When I first started wearing a hijab, I was almost permanently attached to my black scarf, choosing to wear it over every outfit. There weren't many fashionable options that suited my taste on the market yet, so I often felt restricted with my creative level when it came to styling, and resorted to black as it was easy. I loved wearing my hijab, but never felt comfortable in a scarf—it was always too thick, too slippery, or it was ruined after one wash.
That all changed when I found Vela Scarves, a hijab brand based in California founded by Marwa Atik and her sister, Tasneem Atik. Vela designs and makes all scarves in-house, and they first caught my eye with their unique designs that featured prints and additional touches like zippers or ruffles. Marwa eventually moved towards the array of colors you see today, and within the past few years, I started spotting a plethora of girls wearing Vela and found girls on social media beginning to experiment more with colors and layering in their looks. And 99% of the time, they were wearing Vela.
It's not only the brand's use of color that draws attention from so many modest dressers. Marwa often shares style tips on the brand's social media account, motivating girls to push the boundaries with how they layer and style themselves. Since we at Who What Wear love to report on the most innovative ways to dress, we decided to tap the mind behind the hijab brand and inquire not only about her tips for modest dressing but also the behind-the-scenes of her design process and campaign styling. Keep reading to hear what the Los Angeles–based designer has to say.
On starting Vela:
"I first started Vela on the design spectrum so think lots of ruffles, zippers, things that were more intricate and not done before, dating back to 2009. There wasn't a scarf out there that catered to hijabi women, Scarves today arent what they used to be, back then it was just pashmina scarves. Now, when you walk into a store like Nordstrom, you can find scarves when back in the day it was a mission. Vela started in an organic way, I was in school and was sketching when I should've been focusing on classes. My friend caught me sketching and told me that I needed to make it a reality. It's no secret that being a minority, you have imposter syndrome but I listened, went to Downtown L.A., picked out fabrics, sewed them with my aunt and they were an instant hit in my community. I saw a gap in the market and I filled it by creating pieces through my appreciation of fashion and to make a spot for myself in the industry."
On the design process:
"When it comes to designing, first, we forecast trends. The Vela girl is very fashion-forward and conscious so we make sure to dye the latest trend for the season, so when you’re shopping for a new outfit you already own a scarf that matches it. Next, when we have an idea of the colors we want, I always start out with the concept that it has to be complementary to your face. A hijab has to be one of the most important parts of your wardrobe, and I want the color to complement each skin tone so a girl can put it on and also feel good. Undertones are so crucial in the process. I go through so many sampling phases till we get the perfect color with the right tones because I want to pull the perfect color for each shade that will go with different skin tones. Every scarf is hand-dyed, and I'll keep bugging my team till we get it right."
"When it comes to printed scarves, we're very technical and like to think about where the pattern will measure on a girl's face. We want it to be as effortless and seamless as possible. We also like to think about ways we can innovate and push towards the future of fashion, which is always evolving. That comes true to the very scarf we created, which was the zipper edge scarf, and continues on to the day like with our Vela Hoop, which is seen as an accessory to the scarf in ways you can tie it in different ways."
On styling campaigns:
"I don't think people understand how much goes into a campaign, because everything is a message. Marketing is very visual and people will translate what they're seeing into the message of the brand. We're not cookie cutter and try to push ourselves with every campaign, thinking about how we are going to empower women next. We want to take a scarf and make it more three dimensional and have it tell a deeper story because the scarf is not just a product, it's going to go on a Muslim woman, and we want the campaign to draw more focus to the women wearing the scarves. I also know that the stereotype of a Muslim woman is Arab, and I wanted to change that and show that there isn't one type of Muslim woman or Vela customer that exists. "
"Pair a tall boot with a midi skirt or dress, or an easy hack I love is wearing tube socks with sneakers. We always have that one skirt that we want to wear but it's shy of a few inches to meet our modesty requirement so doing this is an easy fix."
"When I want to cover up my bodice, I love wrapping a square silk scarf around my top."
Fun sweater vests are the vibe for this season.
Keep warm in coordinating knits.