Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, Melanie Elturk found it very difficult to find hijabs she felt confident in. Back then, there weren't stores like American Eagle selling hijabs or stores like H&M selling different scarf styles. Instead, the only options at the mall were neck scarves, which were thick or an awkward size or not made to be washed too many times. Because of that, Elturk was forced to wear two lackluster hijabs from overseas, cramping her style and making it hard to be confident.
But a lack of hijab options in the market wasn't just a lack of clothing-based representation, according to Elturk. It was also a message to Muslim girls that they couldn't take pride in their identities. Hoping to fill that gap, Elturk founded Haute Hijab in 2010 with her husband, Ahmed Zedan. Being a Muslim-American, Elturk wanted to have the option to express both her American and Muslim identity, and incorporated state-side fashion to her collections. She says she wanted to show that the hijab was not separate to American culture, but a part of it.
"As an American who was born in Detroit, I identity most with my American culture above my Lebanese and Filipino roots," she tells Bustle. "While I take great pride in where my parents come from, my American identity is the strongest after my Muslim identity, and it's what I identify most with. Being able to design a collection that celebrated this felt amazing."
Now the brand's newest launch, Haute Hijab's first luxury collection — and, the brand says, the first luxury hijab collection, ever — takes that idea one step further. The luxe launch was inspired by Elturk's own need for a formal hijab. Back in 2009, she found she didn't have quite the right hijab to go with her engagement day outfit and quickly found a gap in the market.
"On my engagement day I spent so much time obsessing over the perfect outfit — a grand ball skirt, a sequined and beaded belt I made myself, and this luxurious silk top," she says. "I even replaced the regular buttons on the top with crystal buttons. But then my hijab just fell flat. I wore a polyester chiffon hijab that for everyday I love — but on my engagement day, I wish I had something more elevated."
But if she couldn't find it on the market, she could bring it to the market through Haute Hijab, which was launched the following year.
Elturk believes that hijab should rise to the occasion and transform, not hold back, one’s outfit. With Haute Hijab's new five-piece collection, that is exactly what a person will find. Hand-crafted and made from 100 percent silk, the hijabs hold beautiful details like delicate tulle, hand-cut lace, and queen-like designs made out of Swarovski crystals.
As expected for such grand attire, there was a lot of planning and consideration that went into the collection.
"As an American brand, we wanted to make sure first and foremost the collection did not come across as 'ethnic' in any way," Elturk says. "The American Muslim population is so incredibly diverse that we didn't want to alienate any groups or ethnicities with 'Arab' or 'Asian' inspired designs. We also wanted to make sure the collection was timeless, since this is the first luxury collection in the hijab space. We didn't want to risk being too trendy with our color choices or design elements."
In order to do that, Elturk and her design team decided to look back in American fashion history and found silhouettes that were still just as popular and beautiful today as they were decades ago. Then, they took the elements of those designs and worked them into the luxury line.
"That's where the crystal appliqués, delicate embroidered fabrics, and classic silhouettes that are tastefully embellished come in," she says.
Keeping in mind that it's only a five-piece collection, Haute Hijab wanted to make sure the pieces could work with a variety of different wardrobes and tastes.
"That's why you'll find a neutral color palette and a variety of styles ranging from heavily embellished sparkling crystal appliqués to understated chiffon and tulle," she explains.
But being a luxury line comes with luxury pricing. The hijabs clock between $250 to $325, a much different price point from their everyday collections, which tend to cost around $20. But seeing how these pieces are meant to be worn with special-occasion attire, the price tag makes more sense. When piecing together an outfit for a gala or wedding, most people tend to open their wallets a little wider.
The amazing thing about Haute Hijab is that it's not just an online shop, but also a community. Elturk knows many of her customers intimately even if she never met them in person, and she kept them all in mind when designing the pieces.
"I could actually see different customers wearing each design from the collection so beautifully, and it made my heart sing today when one of our customers actually purchased the exact design that I envisioned her wearing," she says.
There are already plans of expanding the collection to include more luxury options, and plans to expand the formal hijab line with more options at lower points. Muslim fashionistas, prepare your closets.