- GAYA Magazine
MODESSA - the essence of today’s modern woman
Feminine, classy, elegant, yet strong...Modessa encapsulates the essence of today’s modern woman. It’s 2018 and society is finally coming around to the power of the female. Far too long, society has looked at the fairer gender through a binary lens resulting in the male superiority.
With feminist movements forging the way, the power of the female finally sees the light. Today’s women are ultimate multi-taskers; gracefully juggling the responsibilities of the multiple roles of mother, wife, daughter, business owner, etc, whilst carving her own identity with elegance, femininity and class. Modessa, a British Modest Fashion label, beautifully illustrates this in their designs. Timeless, classic and inclusive, Modessa truly speaks the language of the modern woman.
We speak to Abigayle Andre, the owner and creative mind behind Modessa, on her life, her inspiration, her brand and the future.
we speak to modessa
Hi Abigayle, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. We’re so excited to see the Modessa collection. So, we hear the Modessa is a British brand and manufactured in the UK. Tell us more, how did Modessa begin?
Hi Juliana, thank you for giving us this amazing platform to tell our story! Modessa began after my reversion to Islam. I found it difficult to find clothes that suited my style but were modest. Although I was a Muslim, I was still me...and I wanted to show it!
I began to research and speak to other women. That led me to the realisation that other women felt like me and that both Muslim and non-Muslim women wanted modest clothing...all year round! I saw a gap...and I sought to fill it!
By a quick glance on your Instagram we noticed lots of silk, pastel colours and classic cuts. In one of the videos, the silk pants blowing in the wind, Masya’Allah. Can you tell us more about what the Modessa Collection or brand is all about? What does it represent?
Modessa is the essence of Modest Fashion. Modest Fashion is not limited to those with or without faiths. Modest Fashion is for the modern woman, who does not need to reveal herself in order to gain respect, admiration or anything else for that matter. Our brand is not just about clothing...it is about people, raising awareness and challenging perceptions. Whilst we are a Muslim brand in our values but we are a brand that is inclusive. You do not look at our clothing and think...ah! Muslim clothing! You look and you see MODEST clothing. Modesty is for everyone...whatever you believe in! As a British Revert I am often faced with people questioning whether or not I am a Muslim. I do not wear hijab, but I dress modestly. I think it is important to raise awareness about this. What does a Muslim woman actually look like? We come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Some of us wear turbans, some wear a more traditional scarf style or niqab...some of us do not wear a head covering at all. And that is ok...our journey is between us and God. Modessa is about showing that to the world and to the Muslim community. We want to unite the two.
I wouldn’t be doing my job as a Fashion editor if I didn’t ask this standard, fashion question – where does your inspiration for your designs come from? Being half Caribbean and half English (what a beautiful mix btw), does that inspiration come from your diverse culture?
Generally speaking my inspiration comes from everywhere! I grew up with a very artistic and fashion forward family. My dad is a very easy going Caribbean man who is an interior designer/painter/salesman with impeccable style. My mum a very stylish, business savvy woman who sold Italian designer clothes from our home when I was a kid. I definitely think my diverse culture is an influence indirectly on all that I do and in the way that I am.
The inspiration behind this particular collection is a fusion of the 1970s fashions and English ladylike chic. I was very inspired by YSL in the 1970s, Paul Poiret and Givenchy. In the 70s turbans were all the rage, big sunglasses and flares. I am also inspired by the ladylike silhouettes of the 40s. The collection features cinched waists, feminine colours and fabrics with a beautiful texture and drape. I wanted to combine these elements to make something fashion forward which gave a nod to all the gracious ladies of those eras. I feel it does. Whomever has put our garments on has said they felt like a princess or a queen. That’s what I wanted!
Everyone has their distinct journey to Islam. As a revert to Islam yourself, could you tell us your journey? And were there struggles being a revert in the UK?
First of all I’d like to say, Alhamdulilah. Glory be to God for blessing me with Islam. My journey began when I met my husband, he is born muslim and piqued my interest about the religion. I began looking into the religion off my own back. I spent hours researching, reading books, articles and listening to talks (Mufti Menk and Yasmin Mogahed are two personal favourites). I just knew it was the truth, it made sense to me and answered all the philosophical questions I’d carried with me for a long time. Such as...why are we here? Why do bad things happen to good people and so on. Contrary to popular belief most reverts actually do it for themselves...not always for marriage! I find as a revert in the UK our struggle is mainly with culture and Islam.
Often people confuse the two and genuinely think what they are telling you is Islam, when it isn’t. It is culture. For example marriage is difficult for a lot of reverts because families don’t want you to marry their son (for example) because you are from a different culture, caste etc instead of because of your character and conduct. It happens even with people who are born Muslim and it is very sad. I also have friends who are reverts and have struggled with their families accepting they have reverted.
Some sisters have been disowned, thrown out of the house etc. It is tough. And people don’t want to talk about it... but I do. I think the truth needs to be heard and these negative views of Islam challenged.
From your journey into Islam, we find it so inspiring when you said that Modessa is a Muslim company in terms of its values – that the beautiful values of the religion is weaved into the business. Such a beautiful brand story. Can you tell us more about that and how the brand stays true to this?
Yes we are a Muslim company in terms of our ethos. Our values are people over profit. Obviously we need profit to make a business sustainable however we will not extort or exploit people in order to achieve it. We pay our staff/contractors fairly and according to the law. We also pay people in a timely fashion. I started Modessa because I saw a need and wanted to fill it...I also want to bring joy to people’s wardrobes...it sounds so cliché but it’s not all about the money for me.
What I also find inspiring is that Modessa is an inclusive brand. And it’s evident in the pieces you design. Anyone can wear these pieces and feel beautiful, not just Muslims or hijabis. When you set out to create Modessa, bearing in mind you were creating a modest fashion brand, was inclusivity key to your design process?
Our clothing doesn’t say you’re Muslim. The heart says that. You can’t look at these garments and see a religion or culture. That’s down to the woman who is wearing them.
We wanted to make our range accessible to all women who had a desire to cover but look chic! As beautiful as abayas/shalwar kameez/jilbabs are...it is not always practical or to everyone’s style. Modest garments are also hard to come by during the Summer season on the British high street.
When designing I always keep in mind practicality, modesty and material. We design and cut our clothes with the female figure in mind, it flatters but it covers. The material is carefully chosen with regards to opacity and practicality. Does it show undergarments? Can it be hand/machine washed? (Who actually has time to dry clean their whole wardrobe?)
Inclusivity is so important these days in my opinion, especially in the fashion industry. What are your thoughts on this and how do you think we can try to be more inclusive?
I do agree. From a fashion perspective I think from the models you use to the work force you create, you need diversity. And in order to see the advantages of diversity there must be inclusivity. I feel diversity brings a real strength to a team and different perceptions to the table. I think regardless of creed, colour, faith or ability we need to include everyone.
I think we can try to be more inclusive by being open to anything and everything and always keeping an open mind. Not placing limitations on people just because society tells you that those limitations are there (and they are often not!)
Before we go, is there anything more we should know about you or Modessa or perhaps what we will see from Modessa in the future?
Coming up in May we will have a Limited Edition collection for Eid. We are really excited to release these limited exclusive pieces. So keep your eyes peeled!
Before I go I would like to just give a word of encouragement to those who may be pursuing their own career in fashion or business generally...You can do it. You will do it. It will be hard but what is meant for you will never surpass you. Remember your creator. He will never desert you. He is the one who makes all things possible and without him we would be nothing.
Good luck with whatever journey you are on sisters and get in touch with me if you have any questions at abigayle@ModessaOnline.co.uk
Catch Modessa at the London Muslim Lifestyle Show from April 21-22.
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