Jana: Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to start Amirah fashions?
Zainab: My name is Zainab I’m a revert to Islam of 10 years. I’ve been interested in fashion & textiles all my life. I've been designing in some form or other since the age of 10, and sewing since the age of 13; starting out on my bedroom floor and using my great grandmother's machine! I’ve studied and even taught fashion & textiles; to be fair I can’t really do much else, this is my passion!
Becoming a Muslim at 16 was a really big learning curve in the clothing department. The change in my image was huge but not instant like some reverts, but lets just say every day I became a little more modest, until at the age of 18 when I was a full-time jilbab-wearing hijabi. After that another problem arose, having to find something out there I'd actually want to wear. Bearing in mind this was 10 years ago, there was no choice like there is now. Being a Fashion & textile student I just started to create my own jilbabs in my own style. Before long I had many sisters admiring my work and the constant question of 'Sister where did you get your Jilbab from?'. So to cut a long story short, I started Amirah Fashions just over 2 years ago, creating styles for the UK market. We started off small, but alhamdulillah have expanded at a very fast rate and now sell worldwide.
Jana: What have been your most popular items?
Zainab: The most popular items are always our exclusive jilbabs that sell out very fast! As we only ever stock limited quantities of the each jilbab, most customers will never see the same one on another sister, which people really love as it gives them a unique style. Our brooches always sell very well too, as you can always bring life to an old outfit with some sparkle. Also, Muslimahs have become more adventurous with their hijab styles and the brooch is always a great hijab styling tool!
Jana: What difficulties do you face as an online retailer?
Zainab: There are two major issues I have found difficult as a online retailer. One being that there’s nothing like getting your hands on a garment to feel the fabric. We have an endless number of customers complementing our fabric that no photo will do justice to. Once sisters buy one item and get to see, and of course feel the fabric, they keep coming back. We do offer samples of fabric to customers upon request.
The second major problem is that some still fear Internet shopping, it almost scares some of our older customers, but when they've done it once there’s just no stopping them! We have a very secure site using HSBC card processing and safe page. I still believe that as an online retailer I have a much larger opportunity to reach the masses. I mean if I were a shop in a small town my designs wouldn’t be worn by sisters in America, Australia or Singapore, so there are many pros and cons to this business.
Jana: Do you seek to cater exclusively to a UK market, and if so how do you think this differs from other countries?
Zainab: At first we did cater exclusively to the UK market and always listened to what the sisters in the UK wanted in a jilbab/abaya. But there were many requests from sisters in other Western countries to make Amirah fashions available worldwide. So when we re-launched the company at the beginning of last year we decided to go worldwide and have never looked back since.
The main differences in the UK market, and our other largest market, the US, is that the UK customers tend to stick to more muted colours like blacks, browns or beiges with a hint of colour. However, the sisters in the US always go for our bolder items. But as it warms up in the UK, the demand for colour always goes up too!
Jana: What do you hope to achieve in the future?
Zainab: We would like to continue growing at the pace we have the last two years inshallah, we have introduced many new product lines since we started which we wish to continue, What id really like to see is a major fashion show of Islamic designers in the UK; I'd love to be a part of something like that! It would be great to see all the companyies under one roof giving that choice to Muslim women, especially the youth, that I didn’t have as a new Muslim.
And now for the mini-giveaway!
We're giving you the chance to win a beautiful Bahira Hijab Clip (Pink), from the Gems of Amsanala'af range at Amirah Fashions. To be in with a chance of winning, you must do two things:
1. Visit the Amirah Fashions website and sign up to their newsletter (left hand side bar).
2. E-mail in your full name and city with 'Amirah Fashions Giveaway' in the subject line to email@example.com. Please note that if any of this information is missing, you will not be entered into the competition.
The deadline for entries is midnight GMT on Friday 30th April 2010. The winner will be chosen at random and contacted via e-mail. Don't forget to tell all your friends and family too - the giveaway is open to entrants from all countries!