Fashion with a purpose

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 - 5:43pm

Halimat Olaniyan and Efe Osagie

Halimat Olaniyan and Efe Osagie Buy this photo
Photo provided by the author

I’ve never really cared about or followed the latest trends. Instead, I’ve always thought of myself as a trendsetter. But on Monday, I stumbled upon Seek Refuge, a clothing company that uses its platform and products for female empowerment, Muslim representation and refugee aid. They're branded as the first to make streetwear for Muslim women regardless of their personal modesty choices.

For me, my wardrobe is an extension of who I am. My style is a reflection of my personality and my commitment to be unapologetically me.

Like my wardrobe, I don’t neatly fit into one box or category. I am boho-chic, professional and daring. I am Nigerian-American, Muslim and progressive.

Like my personality, my closet is overflowing with vibrant colors, patterns and fabrics. I am as bright as my favorite coral dress, as unique as my African attire and as strong as my leather handbags.

Like the way my outfits change as the seasons pass, I am adaptable, reliable and a little unpredictable.

Yet, I have always struggled to find a balance between expressing myself through fashion and staying true to my faith as a Muslim woman. I see Muslim women cloaked in beautiful robes and tightly pinned hijabs and yearn to look as beautiful as they do. Yet, when I pin up my hair and look into the mirror, I don’t see me. It’s taken me so long to feel comfortable and beautiful in my own skin and now I’m proud to show it off. I’m finally starting to find a balance and defining my own type of modesty. Seek Refuge gives Muslim women a way to define modesty for themselves.

The best part is a portion of every purchase is donated to refugee aid organizations overseas. Lately, I’ve felt pretty frustrated with my inability to aid in the growing refugee crisis across the globe. I feel guilty at times knowing I have two homes when about 11 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, but companies like Seek Refuge give me a way to do something I probably would have done anyway while giving back.

I personally cannot wait to get my very own “Refuge Jacket,” their feature item. Its oversized fit and the Arabic script on the back perfectly embodies Seek Refuge’s mission. It’s quite literally a fashion statement. The Arabic script on the back, handwritten by a Muslim calligrapher, is a poem written by a Syrian refugee. It reads:

Once we were at least happy. There once was peace where we resided

In our land of birth; our homeland. We never anticipated this

That war would tear us apart and leave us miserable this way

We witnessed so powerlessly our brothers and sisters brutalized

Our homes and properties burnt, and then came our displacement

We have hopes but in despair. We cried peace but in bloodshed

That oh, we’d better seek refuge. We ran for our dear lives

Hunting for safety across the borders our dreams seem direly shattered

As we seek for a new homeland, in a land where no one wants us.

What’s your fashion statement?