Elif is the daughter of a scholar and Islamic Professor and sister to very strong influential sisters. Her family moved to America from Turkey in order to practice Islam more freely and wear hijab without political conflict. Benefiting from the blessing of this positive Islamic up bring that taught her the beauty and importance of hijab, Elif created Kavakci Couture, a stylish clothing line for covered women, and is now a glamorous New York fashion designer among some of the largest fashion labels in the world.
|1. How did you get started in fashion?
I’ve dreamt about being a fashion designer since I was little. I also had a very unique sense of style since I was 4-5. However as much as I wanted to study fashion, I somehow ended up majoring in business at university. And then finally made my way back into studying fashion and becoming a fashion designer.
|2. Why did you decide to make clothes for hijab?
Hijab is a huge part of my life and makes me who I am. I know lots of hijabi designers who don’t necessarily design Islamic appareal. I always knew that if I became a fashion designer I would only design Islamic wear for women. I started wearing hijab at the age of 12, and growing up in the states, I found it very difficult to find clothes that cover my body. I realized that there is a huge shortage in this area and if I can make use of my talents I can help the rest of the hijabi world.
|3. Tell us about your designs.
My designs are most often a mirror image of my own style. The KAVAKCI COUTURE woman is a confident hijabi who is most often in the public eye and is a walking PR for Islam. She is very modest, chic, elegant and comfortable at the same time. She is also very active in sports and gives uttermost importance to working out and eating healthy.
|4. Have you found it hard to assimilate into the fashion world?
Not really. Since I’ve always been interested in fashion and following the fashion world pretty closely, it has been pretty easy for me. I’m also very lucky because the Fashion Market is over saturated with designers. I’ve chosen a very niche market in which there is no competition, but a huge demand and not enough supply.
|5. How has your reception been from others in the industry?
Very well. I’ve gotten lots of positive feed back.
|6. Do you feel that fashion is changing in a way that is making hijab easier?
Absolutely! On my blog, www.hijabitopia.com I often write about how hijabis are rocking the fashion world and affecting trends, and how the conservative trends are on the runways every season. All the stores around the country have scarves, pashminas or turbans wrapped around the mannequins heads in their window displays.
|7. Are you finding other Muslimahs in the industry who are doing similar things?
Yes. There are several Hijabi Fashion designers around the world who also have amazing designs. Aheda Zannetti the designer of Burqini in Australia, Rabia Z. in Dubai and Sarah Elenany in the UK are a few names that come to mind.
|8. How do you feel your religion has helped you in your career?
Enormously. If I wanted to describe it in one sentence I would have to say “I believe, therefore I am!” My passion for Islam and wearing hijab only for the sake of Allah has gotten me where I am as an individual today.
|9. Do you have any Muslim women role models?
I have many Muslim role models. My mom, my sisters, my best friends.
|10. What advice do you have for other Muslim girls who are interested in entering the fashion world?
I would suggest they get their fashion degree as early on as they possibly can. If they know they have a talent and a passion for design, they should start taking drawing and art classes, or even sewing as soon as possible. Once they complete their degree, they should concentrate on doing several internships to gain experience.
Also check out Elif’s AWESOME BBC interview here!
Photography by Nicole Queen.
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