Modest Fashion Episode: Iman Aldebe - The Hijabi Designer of Project Runway
Iman Aldebe is a designer and visual artist who is born in Sweden. With her womenswear label IMAN ALDEBE, she gained much success both in Sweden and internationally. You can find her beautiful pieces in exclusive boutiques in Stockholm, Paris, Dubai and SoHo (New York). Iman has many achievements from listed as one of the newcomer designers by Short Cuts Magazine to featured second on Yumo One’s entrepreneur list. She participated in Swedish Project Runway in October 2012 and on Von Svensson's Kläder in October 2013.
Her brand is focusing on Eco Luxury designs for career women also sophisticated collections of turbans. I talked with Iman about her journey and her struggle as a hijabi designer in Sweden.
Tell me about yourself.. when did you start designing?
I knew I wanted to become a designer since I was six years old. My father represented the Muslims in Sweden and we often had journalists at our home interviewing us. Since me and my sister wore hijab at a early age TV found us interesting and I remember one time how I showed the cameraman while i was interviewed my sketchbook where I sketched islamic fashion as a six year old. My mother dressed pretty traditional and I knew in a early stage that I wanted to spruce up the old fashion and modernize it. Meanwhile I read design in highschool from 16 years old in 2000 I started designing modern Muslim fashion . I started the business shortly there after during my journalism and law studies. And after I designed my first real eco collection named Eco Luxury year 2011 my dreams finally come true. Sweden finally welcomed a muslim designer with hijab into the fashion industry. The collection was published over 150 times that year. And was published at a number of covers. When I modernized something traditional that was considered proactive. But it took several years until the modernization was accepted by muslims worldwide. I also had to deal with racists who thought i wanted to inspire swedish women to become muslims by wearing my creations. But today trends are shifting so quickly that religious symbols are become more and more interesting. And in many areas made it into the High Fashion industry, and are now sold in luxury malls.
You have great achievements in Sweden. How do you manage to do it?
I paved the way for something new that made the Swedish journalists to find me interesting. In a morning show for channel 4 in Sweden year 2006 I were interviewed about my creations and they asked me to show the viewers how to style the veil in different beautiful ways, and so I did.
Then I got the honor to design the first police veil in Sweden and many companies followed their example to let Iman workwear design for the swedish companies their muslim employees. As pharmacies, hospital, IKEA, the military and more.
Your root is from Jordan? Does it effect your style in designing?
I was raised in a highly creative environment with an emphasis on aesthetic and expressive freedom. There is a strange juxtaposition of cultures in my life and I’m constantly looking for that strange beauty in what I design. There is a side of me obsessed with simplicity and the beautyof the unseen that is very Jordanian, and then this rebellious, rather eccentric aspect that is the sum of growing up in Sweden."
"I love to work in different mediums, and to always keep myself in a position of learning and creating. There is no difference in the root of the art, it all has the same stem, but it's a wonderful thing to see the divergence in the paths it can take."
I saw some of your pictures and it shows that you were joining Project Runway. Tell me about it more and how do you feel about it!
Design was more as a hobby for me during my law studies but after my participation in Swedish Project Runway I learnt quickly how the professional worked and adapt my work after that. I took the positive and negative critic and worked it through. I was lucky that i got such an important experience in a early age in my career. I also learnt how important it is to believe in your guts. To always go after what feels right. In the end your the only one who have to believe in your work no matter else and when you do everyone else does too. I have been lucky to also see the dark and the good side of the fashion in such an early stage in my life nothing else could scare me. I am up for everything.
Are you the first designer with hijab that joining Project Runway?
Yes and it´s an honour for me to represent the muslim women on a TV-show with plenty of viewers who have their interest in fashion and to meet such a experienced judges to give right feedback and they are behind my success.
Is it hard to be a designer with hijab in Sweden? Have hijab become an issue that may block your career or so?
I was the first muslim women in the Swedish industry wearing hijab so it took years for the people of the industry to finally see me as an individual artist. Because in the end this is who we are, artists. And today religious symbols is in High fashion industry.
You are creating modest wear and do fashion shows where Moslems are minority. How about the reception there?
When i began designing modern muslim clothes, a few years after plenty of muslim designers realised that there was a market for this.
In the early begining of 2000 it was hard for muslims in Europe to accept the thought of modern muslims clothes. Today in 2015 it's a billion industry. Plenty of the muslims thought I wanted to change Islam when infact I wanted to make the muslim women wear classy, eco, comfortable and modern clothes so they could participate in the social life. Study, work without getting discriminated. And I managed later on to launch workwear for every swedish company in Sweden if so needed. The first designed police uniform for the first muslim police woman wearing hijab in Sweden made my entrance.
What is the message of your designs?
I wanted to show the world, especially the West that Muslim woman is not oppressed . So when I designed garments , it was important for me to show the qualities that I wanted clothes that would present . I wanted my clothes to show individuality , class , independence, and power.
Your brand is ¨Haute Couture Eco Luxury¨. Is eco an important thing for you? How to maintain that eco spirit in your collections?
When I designed my first collection of 18 outfits in 2011. It was important for me that the garments would be appropriate for the future and the modern woman. It was also important to me that the collection could fit an active career woman who wants to feel comfortable in the clothes while she wants that the garments should radiate femininity. Environmental issues have always interested me and therefore it has always been obvious to me even in my design .Where the collection was renamed to Eco Luxury.
You also create turban line.. Why turban? Any special reason?
The idea was born when when my blog readers asked me to add youtube clips about how I styled my veils. So when the idea was born to remodel finished turbans that you could only wear. I began to look at the market and then there was not much to choose from. So I had pretty free hand on the point which I thought was funny. I like when I get design free and it is appreciated. The orders I from different galleries around the world are great pressure for the company that is fairly new on the market. Suddenly, I must deliver several hundred handmade turbans per month. I had never expected this response. And I think it's fun. Always fun when someone appreciates my art.
Do you believe in online selling?
Online stores are todays billion industry. The market in Sweden in small because Sweden is a small country, but abroad I see how fast you could market yourself through social media and how quickly you get orders from different countries from all over the world. Harpers Bazaar magazine found me through Instagram for an example so its easier now to be noticed, even for upcoming designers.
What is your biggest achivement so far? Your next goal?
My biggest achievement in life is making other girls/women believe in themself to let them purhase the carreer of their dreams. Many muslim women here in Sweden have written for me and said because I presented them in Media and talked about how hard it was to remain in an industry where i was the only muslim one with hijab and make it. And ignore all threats from extremists from boths sides of the society (extreme muslims and racists). And to help women in different companies as in goverments to design work wear to them so they could work with their religious clothes that also represent the company or goverment they work for, as the first policewoman in Sweden to be allowed to wear hijab in Sweden. And I was asked from the goverment to design the first hijab for the policewoman.
Do you think islamic fashion will be the next big thing in the future?
Absolutely we could already see the veil in the High fashion industry and islamic and oriental symbols in clothings. Trends switch so fast these days so everything that have been untouched becomes interesting.
Do you have any message to other hijabi designers out there?
To believe in themselves and to help each other out. Because that is the key to success. To stay humble and to be helpful. Because the more you give, the more you get. Cut bad or negative energy and focus on your target and celebrate every little progress you make in life, that´s what lights up the fire within you.
All pictures by John Honk
Check this awesome lady on :
websites: imanaldebe.com & happyturbans.com
Hattbaren NK och Götgatan, Ateljé Old, Sankt Eriksgatan 9 Stockholm
One step gallery 79 rue Charlot Paris 3
Boutiqué Adoré, Jumeirah Mall, Dubai
Soho Pop Up design store New York