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Go Behind the Scenes of the Heritage Collection with the Story of Our Design Process

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Posted on Jun 28, 2019
Dilshad Ali

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How hard can it be to design a printed hijab? Think about what you like, what you think your customers would like, work with a designer, come up with some ideas, choose a fabric and done, right? Except ... not at all!

As we ready for the launch of our Heritage Collection - an exclusive, limited-edition, high-end line of five silk prints that pays homage to the origins of Haute Hijab and celebrates our 10th anniversary - I am thinking about the entire design process that brought us to where we are now. There’s a story to the design process that starts with an idea, moves to conception and ends the finished hijab that we present to you. Melanie told me Haute Hijab’s origin story and how that led to the Heritage Collection. But I wanted to know more - what did it take from a design perspective to bring this very special collection to completion?

I spoke with our Creative Director Gizelle Begler to learn the design story of our Heritage Collection. Through the following images and captions (as told to me by Gizelle), I want to take you on a journey with me through that process - everything that went into the designing and creating the five very special silk print hijabs that make up our Heritage Collection.

This is our - Haute Hijab’s - heritage, and we hope you’ll love it as much as we do.

Gizelle's Mood board for Heritage Collection

From Gizelle's mood board for the Heritage Collection - classic scarves and looks of old Hollywood.

When we want to design a new collection for our customers, we first ask ourselves - what does she need? We look at our customers and what we are already carrying and figure out what’s missing – for example, right now we have a lot of great solid options, and we know our customers love our prints but that we don’t have enough of them. It’s also undeniable that silk print scarves are a fashion staple that has lasted through the ages. All high-fashion brands have their signature silk scarves. Hermes. Chanel. Versace. All of these are incredible brands, but none of them are by Muslim women or for Muslim women.

Sometimes the designs themselves don’t work for hijabs, like if they have depictions of animals or things we’re not encouraged to wear when praying. And so we think, why shouldn’t we have our own collection of proprietary prints that are designed for our customer’s needs but also don’t sell out so quickly? It was only a matter of time until we decided to make it a reality.

Melanie

The classic Melanie look.

Our goal is to cover all hijab categories and listen to our customer when she asks for something. The reason we decided to go to with the Heritage Collection next (instead of athletic hijabs or embellished solid hijabs) was that it coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the start of Haute Hijab. And, it’s really a Melanie aesthetic - that buttoned-up look. Not to mention, the vintage silk look has had more than a few moments in the fashion world of late – minimalism has really given way to maximalism, to bold self-expression, being inspired by different eras of fashion and being creative with prints. So for a myriad of reasons, this just makes sense!

Gizelle's Mood Board

More from Gizelle's mood board for the Heritage Collection - channeling high-end, designer silk scarves and looks of high fashion.

The next thing in the design process is to look at the high-end, designer silk scarves that have been worn through the ages and what makes them so special. We see it in the east and in the west alike, transcending different decades and trends, worn by “fashion people” and Hollywood starlets, hijabis and non-hijabis alike. We want our silk print hijabs to be as similar as possible to the scarves we love, but we want it to be on our terms. As Americans, we want it to have that classic feel that stays true to the vibe of a high-end silk scarf, but instead of prints with symbols and images from European culture, we want it to be infused with the symbols and themes of Islamic heritage – inspired by the art and architecture seen in Muslim countries around the world. Along the way in our research and through discoveries Melanie has made about the origins of Eurocentric motifs and art, we learn how much of that is derived from Islamic art and heritage, like the tessellation of patterns and geometric designs!

Heritage Collection inspo HH hijabs

Nine Haute Hijabs that helped inspire the Heritage Collection.

By now we have an idea in mind of what direction we want to go, but we also have to study what our customer is buying and loving. From our years of selling prints on Tuesdays, we can see what our customers love and what sells out the fastest. Filigree designs. Chain links. Animal prints. Classic colors. Shades of blue. We paid attention to these nuances to incorporate them into the Heritage Collection.

All these things become our starting point with the designer we choose to work with. We say - Hey, we like prayer beads. We like crescent moons. We like our logo. Here are are also things our customers like - chain links. Animal prints. Ornate gold designs also sell out.

Islamic art inspo

The Heritage Collection - The Classic Inspiration

Two of the Islamic art inspiration photos we showed our designer to interpret into our Heritage Collection.

Now we need a designer. Gizelle starts the hunt - she goes to design shows in the U.S. and checks out different design websites, looking for a particular aesthetic. She combs through the portfolios of hundreds upon thousands of designers. Many designers based in the U.S. have modern, abstract prints in their portfolios, and while that’s great, that’s not what we want for this collection. We need someone with a delicate touch, someone who understands old-world designs, the look of timeless, classic high-end silk scarves – as well as someone who can understand our Islamic design heritage and the concepts we are putting forth.

After a few months of research and looking for the right person, Gizelle finds a print designer with whom she and Melanie click - an Italian designer (based in Italy). We send the designer inspiration images culled from Islamic architecture, colors and designs along with vintage scarves we love. He sends us prototypes that are in the vein of what we are looking for.

Islamic Art design inspo

More Islamic art inspiration that you will see in our Heritage Collection.

We have our designer, we have our inspiration images, we have an idea of what we want, and we know what are our best-selling print motifs. It should be easy now, right? But there are many other things to consider.

The size is a big one – making sure the hijabs are neither too big nor too small. And of course, making sure the designer understands not to include motifs that aren’t conducive to prayer, like depictions of animals or faces.

But perhaps most importantly, we have to nail down the fabric. Some high-end scarves have a weave that actually creates echoes in your ears when you wear them as hijab, or the fabric texture is too thick, thin, stiff or slippery. We studied dozens of samples before we settled on just the right silk – perfectly weighted, no echo, soft but not flimsy, smooth but not slippery.

Gizelle and Melanie

Gizelle and Melanie look at specs and designs during the making of the Heritage Collection.

After we have some designs that are strong, we have them printed locally on some cheap fabric in different sizes to see how it looks on the head – how a motif falls in placement on the head. Is it too big or too small? How does it feel when it’s tied on your head? Sometimes we look at a design iteration and say, Whoa we need to shrink it down. Sometimes design extends to the edges of the hijab, and you lose some of that design when you fold the hijab or tie it. We have to tweak and re-tweak again and again, seeing what gets lost or isn’t placed the way we wanted, and then reworking the whole design again.

It’s a learning experience for Gizelle, Melanie and everyone involved in the designs. What color looks nice on the face? The slightest bit of one shade this way or that way can make or break it. And then also we want to make sure that there are pieces in the collection to work with a variety of tastes. We have some in the collection that are heavily worked with ornate gold, but then we have ones that are more subdued. We have pastel and soft colors, and some designs that are more avant-garde.

But the one theme is that they are all timeless – even the ones that push the envelope a bit more. Each one is an investment piece that will never go out of fashion.

Jewels

Jewels from the Heritage Collection photo shoot.

What makes something timeless? Gizelle explains to me - classic colors and designs that transcend always-changing fashion trends. For example, she says, black and white carries through time. You can’t go wrong with gold filigree, or combinations of navy and gold.

Also, one of the themes of this whole project is the idea of elevating the everyday, elevating our whole collective imagination even. We know that as Muslims, we should look nice. We should be role models to humanity, the way we put ourselves together in our manners, our behaviors and our modest dressing. But what does it mean to take ownership of that - to do fashion that is by Muslim women for Muslim women? For those of us who wear hijab, how much do we really think about our hijab? How often has it been that throwaway part of our wardrobe - the last thing we put on before leaving our home - when it truly warrants thought and care, and not just because of its religious and symbolic significance or because it identifies us as Muslim, but because of our self respect, self expression and our own well being. These are things we have thought about in the concept, meaning and design of this Heritage Collection. From an idea to product, this takes us an entire year to complete. But, it’s so worth it!

At a glance it feels like a very traditional, classic silk-print scarf. Upon further inspection, it’s a whole different thing.

The Heritage Collection will debut on July 2! Stay tuned to the blog for more!


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