by Sonia Azalia,
Reluctant to make ‘just another hijab fashion brand’, Raissa Larasati, a 21 year-old fashion business student, decided to make a modest fashion brand for her enterprise project.
Along with her group, she created a fashion brand that believes in the value of modesty, upheld by the hijab, and that can and should be promoted to everyone. Raissa’s personal relationship with the hijab inspired the idea.
“We didn’t think about making a modest brand at first, we just thought about making a hijab fashion brand. After surveying a lot of people whether they wear the hijab or not, whether they’re wearing it full-time or not, turns out many of those in our target market age are still unsettled with wearing the hijab, especially millennials who are commonly still following what everyone else is doing. For instance, when my classmates are wearing it, then I’d wear it too, but when I’m out hanging with those who aren’t wearing it, I’d (tend to) still take it off.”
So far, Lajja has attracted more non-hijab wearing customers which is a surprise for her. It seems Lajja subconsciously presented themselves as a brand that non-Muslims and non-hijab wearing women didn’t know they needed.
Their first collection offers a variety of lengths, layers, cuts, a dash of pattern here and there—all in the range of earthy color tones. Clearly, a lot of thought went in throughout the design process.
“I just started wearing the headscarf, so when I designed (the collection) I looked at it in two ways. I sketched while questioning myself ‘Will this outfit look good paired with a headscarf? Will this outfit look good without a headscarf?’ because I know how some Muslim outfits look weird without the scarf. (The collection) definitely follows the current trend, from the style to the color pallette. For example, the current trend is oversized, so we follow the oversized trend, and coincidentally it goes in line with our modesty concept, it’s still appropriate and doesn’t reveal the body shape. In fast fashion, design never changes, we just add and refine.”
In a glimpse, the collection does look like a typical design of a Muslim wear, but the cloth draping around the model’s head doesn’t look like the conventional headscarf at all. The so-called ‘kapucong’ (hood), became Lajja’s main identity. It gave birth to their star slogan “#MembukaUntukMenutupi” (revealing to conceal).
“The hood was the first product design I thought about! Many girls, including myself, are still putting on and taking off the headscarf. If we wore the rectangle headscarf today and took it off the next day it would seem weird, but when you wear a hood, the impression is much lighter, it would just seem like wearing a regular outfit with a hood draped over the head like an accessory.”
She thought more about non-hijab wearing women when designing the hood. “If you’re not interested in the hijab, you can wear it as an accessory first, but who knows from there you might be attracted to the hijab?”
Her group received a lot of praises for the concept, especially for being the first modest fashion brand on campus. Then comes the bigger challenge: getting Lajja out in the real world. As a start, they contributed to Fashion Nation, a fashion show alongside other student-made fashion brands from prestigious fashion schools, and collaborated with a hijab brand. They caught the attention of various audiences and even a few media outlets.
“The marketing was rather difficult, since we’re playing in the middle. Our target market is between hijabis and non-hijabis. We had to come up with clever marketing strategies.”
Managing the entire production stirred a lot of pressure. Raissa had to maintain her idea while at the same time consider how to get the designs accepted, both to her non-Muslim group mates and the market.
“What makes Lajja interesting is I’m the only Muslim (behind it). I was afraid that the brand won’t get accepted in the fashion marketplace, I was afraid of letting my groupmates down when they had been very supportive on making this modestwear, though they’re not Muslim. Before, they thought that modestwear wasn’t something they could wear, so I did a lot of research on the meaning of modesty itself. I explained to them, showed them my sketches, and I was open for their feedback. They became more accepting.”
As idealistic as she strives to be, paying attention to what the market wants is still a priority.
“One of the lessons I got from making Lajja (on the first attempts of launching their brand) was that the majority of Indonesians don’t like a lot of patterns. I (also) chose a neutral range of color tones because a lot of Indonesians aren’t confident enough (to wear more vibrant tones). Once our lecturer even suggested ‘Why aren’t you different than others? Why aren’t you using more vibrant colors?’ I was like ‘this is not a sportswear’ *laughs*, this is a daily wear. It’s not possible to do that just yet (especially as a student), for we’re not only here to show off our craft, but to follow what the consumer wants.”
After pages of surveys, 150 sketches, 25 outfit productions and countless sleepless nights and dramas with the dressmaker, Raissa and her two group mates managed to launch an entire collection, owning their space between the regular fashion and Muslim fashion marketplace—equipped with bigger plans for Lajja’s future.