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STYLE WITH A CAUSE

Published: Wednesday, February 01, 2017    



By Yara Boraie


OL meets social fashion icon Soha Taha who's leading a cultural revolution

The modest fashion movement is all the rage these days, skyrocketing into the mainstream, billion- dirham industry, and the beauty of it lies in its simplicity, which is to classify trends in line with Islamic values.

There are many interpretations of modest attire, however the popular opinion is that it implies loose clothing, comfortable dressing, and the covering of one's body as stated by Islamic principles.

The movement has been making history recently as can be seen with famous brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Mango, DKNY and H&M, who have been releasing Islamic-centric lines and campaigns – as well as allhijab international runway shows at some of the biggest annual fashion events such as New York’s Fashion Week, Tokyo Modest Fashion Show at Japan’s Halal Expo and Istanbul’s inaugural International Modest Fashion Week.

And Al Ain-based Egyptian modest style influencer Soha Mohamed Taha, better known as Soha MT, is part of the fashion movement, joining in three years ago through her blogging.

Gathering more than 200,000 followers on Instagram in the past year, she stands as a symbol of this growing fashion trend.

STITCHING FROM THE GROUND UP

“Most of my mother’s clothes are tailored,” said Taha. “When I was younger I would ask her, ‘Why the hassle? Why not just buy them off the peg?’ She would explain that since she can’t fnd what she’s looking for in stores, she would rather make items herself – this is where my love for fashion and design came from. Whenever I don’t fnd anything that suits me, I just go ahead and make it myself.”

Taha initially modelled her designs on Instagram, which caught people’s attention and had them following, liking, and commenting on her posts – asking her where she shops from, which led to her fast-selling clothing line. She was then prompted to take it to the next level, from selling limited pieces through Instagram locally, to creating an e-store.

“I decided to get a business licence as well as dedicate a website for the e-store with my husband’s help. Since the website’s launch less than a year ago, we’ve sold more than 50,000 pieces and we have 400,000 visitors monthly. That’s how I know I am on the right path.”

Her designs have travelled across the GCC, Africa, and have also reached as far as the UK, Switzerland, and Iceland.

On the message she wants to convey to her followers: “The girls who rock our abayas and beshts are adventurous, inspirational, and badass. A girl in a Soha MT Collection is always the best dressed girl in the room. Her confdence in her modesty is what truly shines and we aim to add that extra sparkle,” said Taha.

A DIGITAL HOTHOUSE

Social media used to be looked at as just another fad; Instagram, namely, was seen simply as a networking tool – yet it has come so far over the years as the changing, digitally available entrepreneur platform and it's here to stay.

Taha credits one of the reasons behind why modest fashion is gaining momentum is because of the growth of social networking usage.

When she frst started out, her family could not comprehend how she could market herself effectively on the World Wide Web until they soon came to see her ambitions and success.

“It is an intimate platform and I’ve actually grown closer to some of my followers. One of the downsides however is the negative comments that flter through, but you learn to deal with it your own way; whether it’s responding to them personally or ignoring them.”

A PASSION FOR FASHION

“The reason I started was to inspire people. I genuinely wanted to leave my mark on the world. I wanted to do something of my own – something that I can share with people, but I didn’t know what that was until social media came along. It helped me fnd myself and my interests.

"I professionally pursued photography before delving into the blogging scene. And there was a time when I was juggling between the two felds but eventually the latter overrode the former. I have always been passionate about fashion and I wanted to be fully involved in the industry.”

Taha’s go-to style is ‘athleisure’ (casual, comfortable clothing for everyday wear). Her wardrobe essentials are a pair of Timberlands or sneakers, a large hoodie, and skinny jeans. She likes the occasional strut in heels but keeps a spare pair of flats at all times.

The style she defnes herself by though is ‘edgy modesty’; she likes to experiment with worldwide trends by taking a modest approach to make the outft suit and go with her own defnition of fashion.

“Every country has its own signature style, and it fascinates me how culture is always involved, but now with social media, one is constantly exposed to different styles and it’s easy to get inspired by them.

“For instance, I love the Emirati aesthetic and that is manifested in my collections of hijabs, abayas, and beshts.”

DEFYING STEREOTYPES IN THE NEW AGE

People often assume that all Taha does is have her pictures taken and uploaded onto Instagram, when in reality she writes about her day-to-day looks and shares some of her styling expertise with her followers.

“One thing I stress is the fact that my business is not limited to just fashion in general. It is also used as a platform to advocate the modest fashion style, as the hijab is usually seen as a faux pas in the industry and consequently among hijabis themselves, and I wanted to change that.”

Many a new fashion label has taken off by enlisting bloggers as their brand’s ‘face’ and getting positive engagement with millions of customers online who relate to what they see.

“The advertising impact social media has over print or any other kind of media nowadays is unbeatable,” said Taha. “A business would very much rather approach bloggers to promote their goods because of how easily accessible and reachable this global platform is.”

Taha also took part in the annual Global Islamic Economy Summit of last year – under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai – as one of the panellists in the discussion of social media’s influential role in promoting modest fashion alongside Kerim Ture, the co-founder of Modanisa.com, a prominent Turkish online brand.

DEFINING THE IMPACT

“The Islamic fashion movement is about looking and feeling good, while maintaining one’s modesty; wear whatever you want or like, make it loose-ftting but not too sloppy,” adds Taha.

“The popular trend now is oversized anything and everything, and that’s like a bonus for hijabis. Besides, whichever trend you would like to follow, you can always cover up where needed. This is where I come in, guiding my followers on how to follow a fashion trend modestly.”

Hijabis in Muslim minority countries in the West face baseless bigotry and ignorance daily but, as a result, turn to the widespread modest fashion scene on social media to fnd hope. It is not only about fnding a familiar face to relate to, but also taking inspiration from the likes of Taha on how to make the hijab fashionable.

“I am beyond proud that I was able to give them this hope of being and standing up for themselves,” she said. “That is one of the upsides and what keeps me motivated; followers telling me that I changed the way they look at hijabis or even inspiring some to wear it, and it’s just so overwhelming.”
 
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