As a stylist, LaTanya Maassarani is crazy about fashion, scouting the latest trends and piecing together chic ensembles for clients and photo shoots.
"I love the futuristic look, things that are out of this world," she says. "These days, I'm really into stripes, studs and spikes."
What makes her job unique? All of her styling follows Islamic dress code. The 31-year-old is one of the creative forces behind Tustin-based Nahda Designs (www.nahdadesigns.com), a Muslim online clothing brand for women looking for modest yet fashionable apparel. The label focuses on lightweight headscarves and skirts designed by Suraya Mahumed and Zaynab Zaid.
Like many Muslim women who grew up in the United States, Maassarani found shopping to be a challenge. Some of the more traditional clothing were either too elegant for everyday wear or made her "look like an old lady," and she couldn't simply pick up something at the mall.
"Everything was too tight or short or very sheer," she says. "I'd have to go to multiple stores and search and search and search to find clothes that were longer. It's not that we don't like style. We just need to cover more." Muslim women dress modestly for many reasons, including protection. "Anything of value, you would put in a safe and lock it," Maassarani explains.
Today, many local shops fill the void. Nahda Designs is part of a growing crop of Muslim fashion labels in Orange County, home to the second-largest Muslim population in the U.S. There's Vela in Fountain Valley, Mohajababes in Irvine, and Marena y Sol in Newport Beach, all of which cater to modern Muslim girls—or, as some like to call themselves, "hijabistas."
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Nahda scarves come in either cotton silk or eco-friendly cotton jersey, and all are offered in a variety of vibrant colors and patterns. (Maassarani says the scarves are popular with non-Muslims, too—many gals wrap them around their chests as though bras.) The company was recently a finalist in the first American Hijab Design Contest, held last month in Chicago. This year, they're taking on a charitable project to help widows, orphans and the poor.
It's about broadening the definition of American fashion. Through their stylish coverings, Nahda is helping Muslim women become more comfortable in their own skin.