There's a belief that fashion and style is reflective of its surroundings leaving nothing to exclusion. If we look at modern fashion history, we can see this continuous conversation between ourselves, clothing and the world sometimes in search for the truth purpose of clothing or a response to society's dictative norms of who we are to be vs. who we will be.
Adding to the conversation of modern modestwear, sex and gender, and the relationship between fashion and body is Texas based and unisex modestwear brand SUBHITAHA. The emerging brand who launched in November 2016 redirects the meaning of 'You' to your mind, not your body. We caught up with the sole creative behind the brand whose pieces are individually handcrafted, Subhi Taha, to know more about him, the brand's concept and their future.
Describe the moment you were inspired to start SUBHITAHA.
"It was really inspired over time. What was holding me back for so long was not knowing what my line would stand for. It was around the time I was doing a lot ‘soul searching’ in terms of my faith when I found my area—-modestwear. It fit into the modest lifestyle I had begun adapting as a result of the ‘soul searching,’ and it had a functional aspect to it as well. When I’d pray at work the clothes I was wearing made what was supposed to be a calming and relaxing process, extremely uncomfortable. Shirts were too short, pants too tight. Then my interest in history and culture came to mind—-traditional clothing that was naturally loose, modest, and minimal in construction. That was it, minimal modestwear inspired by traditional clothing."
What were you doing before SUBHITAHA?
"I worked in Art Direction for social media at Fossil. My degree is in Visual Communication so graphic design was my main field for a while."
Why create a unisex modest clothing line?
"The unisex element wasn’t actually part of the initial concept for the brand. In Fall 2015, I had a ‘faux’ launch of a small collection of clothes I had made, not for sale though. I just wanted to get some feedback before an actual launch of the brand. It was all menswear, but an overwhelming amount of my female followers kept commenting saying “I’d actually wear that…” I thought “why not?” All the clothes I was designing were so minimal that they were actually gender-neutral. So I stuck to it when I started designing my first official collection. The concept of unisex pieces played a big role from that point on.
Describe the person you design for.
"It’s really for the person who separates body and fashion. One that realizes the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I’ve seen a few comments saying “these only fit one body type,” or “I love these, but they wouldn’t be flattering on me.” The thing is that they’re not supposed to be flattering. They’re not supposed to make you look slimmer or bigger, or whatever it is you’re looking for. They’re simply intended to cover. Redirecting the definition of “you,” to your mind, not your body. Who cares how it looks to other people, if you want to wear it—wear it. Own it."
What has been the public response about SUBHITAHA unisex clothing concept?
"Extremely positive, thankfully! Some people think the concept of unisex clothing is brand new and very modern. But traditional clothing back in the day in most countries was the exact same piece for both men and women. The only differences between the two were the fabric choices or colors. But the base almost always the same concept."
Tell us a bit about your creative process: inspiration, fabrics and design cuts?
"It’s very random. I don’t force the designs, I kind of wait for those moments of inspiration, which is why it took a while to design the first collection. The main source of inspiration roots from traditional clothing from any country. Collection 1 has two coat styles, one inspired by the Arab Abaya, and the other inspired by traditional Japanese winter-wear. I typically take the basic construction of the traditional clothing and design from there. Designing with modernity in mind, especially expressed through the fabric choices! I love the contrast between traditional and modern."
What's your number one selling piece?
"The Abaya coats! They come in black & grey. I honestly I had no idea those would get as much attention as they did!"
What words do you live by?
'"Do you.” It was my Myspace quote for the longest time—ha! Basically just do as you like, don’t worry about what other people will say or how others will receive. If you love it, go for it. And when has success ever lead by doing what everyone else is doing? I still often get the negative comments about my designs, saying I just bought Ikea bed sheets, cut them up and started selling them. But for every one of those negative comments, I get five positive ones. So I’m gonna keep doing me and wear my Ikea bed sheets loud and proud.'
What’s next for SUBHITAHA?
"I’ve never had an interest in womenswear, it was always menswear. But a few months back I made a dress for my sister for a wedding we were attending. I actually really enjoyed designing it--it still held onto my minimal, traditionally-inspired concepts. So the idea of dress-making has definitely been sitting on my mind."
Written by Mariana Aguilera