A couple of months ago I came across Mode-sty and ordered a dress from there. Lately, I have been really into purchasing and supporting Muslim-owned businesses, especially Muslim women fashion designers. Years ago, it was a pain to find modest and stylish clothes. We would either have to layer a lot, or opt to non-fashionable, older style designs (sweater vests and turtlenecks, anyone?). So I get really excited when I come across modern and modest websites like Mode-sty.
I interviewed the CEO of Mode-sty, Zahra Aljabri, and was so inspired! Not only is she a successful business woman, but a mother of three young children. Super Muslim Woman! The 33-year-old designer James Faghmous, the co-founder of Mode-sty and she live in Manhattan.
Read the interview below:
Muslim Girl: When did you start Mode-sty? And why?
Zahra Aljabri: We started Mode-sty almost four years ago back when there was no place that brought all the different brands that were serving the modest community together. I wanted to give the modest community a place to shop that was similar to Nordstrom.
There are so many “modest” brands nowadays. What makes your brand stand out?
We are focused on style first and coverage second. There are a lot of items that are modest but that are not really contemporary or modern. Our standard to carry an item is that it has to be so cute that any woman would want to wear it. We also carry Muslim, Jewish and Mormon brands and are very consciously inclusive of the wide spectrum of modest dressers. We are the only company to have a truly interfaith store. We recently made a video to highlight how the major religious all have emphasized modesty, you can watch it here.
Mode-sty was selected as “one of the hottest fashion startups” by Forbes (2012) and Business of Everything Magazine (2013). How did that make you feel as a Muslim woman to be recognized by these huge companies?
It was an incredible feeling to be acknowledged by Forbes and Business of Everything. In the Muslim community, we know that the demand is there and that we have a lot of purchasing power, so to get that recognition is a nice point of validation. However, that’s all it is, the real work is still in building the business, brand, sourcing, etc. At the end of the day, it’s about the work put into make something great.
Why would you recommend Muslim women to support small, Muslim-women owned business like yours?
Our economic power is the strongest tool we have. Where you spend your money matters, it sends a message about what you value and what you don’t. I don’t necessarily believe you need to support all Muslim businesses, but I do think we should make some effort to avoid businesses that have clear and documented humanitarian and/or environmental violations. I will say that by supporting small Muslim-owned businesses, you give them the chance to become the next leading brand.
As a Black Muslim woman who owns a successful clothing business, what advice would you give to our readers who come from diverse backgrounds?
If you want something, you’re going to have to take it. Being a minority in this country has always meant you have more hurdles to jump through. Don’t complain about the extra hurdles — figure out how you can jump through all of them. Especially now under the Trump administration, we’ll see that there will be more overt hostility, but there will also be more intentional opportunities. Position yourself to be lucky by being prepared and always hustling.
What are some challenges you have faced throughout this journey?
The biggest challenge has been internal — overcoming the voice in my head that makes me doubt myself and feel insecure. Yes, doors have been closed in my face many times, but you can usually find another door. What’s harder is to get up and work hard each day when you don’t believe that you have what it takes. I have to remind myself constantly that I have all the keys I need to succeed, most important of which is the belief in Allah.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers about your business or about yourself?
I’m working towards getting mainstream brands to make modest collections similar to other brands’ plus-size or petite-size lines. If your readers are interested, please sign up here and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.