“Streetwear” and “abaya” are two words we don’t often hear in the same sentence – but pop Saeedah Haque on the end and they come together like age-old friends.
A harmonious synthesis of Islamic tradition and streetwear, complete with oversized silhouettes, silver hardware and utilitarian detailing, Saeedah Haque’s eponymous label is maverick-like, carving its own niche in the modest fashion sphere. And she, cloaked in monochromatic layers, with Yeezy’s peaking through and a Vetements cap on her hijab, appears its perfect ambassador. But Saeedah’s brand isn’t just about trendy aesthetics; it’s built on the promise of practicality.
“The modest fashion industry has gotten huge but […] I’ve noticed that all of the brands catered towards traditionally feminine looks and occasion wear, ” Saeedah says. “I started my line because I couldn’t find an abaya that catered to my style or the level of practicality that I needed. I needed abayas that you could wear to work or outside, where you don’t need to put on a pair of heels or stylise it in any way. It’s crazy because you’d think that there were abayas with pockets and zips but they’re so scarce.”
Though streetwear is seen by many as just garb for hypebeasts, for the London-born designer, it’s a practical day-to-day uniform. “Streetwear is more than big brand looks. It’s a concept that combines techwear, sportswear and an urban lifestyle. A couple of years ago I purchased a Blocktech jacket from Uniqlo and the deep pockets, high collar and durability meant that I don’t need to carry around a bag or keep replacing it every year. It’s such a small change but so practical. I want people to feel like this when they wear my abayas – that they can pull from my pieces and pair them with their lifelong Nikes,” Saeedah explains.
The 23-year-old Bengali designer bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary design with a flair you wouldn’t typically expect from such a young designer, let alone one without formal fashion education. Though she studied Human Geography at university and worked at an NGO after graduating, Saeedah gained her fashion expertise from interning at brands including luxury bridal house Sabyasachi Mukherjee, and at the first London Modest Fashion Week at the Saatchi Gallery. And of course, from professor extraordinaire: YouTube.
“I learnt a lot while interning [at London Modest Fashion Week]. I remember looking around and everyone was so glammed up and I was just there in my black abaya and white NMDs. But nonetheless, I saw first-hand just how big the demand for modest clothing was. I was always conscious of what was missing but didn’t know how to do it, until one day I just got up and told myself I would learn. A couple of hundred hours of YouTube videos and an armful of wasted samples later, here it is!”
Looking to the future of her career, Saeedah explains, “My goal eventually would be to merge my interests – I would love to help women in less developed countries find employment in the textile industry or something along those lines where I could mix my NGO work and fashion as well.”
Photos: Instagram and supplied