Haute Hijab, one of The Helm’s portfolio companies, launched in 2010 when founder Melanie Elturk got tired of searching for stylish and comfortable hijabs she could wear with confidence. “I couldn’t understand why such an important garment was so often treated as an afterthought,” she says. Inspired by the Islamic tradition of ihsaan— “doing everything with beauty and excellence” — Melanie, and her co-founder and husband Ahmed Zedan, spent months sourcing and testing fabrics to create a line of hijab that is breathable, washable, durable and beautiful. Recently, the company added a line of luxury hijabs and secured $2.3 million in seed funding to spur growth and expand its product line.
What first inspired you to build Haute Hijab?
I started Haute Hijab with my husband for two reasons: First, it was (and still is) hard to find hijabs as an American Muslim that made me feel confident and beautiful and I knew I wasn’t alone. Second, women like me needed role models in hijab they could look up to. We started to create content on our site that elevated and uplifted the American Muslim woman. I’m an attorney by profession so my husband and I did this part-time as our side-hustle until our brand got so big that we decided to quit our jobs and move to NYC to focus on Haute Hijab full-time in 2016.
Why is now the time for Haute Hijab to exist?
By the year 2030 one-quarter of the world’s women will be Muslim yet there is not a single global brand to represent them. We are excited to be that brand.
What’s the biggest obstacle you are facing right now?
Scaling—we have an amazing model with the customers that exist today, but as we grow, we need to scale in all aspects of the business: supply chain and production, growing our team, marketing efforts and in-person events!
What part of the business are you most excited about right now?
I’m excited about rounding out our categories in hijab. We want to get into athletics, bridal, hijab accessories and more fashion options. There’s so much more to create!
When did you realize you were really onto something with Haute Hijab?
The week after we launched our Facebook page testing the idea, we had 1,000 followers. (This was back in 2010 when Facebook business pages first started). They were so vocal about what they wanted in a modest fashion brand and I knew we had hit a chord. This is a demographic of women who have been ignored by the mainstream for so long it’s no wonder they rallied around a brand created just for them.
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Who do you look to for inspiration in your field and why?
Ralph Lauren. He’s successfully built a brand around a lifestyle that is so recognizable and cohesive across so many verticals. He’s the holy grail of fashion for me.
What is your favorite life hack?
Listening to motivational speeches in the morning while I’m getting dressed and putting on my make-up. I bring that exuberance with me into the workplace and it gives the rest of my day purpose and energy.
What is your favorite work hack?
Wake up super early and knock-out the most complex tasks on your plate while your mind is fresh and alert.
What’s one piece of advice you would give a fellow entrepreneur?
Keep your intentions pure at every turn.
What do you want to be known for?
Serving and uplifting the Muslim community.
Words to live by?
Everything happens for a reason.