Sarah Elenany is a young up-and-coming British designer who aims to cater to Muslim youth. Her designs are modest, but with an urban twist. She has just launched her own brand Elenany and her Spring/Summer 09 collection. Hijab Style has an exclusive interview with Sarah about her work:
1. First off, tell us a little about yourself.
I'm 24 and live in Mitcham, Surrey. I have a BSc in Engineering Product Design and MSc in Enterprise by Learning Contract. My interests are: designing stuff, making things - especially clothes, fixing things, Japanese cartoons and canaries.
2. How did you come to start the brand?
I started the brand because I didn't think there was anything on the market that catered for the young Muslim audience. As a teenager I used to make my own clothes because I couldn't find anything in shops that I liked, and that I felt covered me up properly. So when people (both Muslims and non-Muslims) started complementing me on my clothes I realised that there could be a demand for my clothes.
I researched clothing currently on the market and found that most clothes for the Muslim youth were things like Islamic slogans, written in a graffiti style on t-shirt shirts and hoodies. For girls, it was either jilbabs or buying a “Western” dress then customising it, for example by wearing a long sleeved top under a short sleeve dress –and of course the dress would be bought in a larger size to make it more loose fitting.
Since art is deeply rooted in Islam, and that the Muslim youth clearly like graphics (with their graffiti t-shirts etc) I though the brand should be defined by its graphics. Almost every piece of Elenany clothing will incorporate a graphic which captures the spirit of the Muslim Youth.
Something else which is very important is the fit of the clothing. A girl will be able to buy clothing in her size, which will fit her beautifully,and won’t cling to the places she usually tries to cover up. Lastly, a lot of people asked me why I don’t just produce clothing then let a big high street chain sell it under their own name. I thought about this, but then based on my experience of Muslims, I really thought there needed to be a brand –a brand which they could feel happy buying from, which would not exploit people who make the clothes and who wouldn’t donate profits to anything Muslims didn’t agree with. So the business ethics also reflect the needs of Muslims.
3. What do you hope to achieve?
I hope to make the shopping experience of Muslims a lot easier. I want them to buy Elenany products in confidence, knowing that it won’t fit them too tightly and also to increase their pride of being a Muslim when they wear the products.
4. What are your future plans in the realm of fashion?
I want to start a menswear line late 2009/early 2010 and also open an Elenany shop in London.
Thank you for your time Sarah, and all the best with your venture!