- Edition 9, Chapter 2 -
Nyla & Fatima
by Alexander Brebner
Faith and Fashion
Nyla Hashmi and Fatima Monkush share a mixed heritage and careers in fashion. They grew up in conservative Muslim households in Connecticut; Nyla was raised by an American mother and a Pakistani father, and spent half of her adolescence in Pakistan where her father, a physician, built hospitals with colleagues. Fatima’s mother is also American, her father is Bengali, and the two women developed a friendship fostered by their mothers, both Muslim converts.
The pair struggled to reconcile faith and fashion as teens, and found it challenging to find clothing within the religious boundaries of modesty. Fatima started covering her head when she was fourteen. “I am Muslim and wanted to be recognized as such – I was a college freshman when 9/11 happened; that made me want to keep covered even more,” she says.
Their mothers grew up making their own clothing, and taught their daughters how to follow and alter patterns. Fatima attended a state school in Connecticut to study textile printmaking, and says, “Studying art isn’t traditional for Muslims; we’re normally encouraged to be in reliable, successful fields, but my dedication persuaded my parents to change their minds.” Nyla studied fashion design at FIT, and the seeds were sown for their own fashion label, named Eva Khurshid after their grandmothers, that, “Gives women the power of choice in what they wear, how they wear it, and how the world views them.” The experience has been a huge learning process. “We’re women, we’re Muslim, and we’re a new business – given all these factors, we have to work twice as hard for stores to take a chance on us.”
Modern Sensibility, Traditional Craft
Nyla describes her aesthetic as, “Two ends of the spectrum; my ready-to-wear work is minimalist, with sharp lines, streamlined with attention to detail. But I also do embroidery and embellishment which is very ornate, and influenced by a worldly sensibility.” Her husband teasingly calls her an old lady, “Because I love to knit and embroider. I’m definitely of a maker culture.” Fatima has honed in on her personal style during the last few years and calls it, “A quirky sensibility, menswear style but feminine,” and adds, “I covered my hair not so much for religious reasons, but for identification, but it’s not for me anymore. It coincided with the first time I chopped off my hair – it felt like me. I’d missed out on youthful experiments with color, so I started: lavender, blue… .”
Letting it go, Letting it be
Although Nyla had very long hair that she chopped into a bob over a year ago, she was still nervous sitting in Wes’ chair. Since leaving a corporate job 2 months prior, she wanted, “To feel more grown-up and sophisticated.” She was prepared to go short, “and tried to be okay with letting it go and letting it be,” she says. “I saw six-inch chunks flying to the floor and I was trying not to react.” But she loves the result of having invested her trust: “It’s a totally different look if I had gone to a salon on my own; I’m usually so specific about what I want.” Fatima was convinced by Wes’ vision, “To take everything off my face; I’ve never had bangs before.”
To see Nyla and Fatima's transformations, watch their stories below.
Nyla’s haircut, “Will probably dictate the extremes of what I wear, but in a good way – maybe more feminine, more androgynous, sometimes girly, sometimes structured. How can I accessorize? Different makeup, earrings, a statement necklace; I get excited about those sort of things,” she says. Roxie kept Nyla’s color her own, but enhanced the natural highlights and added more throughout.
Fatima’s reaction to seeing her photos was, “I saw me, not crazy hair. I liked what I saw, and I do a double take whenever I see my reflection.” Roxie encouraged Fatima to, “Grow into my natural color again and not choose color just for the sake of it.”
Comfort is Power
The tagline for their clothing line is “Sexy Rediscovered” – empowerment through clothing. These women consider comfort sexy, and see a parallel to what they observed the Hairstory ethos to be, or as Fatima puts it: “Wanting people to be comfortable – with suitable hair.”