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Sarah Bahaa is one of Egypt's youngest women to appear on the modest-fashion scene
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Sarah Bahaa is one of Egypt's youngest women to appear on the modest-fashion scene

Sarah Bahaa is one of Egypt's youngest women to appear on the modest-fashion scene
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Sarah Bahaa. Photo: Aseel Eid

 

It’s hard to believe that Sarah Bahaa only started her own modest fashion collection a year and a half ago. Sketching designs since the age of 16, she’s now a favourite amongst Egypt’s hijabi fashionistas.

A headscarf-wearer herself, Sarah had struggled to find fashion-forward clothes. Tired of always wearing long-sleeved shirts underneath tops, she started designing her own clothes while still at university.

“My friends and classmates would ask me where I got my clothes from,” Sarah told My Salaam. “Then I met a girl who told me, why not sell your clothes?”

This prompted the young designer to turn her passion into a business. Despite not having any formal education or training in fashion design, she was eager to prove herself in Egypt’s fashion scene.

MAKING AN IMPRESSION

Bahaa, now 22, began drawing designs to create her first-ever collection. “Looking back now, it was a bold move to start my own collection,” she remarked. “Instead of starting small and testing the market, like my friend advised, I went all in.”

As she was sketching designs for her collection, she learned that the Cairo Fashion Festival (CFF) was taking place in a few days. With little time to spare, she designed clothes for herself and her sister, a fashion model, and entered the CFF.

“As soon as I entered, everyone started asking who I was and what clothes I was wearing,” she continued. “When they learned that these were my designs, I started getting a lot of attention from the press.”

Following the event, Sarah created social media platforms for her fashion line and became an overnight sensation. Sarah Designs had officially arrived. “In about a day, I had about a thousand followers on Facebook.”

FILLING A MARKET GAP

Sarah Bahaa

Sarah Bahaa. Photo: Aseel Eid

 

Participating in the CFF helped Sarah launch her first collection and start building her fashion line. “Hijab plays an important role in a woman’s life. I therefore wanted to create something just for them so that they too can feel beautiful and stylish.”

While Sarah also designs clothes of other styles, she focuses particularly on veiled women because of the limited options available for them. Catering to hijabi women also makes good business sense, what with Muslim consumers expected to spend $373 billion on fashion by 2022.

Recognising the massive market potential of modest fashion, many brands, from niche to mainstream, are now catering to Muslim women. “There are so many brands and people creating modest fashion lines,” said Franka Soeria, who is an independent Muslim brand consultant for many of Southeast Asia’s modest-fashion brands. “The key is differentiation. The market needs more diversity, and women need more solid options. If brands succeed, they will find a very loyal following, maybe even more so than mainstream brands.”

Sarah agrees that the fashion industry should pay more attention to hijabs, but she also believes that more can be done to diversify modest fashion. “A girl is a girl, whether she is tall, short, big or small. We should therefore provide clothes that are not only comfortable for her but that also suit her fashion style.”

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Sarah wants to study fashion abroad and work in Europe to sharpen her skills and talents so she can eventually pursue her fashion line full-time.

“I spent a year reading and learning everything I can about fashion, from trends to patterns to cuts and colors,” she said. “After I graduate from university, I want to work and study fashion abroad to master my skill.”

But returning to Egypt to make it big in her home country is her ultimate goal. “I plan to return to design clothes in my country. I want to build my name here and I want people to still remember me when I return.”

(Writing by May El Habachi; Editing by Seban Scaria seban.scaria@thomsonreuters.com)

Copyright 2018 My Salaam