How a Muslim Indo-Caribbean woman is Creating Representation for Modest Fashion
As Eid approaches, we are pulling out our favourite Hijabs and cultural wear to celebrate one of the greatest times of the year. Brown Girl Diary decided to reach out to Haafizah Khaderoo, founder of UNVEILED, a fashion brand that puts a modern and unique twist to modest clothing and Muslim fashion.
1. What is your experience as an Indo-Caribbean Muslim woman?
One way to explain my experience - is it’s like living outside of the box. I say this because sometimes you don’t know where you “fit in, especially coming from a Guyanese background. I’m sure many Guyanese people have experienced this - For those who aren’t necessarily aware of Guyana they often think of Ghana which leads me down the rabbit hole of explaining where Guyana is located [South America] then further having to explain that we’re considered Caribbean but we’re not an island and not located in the Caribbean! Now to add being Muslim on top of this, It’s always entertaining to see the reactions I get after answering someones question on my background 95 per cent of the time they respond with “but how are you Guyanese and Muslim?!” What surprises me is the fact that not many know the difference between culture and religion. I usually take that opportunity to educate and explain that the Muslim community is very diverse, no matter the background or the colour of a persons skin they can be Muslim and this conversation often breaks the ideal stereotype that only associates Muslims with the Middle-East. Being a Caribbean-Muslim woman is like living outside of the box, to be honest I have never used the term “Indo-Caribbean” to identify myself when speaking to others who ask what my background is, I would just say Caribbean and that is simply because there were not many conversations surrounding the topic and I’m looking forward to seeing what BGD has in store for young women out there who want to have this conversation.
2. How has this experience had an impact on UNVEILED?
This experience is one of the main reasons why I wanted to start UNVEILED. There are many stereotypes that Muslims are only from the middle-east there is genuine ignorance around the idea that Muslims can come from all different backgrounds. Also within the Muslim community there is a lack of representation of Muslim women especially in fashion. Most Islamic fashion stores would reflect Arab culture and Arab women, with UNVEILED we highlight the many faces in our diverse community and that women with darker skin can also be in magazines, runways and other media.
3. What was your inspiration for creating a Hijab line?
This may sound weird but I feel like every experience I’ve had so far in life was led by Divine Guidance, everything happens for a reason with purpose. I did not grow up wearing the hijab. Each woman in my family chose to wear it when they were ready and I started wearing it when I was 15 in grade 11. When I started to wear a hijab I started dressing more modestly. Every time I went to shop for clothes I noticed how difficult it is to find modest clothing, I would pick up a dress and it would have no sleeves or if it did have sleeves it would be above my knees and I always said to myself I want to have a boutique for Muslim women where I can create chic clothing and have a variety of hijabs with different material and textures for them to choose from. Not having many modest clothing options in stores is what gave me style. I would create outfits out of the most random pieces of clothing and thrifting was and still is essential. Fast forward to when I decided to go into a media studies program in university at first I thought it may not be the right path but something told me not to give up until my third year I was given the opportunity to interview people and write stories on what I was interested in and I thought it would be cool to highlight my community. I noticed not many know the difference between culture and religion, not many know about modest fashion and women in my community need more positive representation and that’s when I decided to put my skill and passion [journalism/media communications and modest fashion] together and created a brand filled with purpose to represent the diverse Muslim community through the stories we share, to the hijab collections and modest clothing we create.
4. How did you come up with the name ‘UNVEILED’?
When coming up with the name, through my experiences and having every reason written down on why I wanted to create this platform, I noticed I just needed one word that can represent it all. When thinking about what the hijab is and what it means to me I realized to veil yourself is an idea in itself of UNveiling yourself. It is covering the practicalities of a person which leaves one to show their true self. Having to relate to the mind and soul as opposed to the body/physical appearance.
This led me to choosing UNVEILED and creating the meaning: Elevating from stereotypes, stigma and adversity placed onto one by society; revealing the true self to reclaim and move in power.
This meaning shows each individual that encounters our brand that they are enough and there is room out there to make their mark leaving all doubts behind them.
5. What is the mandate of UNVEILED and why?
UNVEILED is a Toronto based modest fashion brand but more importantly it is a community.
I decided to put my skill and passion [journalism/media communications and modest fashion] together and created a brand filled with purpose to represent the diverse Muslim community. We strive to encourage and elevate through the stories we share, to the hijab collections and modest clothing we create. Each woman who wears a hijab from UNVEILED will hold their head up high and move in power because the hijab is a Muslim woman’s crown.
6. How has your brand changed the way Indo-Caribbean Muslim women are viewing themselves in society?
UNVEILED’s conversations of empowering Muslim WOC to be positively represented within media and everyday life has women feeling more confident sharing in their stories, representing where they are from [Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados etc.] and overall being a confident and proud Muslim. Having conversations on how beautiful the hijab is, highlighting these everyday women wearing them, and having positive conversations surrounding the Muslim community is exactly what we need to uplift and encourage these women to go after and accomplish their goals.
7. What do you see for the future of UNVEILED?
My goal is to shatter stereotypes around Muslim women. We can be fashionable, we can have any career and it shouldn’t come as a shock and we can be visible and represented in society whether it’s being a scientist or if it’s something as simple as being in an everyday grocery store flyer.
Always embracing and highlighting diversity within the Muslim community to highlight the many faces because Islam is not a culture it is a religion. if I had a dollar for the many times I’ve gotten “how are you Caribbean and Muslim?!” I’d be rich!
Also vibing with the Muslim youth starting with my community where I’m from I would love to hold mini workshops where these young women and men can come together to talk about their experiences and learn how to uphold a positive self-image and encourage their peers.
UNVEILED is more than a modest fashion brand it is a platform that stands for and highlights Muslim people of colour in their element sparking positive messages and changing the world.
To purchase Hijab wear and to keep in touch with UNVEILED, follow them on Instagram @unveiledtoronto