As a social mission-driven company, Haute Hijab’s new Heritage collection is more than a new category for the brand.
The assortment aims to provide stylish options in prints with vintage undertones and Islamic art design elements, “tapping into our heritage as Muslims,” said cofounder and chief executive officer Melanie Elturk. The latest addition to the 10-year-old company she started with her husband Ahmed Zedan stems back to her high school days. As a teenager, Elturk was often asked where she got the vintage scarves that she wore as hijabs.
When the couple set out to launch a modest fashion company 10 years ago, they sold vintage scarves on the side to help finance it. When the hijabs portion of the business took off, they decided to give up their full-time jobs in Dubai and relocate to New York to focus on Haute Hijab. “I am an attorney by profession and this is just a side hustle that we started way back when,” Elturk said.
She exited her job as a legal clerk at the International Court of Dubai, and her husband gave up his post as MarkaVIP’s vice president of marketing. In 2016, they zeroed in on hijabs — basic, underscarves and luxury items. Sales have been increasing more than 15 percent month-to-month, according to Elturk. She said of the growth, “Muslim women have been overlooked and have not been represented in the mainstream for far too long. We all have just grown tired of the way that we have acquired our hijabs over the years which is typically two ways. Either we would have to go home, so to speak, overseas where our parents are from in order to find hijabs, which wasn’t the greatest solution. Over there they are commodified. You can find them on the street. They are really terrible and low-quality. They don’t necessarily fit in with the aesthetic of us as American Muslim women. The second way that most women are sourcing their hijabs is they are makeshifting neck scarves that you would find at fashion stores like Forever 21 and H&M. Again, that is not a great solution. They are not made to be worn on the head or washed every time you wear them.”
Her “first and foremost goal is to elevate this community,” so she often speaks about what the hijab means to women and how it empowers them to feel good, confident and comfortable,” she said. To try to enrich and uplift the lives of Muslim women, the company relays its “substantive” messages about such topics as marriage, grief, faith, children with disabilities, fashion and health via Instagram, YouTube, a blog and offline events, Elturk said. After moving to the U.S., the founders visited 30 college campuses to talk to Muslim students to find out “what they were struggling with, what is keeping them up at night and what would help them,” she said.
This year Haute Hijab, which has raised $2.3 million in seed funding, launched a Changemakers tour — private events held in the homes of the brand’s best customers. Thirty to 50 girls — many of whom the hosts may have never met — are invited. After Elturk speaks about “How to Live a Big Life,” there is a discussion and private shopping. Any purchases are delivered by mail since the company is e-commerce. The Heritage collection also offers a mid-tier price range for the brand. While under scarves retail around $50 and luxury hijabs are in the $250 to $325 price range; the Heritage collection is $125 to $150.