has officially “gone green”.

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Natural light, big trees, earthy tones and clothing bin= OFFICIALLY GONE GREEN

Or have they?

The reality is that what huge mega fast fashion chains like ZARA and H&M achieve with their capsule ‘sustainable’ collections is what is called ‘greenwashing’. Greenwashing is when a company, that doesn’t really use sustainable or ethical methods of manufacture market themselves in a way that makes them appear to be more ‘green’. Read more about it here.

And although I want to applaud the move towards making their clothing manufacture more sustainable, I would still not purchase any items from the collection. Cynically, I see this as a major company simply tapping into a market that is growing that they want a piece of, that they want to dominate.

I’m not going to be duped into supporting that.

I’d rather support the companies who started right, and are getting it right, from all angles. They are ethical and eco-friendly, and the quality of their clothing is incredible. Are they pricey? Sure. But the fact that they cost more is a sign that they ARE ethically made. And because of the way they were manufactured, the clothing is of a high quality and therefore bound to become¬†staple pieces that WILL LAST for years.

Here are the companies that are getting it right:

Kowtow clothing

Ruh Collective

Diana Kotb

Baraka Women

The Great Beyond

Everlane

There are many more, if you simply do a google search for ‘ethical clothing’.

What do you think about H&M and ZARA’s greenwashing tactics? Do you shop from them?

All images via Zara.

Girl’s Spring dresses

When it comes to children’s clothing I have a strong belief that they should be dressed age-appropriate. I don’t like the current trend of kid’s clothing that simply mimics adult’s clothing. Don’t get me wrong, I love a trench coat on a kid as much as the next person, but body-con mini-dresses with cut outs for a 5 year old? Hell no. But dresses in muted pastel tones with beautiful embroidery, in a baby-doll style, with a longer skirt made especially for twirling and in pretty floral prints? Yes, please.

Below are my favourite dresses for little girls, dresses to walk barefoot in emerald grass, to pick flowers in, to twirl around the house, to play with dolls whilst singing to themselves, to read books, and climb trees, to care for their younger siblings in, to live the wonderment of that dewy, magical and much too short phase that is childhood.

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Vieux Rose
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Samsa Dress
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Cotton seersucker dress
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Olivia Dress
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Frill Sleeve
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Swirl Dress
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Harriet lace collar dress

 

Featured image via Printebebe.