May 23, 2011

Interview with baraka Women & Exclusive Sneak Peak

The ladies of baraka Women, Kath and Eisha, talk about the inspirations for their line, their humanitarian efforts, the perks for working together, as well as their latest collection.

Please note: Kath's responses will be in blue, and Eisha's in red.

According to your website, the concept for Baraka was dreamed up in 2006 but was not actually put into action until 2008. What gave you the inspiration for the line back in 2006?

In 2005 I read an artical in british vogue on the frustration muslim women had from there shopping experiences.  I had converted to islam in 2005 and I met Eisha while I was learning Shariah on the weekend. As I was learning about Islam, my style of clothing began to change and I found it harder to find things. I would work on the best shopping strip in Sydney but there was nothing, I asked Eisha what she wore and she confessed all her designer labels were locked away in the cupboard and there was nothing on the market. It took me 2 years to get the confidence to start baraka, Eisha and I would sketch things in Shariah class but it was still a dream. At the time I worked for Jigsaw in the design team. They were turning over millions a season but I was so unhappy working for a design team that didn't fulfil my needs. Then I thought that if I don’t start, someone else will. I loved the images by Thierry Le Goues for Antik Batik that were shot in the desert and was inspired by the high fashion Islamic style... baraka grew from that.

Thierry Le Goues - Antik Batik
Have you always been interested in fashion and style or was there something that led to or caused this interest? 

I have always loved fashion.  Since I was 7, I have been sewing.  My great aunty was a haute couture seamstress in Holland and I wanted to go to fashion school since I was 13yrs old.  I had worked in the fashion industry for over 7 years before converting to Islam and still freelance sometimes, as my skills are hard to find and much sought after.  Eisha has always loved fashion, but her family advised her to do a marketing degree insted and allhumduallah baraka wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for knowledge, drive and skills.  My mum was a great dresser and had a 50s French style, which influenced me growing up.  She gave me all her old clothes that were made in Italy and France from the most beautiful fabrics and I used to try and wear them creatively or make things out of them.  This is where the love of fashion started for me.

How would you describe your own personal styles? 

Eisha is classic/ dramatic and I am dramatic/ natural, we had style profiles done.  Eisha loves classic dressing, very neat, pleats mixed with drama so it might be in a miss matched pattern or colour, interesting garment detail or brooch still very polished and neat.  While my drama is in textures, floral and bright colours or an amazing necklace and mixed with natural, I love wood, relaxed jersey shapes, thongs (sandals/slides), handmade leather bags, and metal embossed buttons.  We are opposite yet complementary.  When you see a baraka piece it really is a mixture of our personalities.
What matters to you most when designing clothes for Baraka? 

When I design the clothing, it very important that each collection is original.  I design ranges the same way Prada or Chanel design, I start with something inspiring, look at colour palettes, and translate that into a mood with silhouettes, then select fabrics and trims.  Fabric is key for baraka, we always choose special prints and ensure the fabric is of the highest quality from around the globe.  As a Muslim designer I have to respect hijab and know the conditions of hijab.  Sometimes there's a fine line between fashion and faith but fit is the absolute key here, its cant be short, tight, or sexy, there is nothing glamorous about this.

Who is the ideal Baraka woman? 

The ideal baraka woman is represented in our swingtag:
ba- ra- ka
an arabic word meaning blessed
I am a women that has modesty on the inside and fun and exciting trends speak to me on the outside.
I only deserve to wear exquisitely hand crafted clothing, of the world’s finest linen, cotton, silk, and jersey to keep me cool and confident, because I am.
Made in Australia with love.
We have a very diverse customer base, Muslim and non Muslim.  Many of our customers come to us not wearing Hijab because they haven’t been able to find something that modest yet can still show there personality and make them feel comfortable.  Putting on your Hijab is a life changing experience, and a large % of us live in the west, so western clothing is the only thing we know and feel comfortable in but we still want to show our Islamic identity, this is the baraka woman.  She can be a mum, a co worker, a wife but she loves to invest in beautifully well made clothing that will keep her neat and make her feel great.

I see that Baraka specializes in maxi dresses, you even have a line of couture evening /maxi dresss; but, why dresses?  Why the maxi? 

Maxi dress is a key word that is usually searched online when looking for modest clothing, that word has over 300,000 global hits a month.  We have done some one of couture dresses in silk with French guipure lace and matching jackets, and we hope to do more Inshallah.  We run styling workshops and one thing we tell our customers is a style that flatters everyone whatever their height or shape is a maxi dress.  It's so versatile and looks beautiful.  As Kath said, its definitely something that customers are looking and searching for but its also great when it suits everyone!

Couture silk maxi dress with satin and silk bolero from the 2008 Japanesque collection by baraka. French gapuire lace hat made by Philidelphia Philpot Milinery. Image by Torunn Momtazi.
Mashallah you have quite a list of charities, projects, and community involvement activities, but what inspires you to get involved in all these projects to begin with? 

Eisha and I are very passionate about giving back to the world.  My intention for starting baraka was to use the skills that Allah (swt) gave me to earn enough money to better our global community.  Fashion is the only thing I know so with Eisha’s business mind we started baraka.  Baraka as a brand is very thoughtful, intelligent, and worldly with attention to deal.  Each piece of clothing is infused with love so when you wear our clothes you can feel the love and care that goes into creating the world of baraka.  For me I feel very lucky to be living in Australia and have the freedom to be a Muslim woman living out her dreams in a fashion business.  I know how good that feels and to know that women around the world don’t have this opportunity, it drives me crazy!  I feel we are responsible to give back and help others achieve this same enjoyment.

The “New Clothing Pack” initiative in which customers to donate $60 to send out new clothing packs to women who had never or rarely experienced new clothing. The donated packs can be allocated between 2 charities: Mahboba’s Promise and Mission Australia. You can learn more about this project and many more, here.
When will the next collection be launched and where did the inspiration for this come from?

The next collection will be La Milatrie Glam, its inspired by the French Riverina and the Military.  It will be out in May Inshallah.  We work a year in advance so it’s so nice to see this collection finally at the cutters and I am sure everyone is going to be surprised as it's very beautiful.  I draw inspiration from anywhere then I brainstorm for a week or 2 and I am in the zone and completely infused.  When I finish it's never where I started, if you build a collection around your original idea chances are it hasn't been thought through enough and you will be struggling for original ideas.  I show Eisha where I am at and she adds the finishing touches and builds the range with me, Mashallah she has an eye for beautiful things.

Where do you see Baraka heading 10 or 20 years from now? 

Oh that is a great question, I would love to be in a position where baraka is like Zara of the modest dressing world.  Eisha and I strive for baraka to be global and stocked in beautiful boutiques all around the world.  We would love for Muslims and non Muslims to see the beauty in modest dressing and experience our clothes.  Inshallah, we will be able to do more amazing projects and help more women start their own business and follow there dreams.  Muslims are born leaders, the more we strive to be successful the benefits follows on to other people and communities and Inshallah we can create a world where people are without need and have their rights fulfilled.  Other things on the list :- dressing Queen Rania would be great, stocking in Villa Moda or Saks globally but whatever Allah (swt) has planned for us we are happy with that.  All we can do is show constant effort and risique is from Allah (swt) Allhumduallah.

And now we present to you a LoveHFW Exclusive Sneak Peak of 
baraka's latest collection, La Milatrie' Glam
All photos provided by baraka Women.

We're really excited about the upcoming collection, there are some amazing pieces here!  Our favorites are the embellished striped tee and the wrap dress.  If you're as excited as, us you'll not want to miss out on the chance to win pieces from the upcoming collection during HFW next week!  You can find out more about baraka and see more of their new collection on Haute Muslimah!

Thank you Kath and Eisha for taking the time to do this interview and for the sneak peak <3!


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