Mariam Ouédraogo is an 18 year old college freshman from New Jersey. She studies entrepreneurship at NYU. While most students major in subjects in hopes of landing a polished job. Ouédrago is pursuing her major to learn more ways to improve her own trade: fashion.
The energetic 18 year old recently launched her small modest fashion brand about a year ago. Ouéd Collections is a modest fashion brand catered for Muslim woman. Ouéd Collections sells jilbabs, abayas, hijabs, and more. For those who aren’t familiar with islamic clothing, Jilbabs and abayas are loose-fit long sleeve dresses that many Muslim women wear.
“ I want Ouéd Collections to be a brand that inspires Muslim woman . A company that not only sells clothing but a company that creates community and has a positive social impact.”
Ouédraogo is zealous about her new business and she looks forward for it to progress in the future.
The following are excerpts from our interview:
Why did you create this company? What was the story behind this brand?
I remember I became inspired by girl in school. She wore the abaya to her middle school everyday. She was the only girl in the school who wore the abaya. That simple image of just seeing her wear the abaya inspired me to start wearing the jilbab. I began wearing the jilbab in my sophomore year of high school. I was very proud and happy when I started wearing the jilbab. My classmates and friends were very supportive. I remember a classmate told me “wow you look so elegant”. One of my friends said you look like a queen, you look majestic. I had a poetry instagram page. I remember I posted a picture of me wearing a jilbab on my Instagram account . Many of my friends and many people messaged me saying they loved my jilbab. Many told me they were inspired by me to wear the jilbab. I even got messages of people asking me that they want to buy jilbabs from me. My mom told me that I should start a jilbab business. So, I turned my Instagram page into a brand page. My father invested in the first 300 jilbabs we produced and we sold out in three months.
How were you introduced to modest fashion and what inspired you to enter the modest fashion industry?
I always loved fashion from a young age. I grew up in a French-speaking culture. My father is from Burkina Faso and my mother is from the Ivory Coast. I always watched french fashion shows on tv when I was young. I was so mesmerized by it. Oscar de la Renta, Louis Vuitton. Woa their work is so amazing. I got my first sewing machine when I was 12. I found it very difficult to work with so I lost interest in it. Then I thought about getting into the modelling industry. I realized it wasn’t for me after my experience in fashion/talent shows at universities. I participated in fashion shows when I was 14-15. I became more interested in my faith when I was 16. That’s when I started to learn more about my religion and I became more practicing.
What does your team consist of?
- CEO (Me)
- Marketing Manager: Handles Instagram and Facebook
- Naima,16- Prepares Orders
- Sara, 15- Prepares Orders; assists in marketing by informing her about the latest trends
- Rayhan, 20 – Photographer
What is a typical day for you as you are a full-time student and business owner? How do you balance work and school?
(laughs) I don’t balance work and school! I am still trying to figure it out. I live in New Jersey so I commute to NYU everyday. I wake up at 5am, do my prayers, go back to sleep. Then I commute to campus at 8 am. I take my classes. I do my prayers, recite Quran, do dhikr. When I come home, I decide on whether I want to focus on fulfilling orders or marketing my brand. I usually create a plan for the week on how I want to market my brand on Instagram. Orders are prepared and shipped out on Fridays. On Fridays and Saturdays, I focus on marketing. Mondays-Thursdays, I respond to customers, emails, and promotions.
What is the design process like? Do you make sketches of your pieces and them make the product?
I have a team of tailors. I create prototypes of my pieces with my tailors and then we make alterations when creating our final pieces. We don’t make sketches. We usually make prototypes and test them out before we launch a new piece.
Have you collaborated with social media influencers?
I have collaborated with social media influencers. We seek influencers who match our brand image; who abide by the conditions of hijab.
It must’ve been challenging to find a way to attract consumers in the beginning. How did you market your brand?
Through Instagram. We market our brand through Instagram. We also use TikTok to to attract new followers. We make sure we strictly follow the conditions of hijab when promoting our brand.
How has the global fashion market impacted your perspective on modest fashion?
I think about the passing of Virgil Abloh. I reflect on his work a lot. I wish I knew and learned more about him before. I was watching his videos and talks the other day and I found it so awe-inspiring. Abloh said “You just being you is different”. He mentioned how fashion doesn’t need to be avant garde. I love how Abloh incorporated black culture in his shows. For example, he had Saul Williams, a poet in one of his shows. For me, wearing jilbab is silent resistance. Wearing a jilbab is already a statement. When I walk out wearing a jilbab, I don’t care what others think; I don’t need to change myself.
How do you feel about the Modest Fashion Industry Right Now?
I feel the fashion industry tries too much to fit in with the global fashion industry. The modest fashion market doesn’t cater to all women. However, that makes it easier for me to flourish in my target market.
How do you feel about the way mainstream media represents Muslim women?
Horrible. I think the white savior complex is common in the global fashion industry and media as a whole. For example, the western media portrays Malala Yousafzai as a Muslim woman that was saved by the West.
There’s this double standard in global fashion. Global brands make Muslim women try to conform to their standards while portraying the idea that fashion must be as “free as possible”. For example, super model Halima Aden quit doing runaway fashion shows because she felt that the companies she worked with made her compromise her values on how she wore the hijab.
I believe that global fashion will never properly represent Muslim women.