Ask Me Anything Video - Melanie Answers ALL Your Questions!
Posted on Jan 18, 2016
YOU asked, I answered! Watch the video below to hear all my answers to all your questions and for the questions I didn't get to in the video, read the rest of my answers below!
1) What or who are your style inspirations?
I am definitely inspired by vintage designs and silhouettes from the 40's, 50's and 60's. It's where I got the inspiration for the Polished Peplum skirt, the Sophia Gown and many other designs. I think it was the best time for fashion for women - no detail was overlooked from their matching gloves to carefully selected shoes and accessories - I love the convention and etiquette of it all.
2) Who is your favorite blogger?
I used to follow Karlas Deras of Karla's Closet religiously, but her style aesthetic has changed a lot in recent years. My favorite of the moment is definitely Blair Eadie of Atlantic Pacific. I love how daring she is with fashion, experimenting with bold colors and silhouettes - yet she always looks polished and put-together.
3) How do you manage time between a job, business, marriage and personal time?
Time management is all about organization for me. I'm a fairly OCD person so I always have to have a neatly-kept home and workspace in order to really be productive. I do work part-time as an attorney - I definitely wouldn't be able to work full-time and juggle HH, so that helps. I also really find that making time for ibadah throughout your day other than your five daily prayers not only give you more energy, but somehow you find the time to get everything done. There's so much blessing and barakah in taking the time for Allah (S) that He will put barakah in your own time. I think that things will get much harder to juggle once we start a family inshallah, but for now between my husband, the house and my jobs, it's not that bad! Oh and I rarely watch TV so that helps, and I rarely use any social media outlets other than the times I'm on for Haute Hijab.
4) How do you attain long, short term goals? And how to get things done daily.
First you need to be realistic with yourself. What can you realistically accomplish? Next, get organized, like I mentioned above. Organize your goals, your thoughts, and your ideas. How are you going to execute your goals? Make a to-do list and concentrate on ticking those tasks off one by one until your end-goal is realized. On a daily basis - organize your time. The best piece of advice is to take advantage of the morning! The early morning is filled with so much barakah, I always get the best work done in the early morning after fajr. Segment your time throughout the day according to what you need to accomplish and stick to it! I have a planner where I literally write out the things I want to accomplish that day and cross them off when they're finished. Not only does it give me a sense of accomplishment, it motivates me to get things done!
5) What are the must-see places you would recommend in Dubai?
I have an entire blog-post of all the places to see in Dubai you can check-out here.
6) What are nice hijabi clothes for the summer that you like to wear?
For me, the summer-time is all about crisp and clean whites! I love to wear white tops, white pants, white skirts - I love top-to-bottom all white looks as well! I like to pair them with some nice flesh or cognac colored lace-up espadrilles or wedge sandals. I also tend to wear wraps more than scarves in the summer and it's all about lightweight, comfortable fabrics. I live in white collared shirts pretty much all year round, but especially so in the summer. I also wear skirts much much more in the summer than I do in other seasons.
7) Any tips for a hijabi swimsuit?
The brand I wear is called Veilkini, part of the full cover line. I love it because it's actually modest! The other one's I've tried from Speedo and other brands are super tight - particularly the pants. The one I have is loose and when you get out of the water it doesn't stick to your body either. Highly recommend it!
8) What camera do you use and what editing apps do you use?
For the majority of my photos I use the Canon G7 X point and shoot. It's great for video (I film all my travel vlogs on it) and it has a swivel screen - perfect for selfies! It's a very powerful point and shoot. Then I use a Nikon DSLR - it's the D7100 - we got it a few years ago so I'm sure there are other newer models on the market. I use this for all my at-home YouTube vidoes as well as outfit shoots with the 50 mm lens.
As far as editing apps, I used to use VSCO religiously but then the Instagram editing tools got pretty advanced so I typically edit all photos right in the Instagram app. For the blog I use Lightroom to edit all my photos.
9) Are you married? What is the most important feature that you need to look for in a future husband?
Yes! My husband is the co-founder of Haute Hijab! I think that the most important feature to look for in a husband will differ from person to person, based on your personality. Compatibility is huge, so someone who's a hardcore type-A person might need someone that's more relaxed or an extreme introvert might have problems adjusting to the lifestyle or habits of an extreme extrovert. Generally speaking though, I think a very important feature to look for is spiritual compatibility. This will differ with every person but I knew I wanted to find a practicing Muslim who had strong faith and at the very least a willingness to strengthen their connection to Allah (S) and their understanding of Islam. That and the basic character traits of kindness, generosity, honesty and humility. I carefully observed the way my husband treated others, not only his friends and family but complete strangers as well. Those things were really important to me.
10) Where did you meet your husband?
We met through friends! I'm originally from Detroit and he's from Chicago, so some mutual friends of ours set us up. Of course the first thing I asked him to do was call my Dad! It's the best way to weed out the guys who are serious about marriage and guys who aren't. He called my Dad the next day! We hit it off right away hamdulilah, subanAllah, when it's right - you just know!
11) What type of work do you do?
I am an attorney by profession and currently I work as a law clerk for three judges at the Dubai International Financial Center's Court. Basically law clerks write the judgments or opinions for judges after they've presided on a case (and after going through the insurmountable pleadings provided by both parties). Before this though, I concentrated on Civil Rights back home in Detroit. I worked for the Michigan CAIR chapter as a staff attorney and before that with a private Civil Rights litigation firm, the NAACP and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
12) What's the most transformative bit of Islamic knowledge you've ever learned?
This is such a great question! I really thought long and hard about this one. I used to lead a weekly halaqa of high school and college aged girls back in Detroit and when preparing for one of the halaqat I came across this hadith qudsi:
“Myself, Mankind and Jinn are in a great serious state. I create them, then they worship other gods that they make for themselves; I bless them with my bounties, then they thank someone else for what I sent them; My Mercy descends to them while their evil deeds ascend to Me; I endear them with my gifts even though I have no need to any of them while they alienate themselves from Me with their sins even though they are desperate for my help. Whoever returns to Me, I accept him no matter how far he is; and whoever turns away from Me, I approach him and call on him. Whoever leaves a sin for my sake, I reward him with many gifts and whoever seeks to please Me, I seek to please him. Whoever acknowledges My Will and Power in whatever he does, I make the iron bend for his sake. My dear people are those who are with Me. Whoever thanks Me, I grant him more blessings; whoever obeys Me, I raise him and endear him more. Whoever disobeys Me, I keep the doors of My Mercy open for him; if he returns to Me, I bestow him with My Love since I love those who repent and purify themselves for My Sake. If he does not repent, I still treat him by putting them in hardship to purify him. Whoever favors Me over others, I favor them over others. I reward every single good deed ten times over or seven hundred times over to countless times over. I count every single bad deed as one unless the person repents and ask for My Forgiveness in which case I forgive even that one. I take into account any little good deed and I forgive even major sins. My Mercy supersedes My Anger; My Tolerance supersedes My Blame; My Forgiveness supersedes My Punishment as I am more merciful with My slaves than a mother with her child.”
Reading this really changed the way I viewed Allah (S). Growing up, there was such an emphasis on halal and haram and right and wrong that we didn't really get to know Allah (S) - when I read this I couldn't help but cry out of how merciful Allah (S) is and how much I took His mercy and love for granted. I think this was the beginning of a transformation for me in the way I viewed Allah (S) and the relationship I had with Him. Today, I have a very personal relationship with Allah (S) whereas before coming across this hadith, it was more formal.
13) How difficult is it to run a US based business from the Gulf? Was your plan all along to start in the US, expand globally and then settle in the Gulf?
Hahaha actually that was not our plan! When my husband got an offer out here in Dubai it was right in the midst of our first collection launching in Chicago and I was so worried that all this hard work would be in vain if we made the move over to Dubai. All of our manufacturing was in Chicago; our entire team was there. Moving do Dubai was actually super daunting for me in terms of the business. But SubhanAllah, with Allah (S)'s help, I overcame hurdle after hurdle and just started the process of shifting everything over to Dubai. It was a really difficult decision because we were really proud of the fact that our clothing was made in the U.S.A; but quality control and being involved in the manufacturing process from start to finish really came first.
The difficulty doesn't come from being a US based business outside of the U.S., the difficulty comes from not being able to truly source the textiles I want here in Dubai. We had to put a lot of designs on hold because we couldn't find the right fabrics. We did hit the jackpot with hijab prints though hamdulilah, so there were positive and negative aspects to the experience.
14) How do you foresee your online company growing over the next three years?
We are in the process of transitioning back to the U.S. this month so that'll be exciting for the company as we shift operations again. We want to open our own proper office/studio with work spaces for all our employees and really rev up design, photography and overall brand aesthetic. I'd also like to do more to give back to the community and really engage with the HH community in meaningful ways once I'm back home.
15) What advice would you give to someone starting a clothing line?
1) First off - you need to know what your strengths are. What are your God-given gifts and talents? What can you realistically do and do well? If what you can do has already been done (over and over) then think about how you can set yourself apart and really make your business stand out. Start out with clear intentions. Why are you doing this? What are you setting out to accomplish? If any of the answer to those questions are things that displease Allah (S) (to gain notoriety, to be better than someone else, to "make it big," etc.) then I suggest you go back to the drawing board and re-assess your intentions.
2) Understand how much time and effort is going to be sucked in to your business. You really need an undying passion in whatever it is you're doing to have a successful business. If you don't - you won't be motivated to put in the time and effort it takes to start your own business. It's not as easy as it looks - there's a ton of work that goes into starting a business so make sure that it's something you absolutely love doing!
3) Build bridges. As an attorney, I didn't know the first thing about manufacturing a clothing line - I just had a solid vision. I built bridges in the industry and consulted and hired people to do the things I simply didn't have expertise in. I helped others and always maintained friendly relationships. Being overly competitive, vindictive or selfish isn't going to get you anywhere.
Thank you all for your insightful questions! Have more? Leave them below and I'll be sure to answer them inshallah!