Unveiling the Haute Hijab

Melanie Elturk of Haute Hijab

Melanie Elturk has always dreamt of becoming a fashion designer. At the age of 25, she is not only a fashion designer and an attorney, but she's preparing to launch her online store, Haute Hijab, this fall.

"Our entire philosophy is to provide clothing to Muslim women who live in America and wear western clothing,” Elturk said. “I want to provide a real resource for women who are fashion conscious or think about what they’re wearing, but modest at the same time.”

Haute Hijab will include hijab-friendly clothing and vintage hijabs. The store will ship across the U.S., and after a couple of months, ship internationally.

“As of right now, they are clothes that we get from overseas,” Elturk said. “The skirts are my designs. I’m designing them and having them made here in the U.S.”

Elturk is optimistic and excited about her online store launching in the fall.

“Fashion was my first love in life and then came the law and helping people as my second love.”

She sewed her own clothes as a teenager. “I’ve always been fashion conscious,” she said. “It’s just who I am. I like to match and I like to be unique.”

All the hijabs that will be available in the fall are square style.

“A lot of my hijabs, I got from vintage stores in Michigan. That was my inspiration for the line,” she said. “When I moved to this city [Chicago], there were so many here than there were in Detroit-- really great ones,” she said.

In the future she plans on selling pashminas, shawls and other hijab styles.

“We want to make it a one stop [store] for the Muslim muhajaba-- a place where she can get the outfit and the matching hijab right there,” she said.

Her husband, Ahmed Zedan, encouraged her to start the line when she moved to Chicago and was having difficulty finding a job being an attorney. In April they started talking more seriously about the online store.

“My husband is the brains behind everything,” she said. “I just design and create. My role is insignificant without him.”

“He created the domain name and got us the website,” she said. “Never in a million years would this have happened if it weren’t for my husband’s help.” Her family and friends have been supportive of her plans as well.

The line’s style and price point will be affordable luxury, with the price point of J.Crew and Express.

“It’ll obviously be great quality and you can keep it in the closest for a long time. That’s my own personal style which is infused into the line,” she said. “I tend to stay away from trends and go for things that I know won’t go out of style for a long time. So the line has gone toward that direction.”

Elturk believes Muslims should always look their best.

“We want to provide options for girls who don’t have modest options,” she said. “It’s a way of dawah-- looking presentable and approachable. Muslim women don't have to look frumpy.”

Although there are a handful of websites that sell hijab-friendly clothing, they are not unique.

“Our clothes are more wearable for Muslim women,” she said. “Our clothes are more geared toward a younger Muslim demographic. Our line is more cutting-edge fashion conscious than the other sites.”

Along with the online store, Elturk is launching a modesty campaign.

“At the end of the day I have to feel I am making a difference. Selling clothing isn’t the most fulfilling thing. So we have a modesty movement,” she said.

Elturk wants to make modesty- related advertisements that would be incorporated into the mass media.

“We want people to come back to their sense of modesty. With the movement we hope to make waves and really start something positive.”

“I think that women in general … were born with modesty. When you’re a little kid and someone walks in on you while you’re changing you cover yourself out of shame,” Elturk said. “Society’s pressure to be thin and beautiful … is exhausting. In a greater sense, what I’m hoping to do is provide for the Muslim community and give non-Muslims something to think about when it comes to be about being modest.”

For updates, join facebook.com/hautehijab

                                                                Aya A. Khalil

Aya A. Khalil is a freelance journalist and doing her M.A. in Education at College of Charleston.