Feature in Asian Image

by Tess Suleman- Writer and Columnist

Fashion designer hoping her new modest brand will appeal to women of all religions and non-faith backgrounds

A fashion designer says she is hoping to reach out to women of all religions and non-faith backgrounds with her new range of modest outfits.

Shakeela Miah, from Burnley works for a women’s charity organisation and dedicates time to her creations during her days off and evenings.

Her new brand ‘Anaaqah by SM’ is available online and comes at a time when modest fashions are fast becoming the norm in the mainstream.

She told Asian Image, “As a Muslim woman, over the years it has been increasingly difficult to find suitable clothing which is faith appropriate, modest yet also fashionable.

“For example, I would find a pretty dress but would have to wear something over or under the dress to protect my modesty. Either the sleeves are short, fabrics are transparent, necklines are low- the list is endless.”

Thanks to those who aspire for more modest wear the high street is now flooded with long sleeved outfits, high necks, flared pants, knee length dresses, and stylish layered looks.

Many mainstream brands are evolving with efforts to appeal to women of religion, culture, or personal preference.

Among them are Mango and DKNY who launched a Ramadhan collection to embrace modest fashion and H&M who featured a Hijabi model in their campaign for the first time.

Shakeela said, “The key philosophy is sharing my designs with other women and eliminating the hassle of finding stylish yet modest outfits.

“The goal is to become the ‘go to’ place for modest fashion. There are many designer brands now who are jumping on the modest band wagon, as they have realised the huge gap in the market.

“There are quite a few modest clothing brands out there where many focus on cape, abayas, the jilbab – my brand differs as I am creating pieces which can be worn by women of all faiths and backgrounds.

“In fact, many of our customers have been of non-faith backgrounds as my collection is versatile.

“It takes a large amount of time to design one piece, as I take into consideration each and every detail. It’s very important to ensure the fabrics are of good quality yet 100% opaque – taking all this into consideration I offer my pieces at a very affordable price – making modest fashion easily accessible to all.”

The election of modest apparel in recent years has been advocated by popular celebrities including Nigella Lawson who stepped into the beach with a Birkini in 2016 to highlight that some women simply do not wish to show skin regardless of their religious beliefs.

Amal Clooney is also reputed for her chic, modest looks and unmatched confidence.

For Shakeela, dressing modestly yet wearing stylish clothing is truly liberating.

“For the short term, it’s about creating brand awareness for me and ensuring people are aware of the brand.

“The products speak for themselves and I have no doubt, this first collection will do well however it’s getting the word out there which is going to be key for us now.

“The long-term goal is to become a recognized modest fashion brand, I am speaking with boutiques in a few different countries and also a few stores here also.

“I intend to share my designs with all women, not those of a particular faith background, though the concept stems from my own beliefs and practices. I do intend to open a store and develop a small team.

“At the moment I’m pretty much a one woman band, well plus one annoying hubby, who has been my rock but as we grow I envisage taking on initially one apprentice and develop a small team slowly but surely.”

She had some timely advice for others looking to launch their fashion brand. “I would say finding a factory who followed and worked in cohesion with my own ethical moral and values was a huge challenge.

“You hear all about factories abroad paying workers pittances, it was important for me to ensure I had all the facts and figures before selecting who I would use to create my pieces yet also keeping up my quality levels.

“I am really lucky to have found and built good relations with my current factory, although I would love to source in Bangladesh as this is my mother land- giving something back and creating jobs there would be amazing.

“I was declined by a Shariah compliant start up support company as they felt I was ‘biting off more than I could chew’ which was extremely disappointing and made me question if my business could take off. However, with perseverance, a year later, here we are.”

She added, “Fashion is a fast paced, saturated market, however there’s always a room for innovation and creativity- so if you have an idea just run with it, give it your all despite your setbacks because you will never know until you try.

“Start small, dream big- that’s my motto.”