Meet The Fashion Designer Now Making Uniforms With Modesty In Mind

By Rifat Malik The Dallas Morning News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Alaa Ammuss is the founder of Verona, one of the largest e-commerce Islamic fashion brands in the United States and the United Kingdom. 


Fashion designer Alaa Ammuss, purveyor of a line of modest clothing for Muslim women, never imagined she would be asked to add school uniforms to her repertoire.

But that’s exactly what happened when the 31-year-old entrepreneur was approached by her alma mater, Brighter Horizons Academy of Garland.

One of the teachers at the school is a friend of hers and suggested that she tackle the redesign of the uniform she wore two decades earlier.

Her clients? Hundreds of elementary- and middle-school boys and girls.

“BHA changed my life. ... It was my family growing up. To be an alum, it really means a lot to be able to give back,” says Ammuss, who attended the school from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade and graduated in 2007. “I put my heart and soul into this production, and the feeling was indescribable.”

Ammuss' mission to design and deliver by the school’s opening date of Aug. 17 was unexpectedly derailed in March when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down her factories in India, Pakistan and China for months. When they finally reopened in June, Ammuss had just a month and a half to complete the entire production.

“As soon as I was given a green light, I was driven to get this completed within the limited time frame,” she says. “Sleep was definitely a luxury for me due to the time difference. I was in daily communication with my overseas manufacturer to make sure everything was done right and on task to be ready before the opening of the school year.”

Ammuss focused on creating the highest quality and design detail. She used a poly-cotton from India, and she customized everything, including the shade of the buttons. “Once the parents felt and saw the quality, they were definitely mind-blown, which I was ecstatic about,” she says.

One parent, Arooj Butt, says she loves the gray and blue plaid uniform that replaced a navy-blue jumper. Even more important, so does her first-grader, 6-year-old Aisha. “The new uniform material is very soft and comfortable. My daughter loves that it’s a one-piece and she doesn’t have to wear a separate shirt underneath her jumper. The new color combination is also very appealing.”

Students at Brighter Horizons Academy attend in-person and online classes, and uniforms are mandatory at both.

Head of school Iram Shaikh-Jilani says that the new uniforms beautifully capture the mission of the school. “Alaa is a strong supporter of her alma mater and is committed to continuing the legacy of Brighter Horizons Academy. Her uniform line provides a modern yet modest appearance for our students. There’s no doubt our uniforms have never been more comfortable and appealing.”

Within weeks of delivering the uniforms to Brighter Horizons Academy, Ammuss was approached by a number of other schools, resulting in the official launch of a new line of designer wear: Verona Uniforms.

Success is nothing new for the Verona Collection, which Ammuss and business partner Lisa Vogl, a photographer and convert to Islam, established in 2015. The women were young moms of toddlers when their original line of modest clothing for Muslim women was picked up by Macy’s in 2018, to international media acclaim. Verona is now one of the largest e-commerce Islamic fashion brands in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Ammuss equally credits their achievements to Vogl, who is now based in Florida. “Honestly, if it weren’t for Lisa, and our unlimited phone calls and FaceTime, I really don’t know how I would survive. She is a blessing to me and a true sister. Our bond is one of the greatest things to happen to me. I am so grateful to her.”

Vogl says their label’s success was a prelude to something more significant. “I believe the launch put Verona on the map, but it also helped highlight our community as well as our buying power. Lots of mainstream brands have followed and are releasing hijabs or are now catering to the Muslim market more.”

This, she says, has sparked a paradigm shift in how Muslim women are perceived. “I grew up thinking the hijab was oppressive. I believed this because this is what society taught me. But as I grew older and educated myself, I realized that oppression has nothing to do with the amount of clothes you wear -- it’s about having the freedom to choose.” (Vogl has spoken publicly about her experience as a domestic violence survivor.)

The Verona fashion label exudes the confidence of the modern Muslim woman who wears her head scarf with pride, determination and flair.

Catering to the fashion needs of Muslim women is a multibillion-dollar business, with DKNY, American Eagle, Tommy Hilfiger and Nike among some of the mainstream American brands producing clothing for Muslim shoppers all over the world.

But for this business run by two friends and moms, their work has always been about work ethic, purpose and giving back.

“It’s definitely a struggle,” Ammuss says. “I work full time, actually overtime, and don’t seem to catch up with anything, which I am learning is OK. I am OK doing what I love, while being a mom, and always on the go. I love the fact that I get to meet so many amazing people with my work. ... And when people see the final pieces they wanted come to life, that feeling is just great!” ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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