WORDS BY JOSEPH FURNESS
Last spring, we met Elle B. Mambetov: a trailblazing Black Muslim woman with a mission to make the fashion industry a more inclusive space. Equipped with an inspiring story about her recent conversion to Islam and tips for glamorising modest fashion looks, it’s safe to say the boutique founder and designer left a lasting impression.
Earlier this month, we caught up with Elle to discover how she’s preparing to observe Ramadan 2022 and what she’s learnt, accomplished and overcome since we last spoke. Below, the multi-hyphenate discusses her plans for the sacred month, her new Qatar division, the best advice she’s received and much more.
Hi Elle, it’s great to be in touch with you again! What have you been up to since we last spoke?
The old Pinky And The Brain quote ‘Try to take over the world!’ is the first thing that comes to mind! But, honestly, it’s been such a busy year. My vision is constantly expanding, and I’m always striving to bring more inclusivity to the fashion world. My ultimate goal is to tackle the misconceptions of modest fashion.
Since last year, we’ve more than quadrupled our brand matrix, and, as of this moment, approximately 40 of our brands are Arab. Additionally, we’ve launched a division in Qatar which has opened up opportunities and partnerships across the Middle East.
What's the best piece of advice you've received since we last spoke?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is based on a hadith. It goes as follows: if someone insults you, remain silent. If you do so, an angel will come down and reject everything said against you. I love this because one of the most important elements of business is integrity, and this saying helps me maintain mine.
What new brands have you added to your LA-based boutique?
Our brand matrix is representative of the entire world. We stock brands from Kuwait, Qatar, Italy, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, UAE, America, Egypt, Oman, Poland and more.
Our new brands include Katerina Kvit, Eirene Studio, Tzuri, Dreamboule, Terzihan, Lillian Ismail, Saiid Kobeisy, Gaby Charbachy, Ahlam Shahin, Atelier Zuhra, Zaid Farouki, Hamsa by Sharifa Alghanim, Noor Al Bahrani, Baruni, Studio Autonomie, Noora Shawqi, Honayda, Rayane Bacha, Yasmin Mansour, Arcadia, Dina Melwani, Dania Shinkar, Hashimi, Euphoria, Zeena Zaki and Dima Jewellery.
As of late, who have been your inspirations within the industry?
I'm very inspired by the brands I stock. It inspires me how each maintains its own aesthetic. I also learn a lot about culture, life and religion from the people behind the brands – they remind me that we’re all on this journey together.
For instance, Sarah Abudawood sent me voice recordings of different ayats last Ramadan to use during fasting. Dania Shinkar (famed for her namesake brand) sent me a hadith to help me through some trouble I had trying to get to Saudi Arabia. Mohamad Kobeisy (managing partner of Saiid Kobeisy) helped me find a teacher when I told him that I wanted to memorise the Quran.
Ramadan is just around the corner, how are you preparing?
To prepare for Ramadan, I’ve started fasting on Mondays and Thursdays. During the sacred month, I plan to read the entire Quran. Last year, I began private classes to learn how to read the Quran in Arabic with Tajweed rules.
How do you express your modesty through fashion?
I'm grateful that there are ways I can outwardly express who I am without showing the parts of my body that must be covered. I sew colourful beads onto textiles, make ponytail braids from fabrics, and paint accessories like my denim headpieces. Now, I don’t miss showing my hair or body at all.
What are your go-to Arab brands?
I love that Atelier Zuhra has something for every occasion — I’ve loved this brand ever since a box of their abayas arrived at my LA boutique. Nicki Minaj loves this brand, too! Finally, I’m obsessed with Dania Shinkar handbags – they’re so unique. Even Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar is a fan.
What's on your Eid al-Fitr wishlist?
Contact lenses! I recently got some Tom Ford Eyewear glasses that I love, but I still need my contacts. Aside from this, I would like a pair of Harwell Godfrey earrings, some lilac Versace platforms and an Atelier Zuhra or Amal Al Raisi dress. Oh, and I’m thinking of making my own crystal and feather-adorned hijab this year.