OA: What inspired you to create INAYAH? Is there a particular ethos that drives you?
I: INAYAH is a global mid-end fashion brand founded upon the principles of self-development and progression. Both owners have been involved in some element of design for many years. INAYAH initially began as an accessories brand; however, as observant individuals, we noticed that many women (including one of our designers) were unable to find modest clothing that incorporated Western styles/cuts and were also practical, unique and sophisticated.
A major driver for us was the realisation that the market was saturated with repetitive, imported designs made using poor material, sold on by low-end companies at near-wholesale prices. We always maintain that people should acquire according to their means. However, how often do we reflect on the knock-on effect to those labourers who produce such low-priced garments? The items are often constructed so poorly that little appreciation and value is shown to the item by the one making the purchase. Most products in our market are also restricted to a narrow demographic made up of specific ethnic backgrounds and an older age group. Having this barrier makes it extremely difficult for women to shop for quality products that are contemporary, constructed with purposeful style and unquestionably modest. As a matter of principle, we take charge of all aspects of our design process from initial research and design to the final manufactured product.
Our desire to give women the tools to continue in their development towards embodying a modest character, insha Allah, is not restricted to one particular group, and we extend our vision to include both Muslim and non-Muslim audiences. We want all women to have the option to buy modest, ready-to-wear and occasional items, with very accessible pricing, from a company who take great pride in what they make. We want to alter the current condition of professionalism available in the modest clothing industry, and we spend a long time refining our product range and our user-friendly online fashion boutique.
One of our founding objectives was to break free from the culture of imitation that is unfortunately rampant in the market we exist in. We do not design or produce any item purely for the sake of design; everything we produce reflects the preferences of the owners of INAYAH, and we diligently strive to offer the ultimate fashion experience inspired by vintage, ethnic and modern elements. We also take great care to ensure all of our products are ethically produced.
OA: I noticed that you’re approaching 60,000 fans on Facebook, mashaAllah! What is it about INAYAH that makes your fans fall in love with your products?
I: Alhamdulillah. We must of course give praise to Allah for any success we have thus far achieved and we thank Him for humbling us with such a warm reception. Our customers and followers may be better placed to answer this question, but we will endeavour to outline a few points that we aim to communicate through our brand and which we feel contribute to the appreciation shown by our fans.
1. Our brand appeals to worldwide audiences, and our products are designed with versatility in mind. This diversity reflects our own eclectic taste and thus showcasing this versatility through our products is a rather organic process. We go to great lengths to understand the demands and preferences of our customers. This information is then incorporated into our design process and combined with our own style and creativity; the results are sophisticated, unique garments rich in little gems which demonstrate our attention to detail.
2. Our designs represent a fusion of various cultural and vintage elements, as well as contemporary features present on the Western fashion scene. This is then balanced with the need for practical and comfortable items; this balance is what we believe makes people fall in love with our products. Abayas, dresses, skirts – regardless of the item, our fans are able to sense the unique approach we take to our designs and openly proclaim their appreciation for our fresh approach and creative original pieces.
3. We convey our love for experimenting with tasteful colours and prints, but we also understand how to use delicate tones of black.
4. We cater to a mixture of many types and age groups, such as students, career women and mums.
5. Last but not least is the importance we give to facilitating an enjoyable online shopping experience with INAYAH. We work hard to ensure we maintain a user-friendly online store packed with ideas on how to match items using visual and written style notes. We strive to offer our customers a high level of consistent service and ensure that they are satisfied with their purchases.
OA: How do you cope with the demand from such a wide customer base, considering that you are committed to not mass-producing any of your garments?
I: We like to focus on creating small limited edition collections to maintain exclusivity to those who purchase our products. We are a fashion forward brand and release new designs and products on a regular basis, rather than simply focusing on replenishing older designs; monotony is not part of INAYAH’s ethos. We believe firmly in creative innovation and development, and by offering our customers a large variety of items every season and on a regular basis, we are able to keep up with the latest customer-driven demands, trends and styles.
OA: Speaking of trends, to what extent do current trends influence your design process?
I: Current trends play a strong role in influencing our collections and choices of prints, colour palettes and cuts; as a fashion forward brand, an awareness of current trends is essential. However, we will never compromise on our beliefs and thus maintain a controlled balance between modern trends and the need to remain modest.
OA: No doubt that it can be a challenging balancing act! As a designer of modest clothing, what are the key things that you look out for when developing new designs?
I: It is crucial for us to be mindful of our objectives and core values in order to maintain a balance between modesty, style, practicality and comfort. We want women to look presentable and feel good when they wear INAYAH without compromising their beliefs. We are also fully aware that many women go through a transitional period when it comes to adopting a more modest style of dress, where they may not be ready to wear what would be classically termed and accepted as an abaya overnight. Maintained progression, in many instances, is gradual and not instant. This is an important factor that we keep present in our planning and designing. The owners of INAYAH are reverts to the way of life which invites all to submit their will to that of the Creator of the heavens and the earth, in order to obtain true peace: Islam. It is therefore a natural process for us to be open-minded, inclusive, understanding and compassionate towards the people that are often forgotten. They face difficulties we have faced with regards to safeguarding one’s modesty with absolute conviction, internally and externally.
All of our items are designed from the absolute beginning by INAYAH. We manage the entire production process from the concept and fabric, all the way up to production. This means that we are able to ensure that all key elements that need to be incorporated into a design or collection are met. We experiment with various cuts, select the most suitable fabrics and guarantee quality is not compromised. The correct choice of fabrics is crucial, and we like to ensure we have a unique combination of fabrics including (but not limited to) peach skins, linens, soft cotton jersey and crepe.
OA: What is your number one piece of styling advice for women wanting to dress modestly while still looking fashionable and modern?
I: Wear what suits you as an individual. Everybody is different. Do not make compromises in your faith and belief system at the expense of potential temporary praise from those who do not hold a legitimate role of importance in your life. One must feel comfortable and still look presentable. It is also worth noting that dressing modestly does not mean you have to dress in an untidy manner or display an evident lack of self-worth, and that modest dress is not restricted to wearing black. Dress appropriately, taking into consideration the company you will be in, and be sincere about the intention behind your chosen style.
OA: What do you love most about your job?
I: We love that we are engaged in work that is incredibly rewarding on several fronts. We care about what we do, and we are driven by the principles outlined in earlier responses. It is incredibly humbling to know that, by the will of Allah, so many women have been inspired by INAYAH to adopt a more modest method of dress. We have received numerous heartwarming messages from women who have taken an empowered step to wear and embrace the hijab, including but of course not simply restricted to the scarf worn on one’s head. Many others have said that Alhamdulillah, our presence has made their personal transitions to covering that much easier in the workplace, during maternity/nursing and just out in public… Alhamdulillah!
INAYAH represents a strong, progressive, positive presence in the modest fashion industry; sharp attention to detail, unquestionable care towards quality and design, and a welcome break from monotonous modest fashion without compromising on one’s spiritual foundations.