Over-sized and on trend: new mod­est styles from Un­der-Rapt

Hafsa Lodi talks to de­signer Yas­min Sobeih about why sus­tain­abil­ity is at the heart of her brand

The National - News - - ARTS&LIFESTYLE -

Model-of-the-mo­ment Hal­ima Aden fronts the cam­paign for the Con­tem­po­rary Mus­lim Fash­ions ex­hi­bi­tion cur­rently tak­ing place at the Fine Arts Mu­se­ums in San Fran­cisco. In one par­tic­u­larly strik­ing im­age, she wears a hooded white wind­breaker by Bri­tish brand Un­der-Rapt.

“It’s very strange how I was in­spired by see­ing Hal­ima Aden walk the Yeezy run­way at New York Fash­ion Week, and now such an in­flu­en­tial role model for both the Mus­lim com­mu­nity and in fash­ion is wear­ing pieces from my col­lec­tion,” says Yas­min Sobeih, 28, the Bri­tish-Egyp­tian founder of Un­der-Rapt, which launched last year and of­fers sus­tain­ably made ac­tivewear for mod­esty­con­scious con­sumers.

The brand is known for its or­ganic hooded tops, as well as leg­gings, re­laxed jump­suits, harem pants, T-shirts and rain­coats, in ad­di­tion to a de­sign called the “skight” – a sporty skirt at­tached to tights. Sobeih ex­plains how she is in­flu­enced by main­stream ath­leisure brands such as Yeezy, Fenty and Vete­ments. “They cham­pion over-sized and re­laxed sil­hou­ettes,” she says. “Gen­der flu­id­ity has been con­veyed through fash­ion, and now we see that the guide­lines to dress mod­estly mean that over-sized forms are no longer re­garded as un­fem­i­nine or deemed un­fash­ion­able.”

Sobeih stud­ied fash­ion pro­mo­tion, styling, and fash­ion buy­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing be­fore work­ing as a fash­ion buyer, then go­ing on to start her own brand. She tells us that reli­gion was her pri­mary mo­ti­va­tion in launch­ing Un­der-Rapt, and that her muses were mil­len­nial Mus­lims look­ing for ways to bal­ance their faith with fash­ion. “So­cial me­dia has now cre­ated a world­wide com­mu­nity for the younger Mus­lim gen­er­a­tion and we have seen mod­est fash­ion and life­style in­flu­encers sur­face,” she says. Sobeih saw a glar­ing hole in the re­tail mar­ket and sought to fill it – fast. “Or­ganic sports­wear and fash­ion­able mod­est ac­tive wear are still rel­a­tively un­tapped mar­kets, and Un­der-Rapt com­bines both of these con­cepts,” she says. While Nike launched its sport hi­jab ear­lier this year, Sobeih con­cep­tu­alised her own ath­letic hi­jab in 2015, while pro­duc­ing the busi­ness plan for her brand as part of her post­grad­u­ate stud­ies at the Lon­don Col­lege of Fash­ion. “As a gym en­thu­si­ast, I no­ticed that many friends and fam­ily who pre­ferred to cover when work­ing out had the strug­gle of their hi­jabs fall­ing off, plus be­ing un­com­fort­ably hot,” she says.

“I have in­cluded a sep­a­rate sports hi­jab and a hooded base layer top that a ‘cov­ered’ fe­male would feel is ap­pro­pri­ate and com­fort­able to wear when work­ing out. The fit­ted de­sign al­lows full cov­er­age and keeps hair up tight dur­ing per­for­mance,” Sobeih says. She ex­plains that the fab­rics she uses are all ecofriendly, sweat-re­sis­tant and an­tibac­te­rial, and can be com­fort­ably worn un­der box­ing or cy­cling hel­mets and scarves.

Be­ing sus­tain­able is a fun­da­men­tal part of the ethos of Un­der-Rapt, Sobeih tells us, ref­er­enc­ing a Busi­ness of Fash­ion re­port from Jan­uary of this year, which stated that 66 per cent of global mil­len­ni­als are will­ing to spend more on brands that are sus­tain­able. “I be­lieve that if Un­der-Rapt is to in­spire and en­cour­age per­sonal health, then this must start at the very core of our sup­ply-chain and at the very core of our prod­uct,” Sobeih says. “By con­tribut­ing to our en­vi­ron­ment and global wel­fare, we are en­sur­ing that we are con­form­ing to our con­sumer’s so­cial, eth­i­cal and per­sonal val­ues.”

The de­signer is es­pe­cially at­tuned to the needs of in­ter­na­tional con­sumers and re­tail­ers thanks to her ex­pe­ri­ence in fash­ion buy­ing. “Cus­tomers are no longer just im­pulse buy­ers, but con­sider where and how the prod­uct is made,” she says.

Al­though Sobeih is based in the United King­dom, she says most of her or­ders come from the Mid­dle East and South East Asia, and she points out that while Mus­lim women are her tar­get mar­ket, her clients choose to wear and style her gar­ments in dif­fer­ent ways. “Be­ing Mus­lim is per­sonal and can be in­ter­preted dif­fer­ently among var­i­ous cul­tures, tra­di­tions and de­mo­graph­ics. Even the way fe­males wear their head­scarves dif­fers in each cul­ture and coun­try,” she ex­plains.

Sobeih is now work­ing to fur­ther es­tab­lish Un­der-Rapt’s pres­ence in Lon­don and Dubai, via her web­site, which of­fers world­wide de­liv­ery, and through phys­i­cal stock­ists in both cities. “The con­sumer feed­back and re­search that I have gath­ered to date shows that there is great op­por­tu­nity for Un­der-Rapt to scale up in other rel­e­vant coun­tries and to en­ter into fur­ther in­ter­na­tional mar­kets such as Saudi Ara­bia, South Africa, Aus­tralia, South East Asia and the US, through store pres­ence, be­cause these mar­kets are par­tic­u­larly lack­ing in fash­ion­able Is­lamic sports cloth­ing,” she says.

And while her uniquely mod­est and sus­tain­able per­for­mance wear can be cred­ited for cat­a­pult­ing Sobeih’s brand to promi­nence glob­ally, the de­signer re­veals that she would like to even­tu­ally ex­pand fur­ther into the healthylifestyle seg­ment, rather than just be­ing known as a fash­ion la­bel. Her five-year plan for the busi­ness in­volves delv­ing into other fit­ness prod­uct cat­e­gories, and look­ing into ways that she can man­u­fac­ture or­ganic yoga mats and re­cy­cled wa­ters, in ad­di­tion to healthy, or­ganic snack bars.

Pho­tos Un­der-Rapt

Modest­wear com­pany Un­der-Rapt is best known for its hooded tops

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