The newly launched Amaliah website not only fills a gap in the market for fashionable modest clothes but aims to unite and empower the Muslim community.
Finding clothes that fit, flatter and suit your taste can be a difficult task for anyone, but if you’re a young Muslim woman searching for something on trend it can be an even more impossible task.
It was this challenge – to find fashionable outfits with full leg and arm coverage – that drove Nafisa Bakkar, 23, to create Amaliah, a ‘modest’ fashion website for modern Muslim women.
The entrepreneur plans to use her now global network of bloggers to put together inspiring editorial content and events, and to create a community and where young Muslim women can feel they belong.
“I’d go on Asos to buy an maxi skirt or a dress, but it would have a slit in it, it would be half see-through, or it would be short and the front long at the back,” Bakkar told The Memo.
“It became a really long-winded process. At first I thought it was a personal frustration, but the more times I heard ‘Oh I wish this skirt didn’t have the slit’, or ‘I really like this dress but I’m going to have to wear a top under it’, I realised the problem was much bigger than me.”
While many other broader modest fashion sites exist these are still problematic, says Bakkar.
“Sites that cater to what people label ‘modest’ fashion often still aren’t enough for your typical Muslim customer,” Bakkar explained.
“Some modest sites are still okay with skirts that stop just below the knee, or with arms being on show.”
“There are people catering to the mass market but there wasn’t anything for my particular niche as a Muslim woman.”
Alongside her sister, Selina, 30, Bakkar now handpicks hundreds of on-trend modest fashion items from mainstream outlets like Topshop or Boohoo.com. Visitors can then simply click through to buy their favourite pieces.
“Recently we did an edit to the co-ord trend – of matching top and bottoms – it took ages to find the trouser and long top versions,” says Bakkar. “It’s about showing Muslim women you can still wear the latest trends in a modest way.”
The ways items are depicted on Amaliah has been crucial in making shoppers feel at home.
“We wanted a platform that is more than about just providing you with outfits it’s a platforms that actually understand who you are as a person,” says Bakkar.
“There are definitely some brands were you can find something like a blazer, but then the model is wearing a bra or a tiny crop top under it. We want every image on our site to resonate with our customer.”
“We also realised that Muslim women were driven by finding outfits rather than items,” she says of Amaliah’s ensemble-led presentation. “A crop top, if you wore it alone you might reveal your whole midriff, but you could wear that crop top with a high waisted maxi skirt and suddenly you’re covered up.”
Amaliah’s newsletter-style subscription gives shoppers access to competitions and giveaways, but it is also used to encourage fans to get in touch and co-curate editorial content.
On top of this, the website operates as a platform for more than 30 bloggers from around the world from countries including Tunisia, Morrocco and Indonesia.
“We don’t have the Vogue or Fashion Week equivalent,” explains Bakkar. “I saw that the way people were solving the problem was to following fashion bloggers.”
“We put a call out to bloggers saying ‘hey if you’re interested in the movement let us know’ and we were overwhelmed by positive feedback that there was finally someone bringing together the modest fashion world.”
Bakkar’s ideas for Amaliah span beyond the fashion world.
“I would hope that someone who comes to our site would almost find some relief, and I hope that when they read the site, and about us and our story they are inspired,” she says.
“We want to show that regardless of your gender or whether your ethnic minority or not you can achieve whatever it is you want to.”
One series of events will focus on “founders stories” featuring businesspeople working in everything from publishing to law.
Another planned blog series called That’s Not Hijab will also call out the trolling faced by many Muslim women online.
“We want to share our stories with a motivational message telling people don’t be scared to cover up but also don’t be scared to be yourself,” explains Bakkar. “It’s one of the darker sides of the community and no one has addressed it so we wanted to.”
“The core of it is empowerment – fashion is accessible to a lot of young women, so if we can use a fashion platform in a positive way to then empower people and bring up issues that are important then that’s amazing.”
Amaliah has this week started a well-known London accelerator (details released soon).
Currently the entrepreneurs run the website by taking commission from on-site purchases, but they are still ironing out their business model and are in the process of expanding to feature more independent designers.
“Everyone has access to Asos, your River Island, your Misguided,” says Bakkar. “What we really want to look into is representing more independent brands, to set up something that will be beneficial to both them and us.”
Whether your a stylish Muslim woman looking to stay fashion-savvy, you simply appreciate a good jumpsuit, or your an investor looking out for the next big new e-commerce brand, Amaliah is most definitely one to watch.
Read more: Meet Knomo: The Apple of the fashion world
Kitty Knowles is a Senior Features Writer at The Memo. Kitty previously worked as an online journalist for GQ. She can be found tweeting @KittyGKnowles.