Designer Brings Muslim Fashion To The Runway | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Designer Brings Muslim Fashion To The Runway

Play associated audio

Nailah Lymus is a 27-year-old aspiring designer who had her first runway show during New York's Fashion Week in September, and she has just had another one.

Lymus began designing jewelry when she was 7, and now has a line of clothing called Amirah Creations. She is a devout Muslim, but her dresses will surprise you.

They are full of color: blues, purples, prints and tapestry woven pieces. Lymus is determined to break down many of the stereotypes about Muslim women — like the assumption that all Muslim women are docile and wear black.

"I like colors and I like flowers, and I like head pieces with feathers coming off of them, and all I do is just put it on top of my hijab instead of putting it on my hair," Lymus says. "I am a woman — I am attracted to those things, so I really want to break down that stereotype."

Amirah Creations takes its inspiration from the 1920s-1950s. The dresses have a lot of flow, "a lot of pouf," and there are "a lot of very playful kind of pieces."

"I'm inspired by that era," she says, "but also, Islamically, it is pretty modest."

The 1950s, Lymus says, was a period where you could be feminine, but you also could be covered. As an African-American designer who lives in Brooklyn and grew up Muslim, Lymus herself wears bright prints and colors, but her head and arms are always covered.

She wants to design apparel that appeals to both Muslim and non-Muslim women, and Lymus says she wants it to be "transitional."

There are other Muslim women designers in New York, but most of them design traditional Muslim garments, like the outer garments known as abayas. There are only a handful who design for all women, she says.

At a fashion show in midtown Manhattan put on by Sonic Eclectic, five designers each have a dozen or so models on the runway. Model Felecia Verna is wearing a vibrant blue evening gown, long but sleeveless, designed by Lymus.

"I feel like a million bucks — I feel like a princess, a queen," Verna says. "She is a designer that everyone needs to look out for."

The host of the runway show announces that the next designer is Amirah Creations. The models walk down the runway to music and cheers. But when you see Lymus' clothes on the models, you realize no modest Muslim woman could wear most of them; there are halter dresses, tube tops, backs that are cut out, and skirts that are shorter than required by modesty. They are clothes that Lymus herself couldn't wear without a little extra something.

But Lymus says she uses a world — "Islamify" — to describe what a Muslim woman would do.

"That means having to throw a blazer on it, or a sweater ... [so] it is modest enough so we can wear it," Lymus says.

Lymus says that her local Muslim community has supported her work. But when you take Islam out of the equation, these dresses are simply classic design.

Lymus has only been designing clothing for five years, As a single mom, she says, she survives month to month. She's also a wardrobe stylist, wardrobe consultant and hair stylist to make ends meet, and she hopes to get more stores and clients buying her designs.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

TV's New Doctor Who Has An Old Connection To The Series

The BBC will soon air its first Doctor Who episode with Peter Capaldi as the show's hero, The Doctor. Capaldi tells NPR TV critic Eric Deggans the 50-year-old series inspired him to become an actor.
NPR

Can Quinoa Take Root On The 'Roof Of The World'?

Quinoa, once a homebody crop, crossed the Atlantic for the first time this century. Now the Food and Agriculture Organization has a hunch it can thrive in Central and Southwest Asia.
NPR

Senate Control May Swing On North Carolina's Unpopularity Contest

Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan wants voters to punish her GOP challenger Thom Tillis, the speaker of the state House, for unpopular laws. Tillis wants to aim anger toward the president at Hagan.
NPR

Islamic State Uses Online Strategies To Get Its Message Out

Experts say the videotaped killing of journalist James Foley is part of a broader propaganda strategy by Islamist militants. The group, the Islamic State, has become a master of the video medium.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.