Wednesday, November 28, 2012

American Hijab Design Contest Shaz Kaiseruddin

Ndaa catches up with Shaz Kaiseruddin of the American Hijab Design Contest. Here's what she had to say to a group of insightful questions...

Who is Shaz Kaiseruddin? Attorney? Fashionista? Both? Attorney and Fashionista by profession. How did those two come together?
I became an attorney because one of my greatest passions is to help empower those who have been disempowered.  As unpredictable as it may seem, my interest in working with fashion came from the same goal, as I discuss below.

Inspiration behind American Hijab Design Contest?

I noticed that more and more women of all backgrounds that I meet seem to be seeking more covered chic options, but the mainstream fashion world is not quite keeping up.  I hope to work with all types of covered chic fashion, but am starting with hijab, because I know most about it and because it breaks my heart that many women who want to wear hijab don't because they are tired of being perceived as foreign.  Or because they fear the discrimination and violence that many hijabis have faced.  Or because they feel they cannot be stylish and beautiful while wearing hijab. I knew I wanted to do something about these issues, but the credit for the specific idea goes to Dr. Sherman Jackson who stated the need for this type of contest during a powerful speech. And I am grateful that my husband, Ahmed Minhaj, and family supported my excitement in acting on it--they too inspire me.

Goal of AHDC and estimated time frame for the competition?

I hope that we as a nation will move towards a broader definition of what beauty looks like, a broader definition of what American fashion looks like, and a broader definition of what an American looks like--definitions that better reflect the incredible diversity of our nation. Like any art form, fashion can break down barriers and make the unfamiliar familiar. And I'm hoping the impact of the contest will help defeat the unspoken rule that Muslims are currently the only ones in America towards whom you can openly be racist and against whom you can wage a loosely-defined international war. The contest has launched.  Entries will be accepted through the end of January, finalists will be announced in February, and the winner will be announced in March.
Any other fashion-forward projects?

I am working on a covered chic fashion publication which I hope to complete early next year.

With so much on your to do list, how do you manage to balance your personal life, work and fashion?
I've learned from my husband to question doing things in the expected or typical way and have found life to be much more manageable as a result.  I've minimized housework and errands and almost completely cut out my commute. I am also blessed with flexibility at my full time job.  My primary task is research and writing, and thus I can choose which hours and where to work. I have the invaluable support of my husband, as we have been partners in supporting each others' goals. And finally I pray that God increases the productivity in my time, as I know without that, all the time in the world would be useless.
Where do you see the Muslim fashion industry in the west as of now and where do you hope to see it in 5 to 10 years?

Right now I see the Muslim fashion industry in the West picking up steam and taking off, and it is quite exciting.  But at the same time, I see that the mainstream fashion world severely underrates its importance.  In 5 to 10 years, I envision that the mainstream fashion world in the West will acknowledge the Muslim fashion market's size and strength.  I envision that images of American hijab styles will be so commonplace that even non-hijabis will experiment with it in their wardrobes, perhaps choosing to wrap their hair for a night out, as is already happening in Belgium.  And I envision that will help all types of covered chic fashion gain momentum.

The importance of the youth taking on roles in the fashion industry?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from Dr. Jackson.  I really wanted to do drop out of my Religion PhD program and go to law school to do human rights work.  But I felt that we needed more Muslim American scholars, particularly female, and so I was feeling guilty about dropping out.  But Dr. Jackson said, what we actually need is more excellence--no more mediocrity.  And you will achieve excellence in that which you love.  So go for what you love and achieve excellence in it.  Thus I believe it is important for youth to follow their passions, and if that is fashion, then we as a community need to support that.  Because by achieving excellence and doing great work, we do a service for all of humanity.

Many may tell you that empowering the muslim fashion industry is irrelevant and of less importance than other issues like politics for example, what do you have to say to them?

No two arenas are ever completely independent of each other, and thus our thinking needs to be more sophisticated.  Fashion can be very political and politics can be very fashionable.  Trends, pop culture, fashion statements--all can greatly influence the masses--and politicians must answer to the masses.  Sometimes art can trigger, and has triggered, the most profound change for the better. Also, good politics are rooted in strong communities and families.  But many families are torn apart because a woman wants to wear hijab, but her husband or parents do not want her to, because they fear the negative consequences it has in America right now--violence, discrimination, and the misperception of being foreign.  Marriages end in divorce.  Parents and children become estranged.  This contest seeks to change the misperceptions and help eliminate this type of destruction in families and communities. And finally, the less hijab is seen as foreign to America, the less all Muslims will be seen as foreign to America, and the closer we as a nation move toward upholding everyone's civil liberties and human rights.

What are you most passionate about?
Pleasing God by helping to empower those who are disempowered.

Contact info and how can those interested in the Hijab design contest participate?

All contest entry information and contact information can be found at

Ndaa Hassan for Hijabitopia

"Fashion Show Coordinator, fashion blogger, and designer/owner of Écharpe à la Mode line, Ndaa Hassan is an Egyptian American fashion fanatic with a passion for art, design, fashion, decor, sushi, chocolate and other random things. She aspires to bring the beauty of modest wear to light along with inspiring the youth to follow their dreams to becoming whatever their hearts may desire. whether thats a fashion designer, lawyer, doctor, teacher or an amazing mother."

1 comment:

  1. How interesting! There are so many budding hijabis here in Malaysia that would benefit from such a competition as this.