Some people say the fashion industry objectifies women and makes the fight for equality and social betterment an even greater struggle. Some people just want to look good in stylish clothes.
Enter Afflatus Hijab, an Edmonton fashion company that makes its conscience as stylish as its wares. Its official motto is: “Who says you can't be modest and fashionable at the same time?” Its lines contain some fabulously contemporary treatments of otherwise traditional garments. They make floor-length straight skirts look downright hip. They’re the perfect attire for the modern woman who abides by a dress code but can’t stand looking frumpy.
But it’s the philosophy behind Afflatus that gives it an edge over other fashion companies.
“At the time when I started, I wanted my business to have meaning and purpose. The name was important,” explained founder, CEO and designer Wedad Amiri.
Afflatus, she said, means ‘a sudden, divine rush of inspiration.’ Its purpose is to stand for women empowerment and destigmatizing mental illness. A major part of her inspiration stemmed out of the several years she used to work as a community resource co-ordinator for the city’s Family and Community Support Services, going out to school groups and talking about mental health. Another major part of it has just been on her mind for even longer than that.
“I’m Lebanese and we get invited to a lot of events like weddings and engagements, bridal showers, and there really was nothing for me to wear in the stores. I have to wear either a nice pantsuit (but those weren't really in back then ... now, they’re cool), or you want to wear a nice dress, but it has to be long sleeved and floor length, or a maxi skirt or anything like that. I couldn't find anything like that in the stores, and if I did find it, it was either super expensive or just hideous,” she stated.
About five years ago, she decided she needed a new challenge and started Afflatus, a clothing company that would make the clothes she wanted to wear while also changing the narrative of how women are seen in the media. Every piece is named after a woman and every line has a theme around women of various ethnicities or social issues affecting women. The last line was based on the theme of refugees.
These messages have resonated strongly with Afflatus’ growing customer base, so much so that Amiri had to quit her job to become a full-time entrepreneur. What’s even cooler, she points out, is that her clothes fit women of all nationalities, ethnicities, and religions.
“It isn't really a Muslim brand; it just caters to Muslim needs, so anybody can wear it,” she continued. “I think that the philosophy is what makes me stand out a little bit more. It creates a human connection. If I can help people get help, or if I can make people feel less marginalized or less isolated, that's more important to me than everything else.”
To continue to cater to the marketplace, she has branched out from offering simple dresses and skirts, to now including blazers, jackets, tops and sweaters. Yes, she carries hijabs as well. New lines generally come out in the new year and she said she is hoping to move into offering plus-size and maternity wear in the future. Check it all out at afflatushijab.com and see what’s in store.
The local catalogue
Afflatus Hijab is just one of dozens and dozens of local creators whose businesses are listed in Edmonton Made. The Innovate Edmonton program offers an annual catalogue called Gifted, which really is the one-stop shop for your thumb to do some quick scanning of gift ideas.
Other St. Albert representatives in Gifted include:
• DogDog Goose: custom handmade leather dog collars, accessories, and pet care products;
• 35ltd: handmade nature and plantinspired decor items and toques;
• Haiku Lane: one of a kind pieces of jewelry made using found items, vintage supplies, gemstones, and more;
• While She Was Dreaming: jewelry designed and cut in studio including laser engraved necklaces, wooden jewelry and floral fabric pendants; and
• Geopowr: an environmentally friendly board game based on alternative energy sources.
Look for the Gifted catalogue at the Art Gallery of St. Albert, Corro Collective, and Effing Seafoods Market. Visit edmontonmade.com for more.