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Ethical Brands: In Conversation With 19 Year Old Self Made Dress Designer & Tailor Hafsah Khan

by in Fashion on 6th November, 2018

I came across Hafsah’s profile when I was feeling incredibly underrepresented by mainstream brands when it came to finding long sleeved long dresses for weddings. I  had to find just the right outfit for a mixed wedding, which was extremely difficult. What inspired me most toward this young woman is her kindness, and ability to see the client for who they are and the beautiful character traits that make them unique and consequentially designs bespoke dresses for that. When I first met her though, I was blown away that this mature level-headed, creative businesswoman was an 18-year-old well-mannered student.

1. Tell us a little about yourself…

My name is Hafsah, I study at the London College of Fashion, I am also a designer. My brand name is Aniq, I make bespoke occasional dresses and ware for Muslim women and get most of my orders from Instagram. What I mean by bespoke, I meet with every client at my house and we chat so that I get to know them, and can gauge their personality traits to make their dress unique to them.

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Too close maybe…

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2. What triggered your interest in design?

By just being inspired by those around me, my favourite designer, Ellie Saab, my family, as they are all quite creative. They each have their own form of creativity in their fields. My grandmother was a seamstress for a number of years, she taught me from the age of 7 how to do handcrafts, and skills to empower me to make things on my own. My mother used to do graphic design. she  was teaching when she was younger, at a time when she wasn’t expected to be doing those things locked up at home, my great grandfather mashallah he always encouraged my grandmother and her sisters, the elder two of my great aunts were not educated, but all the other sisters, my grandmother, and her sisters, they all became teachers and continued teaching till their pension age. The youngest is a lecturer to this day. My grandmother stopped teaching when coming to this country from Pakistan, she had sewing skills,  but she never took money for it ever, to this day.

She became known in our community as a seamstress and tailor, it all started with someone asking her to make a shalwar-kameez as it was hard to find nice ones back then, she taught a lot of people family and friends, in those days people used to do embroidery on bedsheets and pillowcases. She was good at lots of things and multi-talented.  She worries about me, as she feels your eyesight and muscles can become affected by many nights spent sewing, as it is hard work. She always wants to come to my university to see the embroidery machines, as she always did all the stitch work, and embroidery by hand.

My uncle has influenced me so much, he’s the type to do web design while having a needle and thread in his hand stitching costumes for his kids. He is his own boss, he has his own creative flair. It is so inspiring, he makes costumes for his kids for an international day. He has done henna for me for Eid when I  was 8 years old. He was an inventor, a builder, a fixer. My grandfather was into DIY my other grandmother from my father’s side, was always sewing.

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Process ✨

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3. What was it about Ellie Saab?

His whole story, him starting to make dresses and opening his first shop at the age of 18, that inspired me I was amazed by that. And also his story, growing up in a war zone in Lebanon and living with such a big family. How he doesn’t believe in instant success, learning your craft and being patient with what you are doing, giving it time and respect.

4. What triggered the creation of your first company, and was it hard?

It was literally just an idea, everything around me was encouraging me to take this step, as a Muslim girl myself, I wanted to wear beautiful modest dresses, and couldn’t find anything out there I liked, I realised there was a gap in the market and wanted to try it out to see if it works. I started this month and already have quite a few orders. Before that, I was making dresses but for my best friend to see what  I could do, that’s when the Instagram page started.

I remember I wasn’t allowed to start a business till I turned 18, as my mother wanted me to wait till I was ready, and so I began making and selling bookmarks and hats at school that I had made without telling her. My mother wanted me to study, so she took my wool away to ensure I didn’t make anything until I went to university first (laughs). I finally got my break when she suggested I apply for the London College of Fashion.

5. How do you source your materials and make the dresses?

There is this family that own a fabric shop, the son used to give me a strip of fabric as a sample for  free,  and loads of reductions, in the beginning, his father found out that I was getting reductions  and he was initially a little grumpy and stingy, but after a while he realised I was a regular, and now the whole family gives me discounts. Now I have discussions with him about his business. I have definitely formulated a good relationship with them.

Usually, I need 6 yards of material per dress, but it depends on the material. We have a few contacts now we try to buy a whole roll at retail price. It takes around 4 weeks in total all day to make a dress, it is a hobby for me, I love it. I usually need 6 weeks from sketching to meeting my clients, to ensure I am providing them with the right bespoke dress, tailored for them and their personality. The whole process takes 6 weeks. The embroidery, the sewing, everything.

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So many winter colours in the making…

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6. What is your vision for your business in the next 5 years?

I see myself with a large beautiful studio, me at my desk ie my office a whole range of people outside and waiting for our services. Providing an excellent service and family environment where the workplace is my home for my workers. I want people to love coming into work. My dream is to do a placement with Ellie Saab, my mother wants to take me to Lebanon to work with him. That is my dream. I will be going to London, Milan and Paris fashion week with my dad insh’Allah next season as he loves the home, design, and textile element. He realyl encourages me to pursue my dreams.

7. Top 3 Inspo designers…

Ralph & Russo

Ellie Saab (of course)

(I can’t think of any others that’s why I am here).

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When it’s ready to be packed 🖤

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9. Any challenges as a young Muslim woman in this industry?

Not many today, a few years ago I feel like there were issues, but nowadays the younger generation is braver, and young Muslim women have the confidence to achieve. We feel things are more accessible to us, we have resources at our fingertips, its amazing anything is possible. The girls are braver, we are daring to do what we wouldn’t before. It’s a great time to be alive.

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Champagne gold ✨

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Waist length top with a new flared sleeve style ✨

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Follow the young designer on Instagram get your bespoke dress!

Hanan

Hanan

Hanan is an editor at Amaliah. She has a Masters in Media in the Middle East from SOAS University. Trainee of the Muslim Women in Media institute Annual Cohort at UC Davis, California. Her interests lie in ethical fashion, modern-day slavery, and when not making Youtube videos she is somewhere in between Ballet and Kickboxing. King Julian is her spirit animal.