“When I first started wearing hijab back in 1998, hijab fashion was hardly a thing in the United States,” Melanie Elturk, the brains behind e-commerce site Haute Hijab, tells Vogue.me in an exclusive interview. “We just didn’t have options and unless you were blessed enough to live in an area like Dearborn, Michigan, with stores that sold hijabs from overseas, you’d have to get your headscarves from people who were traveling back home to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere.” This is why Elturk, who started wearing the Islamic garment at 13, decided to launch her own online platform dedicated to providing more options to veiled women. The platform, which she co-founded with her husband in 2010, was a major success, cementing itself as the leading hijab brand in America (with 10,000 customers worldwide and a social media following of more than 450,000), and to little surprise. The market for Muslim fashion remains relatively untapped. Now, the American-Muslim entrepreneur is taking things one step further by expanding her brand to include a game-changing new range of luxury hijabs.
“The impetus behind the luxury collection came out of a real need for formal hijab options,” the designer tells Vogue. She reflects on the most special moments of her life, including her law school graduation, engagement, and wedding day, when she felt that she didn’t have the appropriate “formal” hijab to match to her outfit. “A hijab is an extension of your outfit and should be given just as much care and attention as the other components of your look.”
In the past, veiled women had to work individually with tailors and couturiers in order to attain an elegant and luxurious hijab but now, Elturk and the creative director of Haute Hijab, Gizelle Begler, have made it much easier to access formal shaylas. “To bring a luxury collection of this caliber to life that is ready-to-wear and accessible at the click of a button was a dream,” Elturk says.
Part of it is showing that the hijab can be beautiful too – and the collection is undoubtedly a thing of beauty. Inspired by old Hollywood icons Princess Grace and Audrey Hepburn, each handcrafted piece is made from pure silk fabrics, using materials such as georgette and crepe de chine in gold, black, and cream hues. While hijabs from the regular line are priced at US $20, the new collection retails from US $250 to $325 – a reasonable price tag considering the veils feature Swarovski crystals, embroidered tulle, and sequins, pearls, organza flowers, and custom-designed crystal appliqués. They can be worn in different ways. “I’ll be playing around with the black point d’esprit tulle in The Black Tie Lace and the ivory tulle in The Vintage Gold to create oversized bows and voluminous silhouettes,” Elturk says.
What’s next for the brand? “We’ve got big plans for 2018 and want to remain hyper-focused on the hijab category. We have everyday basics nailed down and with the introduction of the luxury collection, we’re offering more options for formalwear. That being said, there’s still a wide gap in the market when it comes to hijabs for all the occasions in a woman’s life,” Elturk says. “Another endeavor we’re excited about is going global. While we’re the leading US hijab brand and we ship worldwide, we’re eager to have a real presence in global markets. Having lived in Dubai for four years, we know the appetite for our products is strong in the region.” Indeed it is.