(Image: Claire Foster)
Toronto’s first International Muslim Fashion and Design Festival, a two-day event dedicated to empowering Muslim women through “modest fashion,” is happening this weekend. Its founder is Nateka Pitter, a 26-year-old convert to Islam who designs a local clothing label called Victorious Me. (“Fashionable expression without exposure” is its slogan.) We spoke with Pitter about the upcoming event, how she came around to the hijab, and what “modest fashion” really means, anyway.
How did you end up converting to Islam?
For years I was a Christian and after that I was an atheist. I knew there was a higher being, but I didn’t believe in anything. A lot of my friends were Muslim, and I would debate religion with them. When I really sat down and took a look at Islam, I realized it made a lot of sense to me. I was a club-goer and I loved going out, but the more I got into Islam the more I started stepping away from that.
And how did you get into fashion?
I was always interested in fashion, but when I became Muslim, I found that there wasn’t really anything available for that community. That was one of my struggles: I was into Western fashion, like many other Muslim girls who were born in North America, but found that we weren’t being catered to. There was nothing for us.
Did you have any preconceived notions about what fashion in the Muslim world was like? How did you feel about the hijab?
The hijab was a struggle, because it wasn’t something I was born with. I still struggle with it, especially when I go out to places and people point at me or tell me to take it off. Of course it’s more appealing to have your hair out, but at the same time, you’re doing it for your faith. It’s a struggle I think a lot of Muslim women have.
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