By Spencer Feingold
On January 3, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) became the first member of the U.S. Congress to be sworn in wearing a hijab. It was such an unprecedented moment that the House had to reverse an 181-year ban on headwear of any type being worn on the House floor.
It was also a watershed moment for the brand Haute Hijabs, which has been working for years to bring the Muslim headscarf into the American mainstream.
“We are working to normalize the hijab,” Melanie Elturk, the company's CEO, told Cheddar on Friday. “To demystify the misconceptions so people understand why we wear it.”
Elturk founded the company in 2010 after years of struggling to find comfortable and high-quality hijabs in the U.S. ー a common frustration among Muslim women in the West.
Based in New York, the company is a direct-to-customer online business that sells a wide range of head scarves. Lower-end styles include hijabs made of chiffon for $20 or satin for $25. In 2018, the company launched a luxury line of scarfs, which are mostly made of silk and are adorned with materials like pearls, Swarovski crystals, and floral lace appliqués. The luxury hijabs run from $250 to $325.
“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,” Elturk told Vogue Arabia when the line debuted.
But Eltruk insists that purpose comes before product at her company. We want “Muslim women to feel proud of their identities and to wear their identities on their sleeve, as we do in the hijab,” Eltruk said.
She noted that it is not always an easy message for Muslim women to hear when Islamophobia is a concern in the U.S. and safety is a worry for those who express their faith.
“Especially today, it’s a really tough time to be a Muslim American,” Eltruk said, adding that she hopes her hijabs empower women and help them embrace their identities as Muslims. That is why, Eltruck says, the election of Rep. Omar was even more significant.
It “provided such an incredible example for women who now could feel that they could keep the hijab on and the hijab would not deter them from their goals,” she said.
Nonetheless, the market is ripe for sales.
The average Muslim woman wears four hijabs a day and owns nearly 100, according to the company. In 2016, the Italian luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana launched their own line of abayas and hijabs. Forbes called it the company’s “smartest move in years.”
For now, Haute Hijab is doubling down on its domestic growth but does have plans to expand globally and open brick-and-mortar stores around the world. The company also plans to open a flagship store in New York, which it hopes will become a must-visit shop for any Muslim women visiting the city.
For full interview click here.