We recently hosted a giveaway featuring clothes from Maysaa, and now we will take you behind the scenes with the designer and CEO of the brand.
Hana Tajima, 23, was born and raised in the English countryside and says she decided to leave her fashion education behind a little early because she felt her creativity waning.
“I left education pretty early, in spite of being a geek. Studying fashion can be a strange thing, it does seem that creativity can be left by the wayside in favor of the social scene. I left my course hoping my love of design hadn’t been desecrated beyond repair.”
It must have been the right decision, because in just a few short months she’s managed to attract the attention of major media outlets, and has created a large following through her online store and fashion blog Style Covered.
But what is it that prompted her to start a fashion line? There seem to be a plethora of Muslim and non-Muslim women trying to target the “modesty” market, so what is it about her that is different?
Tajima says it’s hard for her to see it in those terms.
“Ever since I was tiny, I was sketching and sewing, ruining bed sheets and dressing my little sister in random creations. Designing has always been a part of my life. I’ve always been fervently true to my aesthetic, it’s just that now my aesthetic has shifted. You know, I was so struck by the vision of beauty in Islam even before I became Muslim. If I design more modestly now, it’s only because it’s a reflection of what I’m in love with. I guess that ties in with why it’s different. My background, having a Japanese father and an English mother, then coming to Islam, all of this is a part of who I am as a designer. I never set out to be different, I’ve just never really existed within the realms of what is ‘normal’.”
The clothes you design for Maysaa look like they came off the pages of Vogue and we love that they are so chic and glamorous. What is it that inspired your first collection?
“Most of the designs are pieces I created over the last few years, things that have become staples in my wardrobe. These are the pieces I always come back to, and I think that’s exactly what I wanted as an introduction. I think of it like the bones of a wardrobe, that have a sense of being timeless, and which you can stamp your personality on to. There is a lot to be said for understatement. I mean, the first place I always start is the way clothes make you feel. If I can picture a design in my head, imagine walking, feeling fabric flutter at my feet, you know that’s an amazing feeling. For me it’s about that connection with your inner confidence.”
You started accepting orders for your merchandise online, how has that experience been? Do you have customers from all over the world or do you see more of them are from the UK or US?
“I’ve tried to stay away from looking at the sales, I think it’s the kind of thing that could easily consume me, and I didn’t want that to get in the way of design. But it has been an amazing response, from all over the world. The UK and US have been amazing, and places like Malaysia have shown us an incredible amount of love. It’s a strange and overwhelming feeling that these clothes that for a long time only existed in my head are now a part of other people’s lives. It gives me goosebumps thinking about things like that.
Some Muslim women feel that if you’re promoting “hijab fashion” you should use only models who wear hijab, or at least have the models wear hijab in each photo, what are your thoughts on that, is it even an issue?
“I guess the first thing to say is that I’m not promoting hijab fashion as such. I have always been adamant that clothes are just clothes, when you start to separate it into categories it creates divides that are unnecessary. I don’t want someone to buy just because it’s ‘hijab fashion’, I want them to fall in love with a piece for what it is. Practically speaking we don’t spend all our lives in hijab, you want things that will work when you’re with girl friends or family too. Foremost, as a clothing store, I want people to be able to see every detail of a garment. You have to give a woman credit, we know straight away if something will work for us, and how to style it as a hijabi, we do it every day!”
We’ve heard some folks wonder why you use models from the professional world where there is a lot of scrutiny about weight and eating disorders when you could have women who look like the everyday girl next door?
“It’s a funny one you know, I don’t choose models based on their looks. Very quickly you get to understand the reason behind using professional models is the fact that they can model. Believe it or not there is a real craft behind it, knowing how to make the clothes look good in pictures is not easy, even for some models. A lot of girls I work with do look like everyday girls, it’s only when the camera is on them that you get why they are so good at what they do. Having said all that I totally understand the need for diversity within the models we use, I’m all for using beautifully curvy girls, petite girls, anyone who has a talent for modelling.”
If you had to pick your favorite piece from your collection what would it be?
“The answer to this question will change almost daily, I keep falling in love with pieces I’ve worn a million times because I find a new way to wear it. Right now I’m loving the jersey maxi skirt, it’s so lovely to wear, the fabric is amazing and it looks so good with a boyfriend shirt and vintage tee. Then again the kimono wrap dress is making a comeback in my wardrobe, I just love the way the fabric whips up behind you as you’re walking, so elegant and quietly dramatic. Also, I just got a load of new samples back and am just itching to show you guys, I’m in love!”
How often do you plan on releasing new collections?
“We’ve decided to start introducing new styles towards the end of the year, but from then on we’ll add a few pieces every couple of weeks or so. I think because it’s online it’s wonderful to always have something fresh to look at. It’s also great for me as a designer because I don’t have to think about seasons. It makes for a very organic and fluid design process. The pieces I’ve been gushing over that I just received back from sampling are awesome. There’s lots more color, and the designs are more intricate, but still gloriously understated. The design process is always an intensely personal one, so I’m nervous and excited to put them out into the world!”