Aiming to conquer the every day lives of today’s women, the lifestyle brand UNDER-RÂPT breaks all stereotypes, merging religious and cultural values with influential fashion, athleisure and trends, targeting the fashion-savvy, health-conscious and modern “modest” millennials. But that’s not all, the emerging brand also engineers ecological and organic fabrics that are both kind to the skin and the environment. We’ve talked to the brilliant founder, Yasmin Sobeih, and here’s what she told us about her brand.
According to your previous articles, you launched your brand mainly for Muslim hijabi women. What brought your attention to this issue with its struggles as a non-hijabi?
As an English-British Muslim, I’ve always expressed my joys for both traditions. It became apparent that friends and family who preferred to “cover” when working out were either uncomfortable with their hijab falling off, or extremely hot with heavy fabric and the layering of clothes. I also realized that modest sportswear used excessively imitated designs, dull colours and were ill-fitting. Having a degree in Fashion Promotion with Styling, I blended my passions to create a business plan during my post-graduate Fashion Buying and Merchandising course from the London College of Fashion and that is how UNDER-RÂPT was born.
With the right wing movements’ re-emergence nowadays both in the UK and the US, and their low tolerance of Islam and hijab, weren’t you afraid that this might affect your brand, since some people might not want to be seen with the typical hijab for safety reasons?
Actually, no, not at all. The modest-fashion market is now valued at an estimated 300 billion US Dollars. High-fashion designers and sportswear brands are increasingly releasing modest collections –supporting diversity in fashion and sport– which shows the demand for it. Another point is that the younger generations are currently disputing the stigma against hijabi athletes. For instance, our brand ambassador basketball player, poet and public speaker, Asma Elbadawai, helped lift the hijab ban in FIBA (International Basketball Federation).
What were some of the initial reactions you had after launching your brand?
Alongside thirty international designers, I presented UNDER-RÂPT and exhibited its prototypes at the London Modest Fashion Week, receiving an overwhelming positive response. I’ve also been giving out questionnaires in the middle of London’s Oxford Street, talking to young hijabi females and looking at current sportswear collections. The feedback proved the market’s need for our brand.
Fashion, hijab and sports are a hard mix together. How did you manage to handle this challenge?
The key is that I didn’t intend to limit my audience, but instead to address both the lack of organic and modest activewear at an affordable price. Most often the word “modest” is related to the Muslim market. Yet, I find that you do not necessarily have to be of Muslim faith; it may be through your social and personal values. Consequently, the brand is broadening its consumer base to ensure that products suit females of all faiths, ethnicities and cultures.
Do you think the fashion industry has become more inclusive to other forms of trends, and not the typical blonde white model style?
Designers are now criticised if they do not showcase models of diverse ethnicities. They’re considering a much broader consumer base, as women globally are now merging contemporary lifestyles with social ethos, personal values, culture and traditions.
What do you think the fashion scene is still missing?
I believe there is still tremendous chance for brands to be more sustainable by adapting to greater local resources to keep control of fabric wastage, preserve their agricultural land and grow their labor economy.
What are the main challenges you face to keep the business running?
As a smaller business, we are constantly facing mainstream fashion social media brands imitating designs and recognising commercial product that weakens our chance of competing. Yet, when Nike released it’s sport hijab, it was a positive move for us since it shows demand for our brand..
What are your future expectations and aspirations?
I desire to create an international presence with my brand through online and in-store retail that represents a new generation of “modest” modern females –different than what had been perceived in the media and by the rest of the world. There is also considerable opportunity for UNDER-RÂPT to grow into a healthy lifestyle brand.
Follow Under-Rapt’s collections through their Website www.under-rapt.com, Instagram @under_rapt, Facebook underrapt, and Linkedin under-rapt