This week we spoke to NabiilaBee, one of the forerunners for the online modest fashion movement. The Birmingham-based beauty first gained attention several years ago, and has since become one of the most renown modest fashion influencers in the world. Want know how she has amassed such a following? Read on!
How would you describe your brand in one line?
My brand ‘Nabiilabee’ is a reflection of my style and personality; it's colourful, quirky and trendy. I aim to make my clothing and accessories accessible to all. It is for young women who are in charge of their style and want to feel comfortable and confident in their own skin.
How do you find the balance between fashion and modesty?
Having worn the hijab since the age of 9, dressing modestly is all I've ever known. At one point I did feel like the ugly girl in the room, and if I'm honest, it was because I was the only one out of all of my peers who was wearing the hijab. However, I decided to make myself feel at ease with modest dressing by experimenting with form, colour and shapes; doing so made modesty feel more natural to me. Also, my mum inspires me; growing up, she always made me gorgeous modest pieces, and it taught me how to be able to dress modestly and follow trends.
Nowadays, I feel that social media plays a huge part in everyone's life, and it can be very challenging to stay modest but still dress really nicely. However, I feel you need to keep grounded in Islam and constantly remember why you wear the hijab, the importance of it, and of course the reward that it brings too.
If there's one defining moment in your career, which led you to where you are today, which would you say it was?
When I first started YouTube back in February 2011, I uploaded two videos and then left YouTube for a few months. When I came back, I had such an overwhelmingly positive response from so many women telling me that I inspired them to wear the hijab or to be comfortable in their hijab. I was really surprised that my two short hijab tutorials were helping people, and this was the turning point for me. It was when I decided to pursue my YouTube channel, because even if I was making a difference to only one person I was still making a difference..
At around the same time, I had a girl who was 14 years old reach out to me after watching one of my videos. She wanted to convert to Islam because my videos had inspired her to look into the religion! That was huge for me and it’s what motivated me to build up the channel and to create content that lifts and inspires women.
How did you amass such a large following?
This happened over a 6 year period so it wasn't like I gained 1 million followers overnight. It wasn't easy either, it was a lot of hard work. I was one of the first hijabi Youtubers back in the early 2000's, so I guess I tapped into the niche market early, and over the years a lot of people got to know me because of my hijab tutorials. Also, my style is very different; it's colourful, quirky, trendy but still modest. I brought something different to the table.
In your opinion, how has the modern Muslim woman changed?
To be honest I find this question hard to answer. I feel like things have changed in terms of the portrayal of Muslim women in Western media. Generally, Muslim women are being seen in a more positive light; they aren’t just seen as oppressed niqabis/hijabis who are forced to dress like this. Within the media, and the creative industry, I feel as though Muslim women are being appreciated and understood more, and are also being allowed into the mainstream consciousness. I also feel that social media is making the world more accessible, and we are more easily able to see how well Muslim women are doing; they are being mentioned in the media for their success.
The question I have is whether Muslim women have really changed, or whether the internet is opening our eyes to what has already been happening.
What is the one thing that no one knows about you?
Not many people know that I'm a huge Marvel comic book fan; The Joker is my absolute favourite character. Most people expect that I'm very girly, but I’m quite geeky and love tomboyish things.
The one artist/designer (etc.) whose work you admire and why?
There are so many that I can't just pick one! On working in the fashion industry I've seen and met some incredible artists.
What advice would you give to individuals that are interested in this field and want to follow in your footsteps?
Work hard towards what you want in life. Follow your passion and never give up. I studied fashion at university and hated it - not the work, but the atmosphere. Despite this, I stuck with my course and I learnt so much; in the end it paid off.
What I always say is that if you’re really passionate about something, you will do anything and everything to make it work. And remember: nothing happens overnight.
All images courtesy of NabiilaBee