The Haute Hijab Luxury Collection is out and the internet is skeptical about it
Haute Hijab is the leading US hijab brand that celebrates and empowers the hijab-wearing woman by designing innovative products fueled by an obsession with superior service and craftsmanship. The Haute Hijab team is shaking up the industry by creating an entire new category in the fashion space. On January, 23rd the exclusive brand for Muslims launched a collection of luxury hijabs. The first of its kind.
Melanie Elturk, CEO of Haute Hijab, grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and always had a dream of a world where Muslims feel confident owning their identities in the mainstream; where women in hijab feel beautiful and proud to tell the world who they are. When she went to school she had only two hijabs and they didn’t fit into her American style.
The problem couldn't be underestimated. Unfortunately we still live in the world where wearing a hijab is seen as a symbol of suppression and stigmas toward Muslim women.
Initially the idea of designing luxury hijabs came to the former civil rights attorney as she reflected back at the most special moments of her life. A real need for formal hijab options was obvious. Melanie experienced it first hand as she was preparing for her own wedding.
"I had this beautiful skirt and hand-embellished belt that I made myself, and then I was wearing this polyester-chiffon hijab. And it just ruined everything. Your outfit suffers when you don't have the beautiful headpiece that should adorn your stunning gown or dress," said Elturk once in the interview.
She founded Haute Hijab — a community and e-commerce site for hijab-wearing women — with her husband, Ahmed Zedan, in 2010.
With her e-commerce site Elturk stirred the established opinion that hijab has nothing to do with fashion. With her designs she tries to dispute a point of view that hijab is just a religious garb, and makes sure that the aesthetic does't get too Arabic or Asian. Hijabs by Haute Hijabs look more like if they were inspired by classic headpieces from the '30, '40s, and '50s, with even royal and majestic flair. We could imagine Hollywood icons like Grace Kelly or Hedy Lamarr adorning this piece. Elturk's passion for vintage scarves and this affinity for all things classic and timeless infuses the collection.
Indeed times are changing. The past few years, we've seen hijab-wearing women featured in different campaigns. Through the triumphal march of hijab was spoiled by the recent scandal with the newest brand ambassador for L'Oréal Paris. British beauty blogger Amena Khan was forced to witdraw from the project. Her decision follows the discovery of tweets she wrote in 2014, which some have branded as "anti-Israel".
Nevertheless the hijabi blogosphere is still exploding. Mariah Idrissi, a British model and blogger who initially stepped into the spotlight as H&M's first hijabi model, or Nura Afia, who made history as the first hijabi Covergirl have thousands followers on Instagram and become international influencer.
You don't have to be a Muslim to appreciate their style aesthetics and find inspiration in fresh colors and textures.
The upmarket sector has a big potential for further development of the brand. Collection is considered to be first ever of its kind. There is currently a huge gap in the hijab space: until quite recently searching for 'luxury hijabs' on Internet brought poor results. The luxury category for hijabs produced in mass doesn’t really exist.
Through recent events give a us a broad hint: hijabs are trending. Nike launched its first hijab for athlets last year and Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who became the first member of the U.S. Olympic team to compete in hijab, teamed up with Mattel to create a Barbie designed after her. A special-edition doll, launched in November, is truly unique since it's the first-ever Barbie to wear a hijab.
Some big fashion houses have showed its interest for the market as well. Two years ago Dolce & Gabbana ventured to launch a collection of breathtakingly beautiful hijabs and abayas geared toward the Middle Eastern market.
With her collection Elturk complies with the request of her potential customers. Haute Hijabs works mainly with the American market and its Muslim community is highly educated and, as a result, pretty wealthy. The social life in these circles is unthinkable without formal affairs. Elturk met women who were complaining that they look frumpy in comparison to other female guests at such events. This feedback from her customers and her own expirience in the teenage years convinced Elturk to launch a luxury collection. She believes there's a real demand for special occasion hijabs.
"We knew that in order to feel comfortable and confident in hijab, women need exceptional and versatile options, and there simply weren’t options for formal occasions. We were tired of wearing the same satin scarves to weddings and black tie events," wrote she on her Facebook.
Gizelle Begler, a former couture wedding gown designer, joined Haute Hijab as a creative dirctor past fall and her cooperation with the company started with this luxury collection. Begler ist just the right choice for this business as she has experience in all areas of fashion, while luxury is what she, by her own admission was, specifically trained in and what comes most naturally to her.
Begler grew up in the Egyptian-American Muslim family. And although she herself has never worn a hijab, she perfectly understands this social group she's currently working for.
She studied at Cornell University and graduated with a degree in Fiber Science and Apparel Design. She gained experience working with American fashion companies as diverse as Giorgio Armani, Hanes/Champion, and Tommy Hilfiger. Then Begler took an occasion to travel to Kuwait, where she designed couture gowns exclusively for the royal family. So she has just the right background to assist Elturk in her mission.
Each piece of the collection is meticulously hand-crafted, 100% pure silk, and designed with custom-made appliqués and embellishments ranging from Swarovski crystals to hand-cut lace. Both Melanie and Gizelle even jumped in to do some handwork.
The collection is very variable so no woman feels left out. The Haute Hijab creations meet your every need: from the luxurious fully beaded and decorative pieces if you want to shine like a diamond to more subdued chiffon and tulle designs.
The price point of $250 to $325 seems low when you consider the craft of the elevated designs.
But Eltruk has no intention to raise the price. At the start of the work she was even hoping to price hijabs in the $100-$150 range, but expirienced first-hand why luxury fashion houses price certain pieces the way they do.
"We did a focus group, and people told us we were underpricing them, but it feels like we are in the right place", she said.
Reactions on the Internet are rather contradictory. Many users are not so elated about Elturk's vision, and don't think that a hijab should become a fashionable accessory. The feedback at the brand's site is of course more flattering. Users praise the quality of the pieces and customer service.
The long-term mission of the brand is normalizing hijab in mainstream society in the west.
“With this collection, I’m giving Muslim women the opportunity that every other woman has in America—to be beautiful and to be proud of who she is,” she said.