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Meet the New Muslim Designer in a Headscarf on ‘Project Runway’

Meet the New Muslim Designer in a Headscarf on ‘Project Runway’

Five shows in and she’s still going strong—it’s far time we talk about Ayana Ife, the hijabi designer on the hit show “Project Runway.”

Ayana is not the first woman in hijab to be on the show, that credit goes to Nzinga Knight. But she’s continuing to pave the way as the latest contestant!

Project Runway, which is on its 16th season, serves as a platform for 15 talented, yet unknown designers by offering the winner cash, magazine spreads and the most prestigious, a runway show at Fall Fashion Week. For a show that pushes innovation, it’s a little late to the modest fashion game.

After how hard it was for her to find clothes that she actually liked, [Ayana] decided to start making her own.

By the first challenge, Ayana had her runway model in hijab, a grey chiffon that matched the floor-length gown she designed. By the second challenge, she had won a round. She sent her models down the runway in hijab for three out of the five episodes aired.

And she’s yet to hear the doomed “au revoir” host Heidi Klume uses to send designers home. The judges love Ayana’s looks, praising everything from the style to the technique, and noting how she stays true to the modesty of her brand.

Last nights challenge was super fun… I loved working with Sian ????????????????????@projectrunway

A post shared by Ayana Ife | Apparel Designer (@ayanaife) on

Ayana started designing clothes after putting on the hijab. With 11 siblings, hand-me-downs had her altering hemlines and designs to make the clothes more “her.” Also, the ’90s and ’00s weren’t the most stylish years for hijabis. After how hard it was for her to find clothes that she actually liked, she decided to start making her own.

From there, Ayana went to Middle Tennessee State University where she studied Textiles Merchandising and Design. After working as a consultant in bridal wear, she started her own brand, the eponymous Ayana Ife.

Ayana's past work
Ayana’s past work

She hopes that winning Project Runway could get her brand the exposure she seeks.

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“I want to be an acclaimed designer for the modest market. I really want to be branded that way. Not just for Muslim women — for women who love modest fashion,” she said.

Ayana, from New York, moved to Salt Lake City, Utah two years after her parents divorced. She moved in with one of her many sisters.

“I feel like it’s in my best interest to step up to the plate and say, ‘Here I am. I’m going to make all these amazing things that are modest.'”

She’s auditioned for the show three times, finally making it on her fourth try.

“I’ve seen too many girls wearing long sleeve T-shirts under prom dresses and that hurts my feelings,” Ayana told Deseret News. “I’ve seen so many of us wearing cardigans and just layering and we’re hot. It’s like, why are we even doing this? Can someone just make a long sleeve top? Why is it so hard to come by these things that are just so simple? … I feel like it’s in my best interest to step up to the plate and say, ‘Here I am. I’m going to make all these amazing things that are modest.'”

Girl…yes. We’re definitely #TeamAyana and can’t wait to watch her rise to the top.


This article previously attributed Ayana Ife as the first woman in hijab to be on the show. That has since been corrected, as that credit goes to Nzinga Knight.

 

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