How this Parisian modest-fashion designer empowers Pakistani women
- 23 January 2019
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Paris-born designer Imaan M. is on a mission to empower women through her ethically modest fashion line. Known for her bohemian-chic modest designs, Imaan wants to use fashion as a tool to make the world a better place, which means supporting marginalised women financially as well as sourcing natural and eco-friendly fabrics.
She discovered her true calling in fashion in an unexpected way; it was after she had completed a humanitarian project that she began thinking seriously about fusing modest designs with ethical practices.
“After completing my work with the Red Cross, I decided to go back to Pakistan,” she told My Salaam. “I have never been passionate about fashion, but I have always been in love with beautiful fabrics, prints and traditional embroidery.”
She got the idea of starting an ethical modest-fashion line while working in a small textile workshop in Lahore that helped divorced and widowed women to earn money by making dresses. Moreover, as a hijabi, she often struggled to find clothes that were both modest and ethical. “The creation of the brand Gulshaan was the natural outcome of all of that,” she said.
Gulshaan (“Rose Garden” in Urdu) arrived in 2014, and according to Imaan, it is the first ethically modest-fashion brand in France. The online-based store now sells everything from skirts, pants and dresses to accessories and shoes, and it ships clothes to women worldwide. Gulshaan has also been featured in leading fashion shows, such as London Modest Fashion Week in 2017 and Istanbul Modest Fashion Week in 2016.
The company designs in France but sources its fabrics from Pakistan and employs Pakistani women to make the brand’s clothes.
“The situation of single, widowed and divorced women is a real issue in Pakistan, a country that is dominated by patriarchal norms and family honour,” Imaan explained.
To support these women, Imaan works with sewing workshops in Pakistan to train and provide them with annual contracts so that they can work throughout the year instead of just seasonally. Some of these women also work from home so that they can look after their families.
Imaan is also keen to emphasise that her brand is about ethical fashion. “Modesty is directly linked to the ethical process if we think about it. It includes doing things with humility and being responsible for creating a positive impact and making a difference in this world as well as being mindful about the work conditions of others; this is also modesty, in my opinion.”
GROWING THE BRAND
Early on, Imaan decided to self-fund her first collection to gauge women’s interest in her clothes. “[My first collection] was a kind of test for me. This collection was made in a small quantity, and I really didn’t know how the customers would react.”
To garner support, she began blogging to raise awareness about her brand and the values it stands for. This approach proved successful; her first collection was sold out within two hours of being released.
However, like most young fashion designers, Imaan experienced a few setbacks growing her fashion brand. One of these was having to produce clothes every season.
“The season for fabric collection in Pakistan is not the same as [in France]. It was also too much pressure for a system that didn’t mean anything; it was just like imitating fast fashion and it was not me.”
As a Muslim entrepreneur in France, Imaan also bears the weight of being a role model for young Muslim girls and for representing Muslim women in her community. It is a responsibility that she doesn’t take lightly.
“When I was younger, there were hardly any role models who looked like me or whom I could relate to,” she said. “By creating my own business, I feel the weight of representing my community.”
(Writing by May El Habachi; editing by Seban Scaria email@example.com)
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