Growing up as a Muslim, Nailah Lymus found her creativity within the parameters of the dress code many women of the faith adhere to. Today the Brooklyn native is making a living as a fashion designer for her brand Amirah Creations. She’s also founder and CEO of UNDERWRAPS Agency, the first global Muslim and modest modeling agency. One of her missions is to dispel the myth that modest fashion isn’t fashionable. Besides that, she’s simply living her dreams.
I caught up with the Brooklyn native to find out how she began as a designer and model agency owner, how the modest fashion sector is really doing, and her recent feature in The New Yorker.
What is Amirah Creations and what inspired you to start the company? How long have you been designing?
Amirah Creations is my apparel and accessory line. My inspiration to start designing was simply wanting to express my creativity through clothing, while still dressing modest as a Muslim woman. It was difficult finding fashionable modest clothing in high school, so I began designing my own. I was often complimented on my style and garments I designed, which was encouragement for me to develop my own clothing line. I launched my line in 2004 and it has been a beautiful journey living my dream .
You also have a modeling agency for modest models called Underwraps. When did you realize it was a business that needed to exist in the fashion world?
There were many factors that drove me to launch Underwraps Agency. One being some of my encounters with Agency Models throughout my career who felt uncomfortable exposing their body for various reasons (religion, motherhood, marriage, discomfort, etc…) For me this was an eye opener, knowing these models were the supermodels of the industry but were actually uncomfortable wearing certain garments and felt they had no voice. They thought expressing how they felt would jeopardize their career. Another reason I was motivated to establish this agency was the strong presence of modest fashion and head covering influence that I have observed and researched over the years. It seemed prevalent enough that I figured “Why not represent women who dress modest as a part of their lifestyle, and not just for fashion”.To me these models would be the ideal choice for any modest fashion job.
You and another Underwraps model were recently featured in The New Yorker. What was that experience like?
The article in The New Yorker was a full feature on 4 Underwraps Models, two Muslim, two Modest, and they also included me as well. I was honored to see that they included our story in their fashion issue. It was a beautiful experience and their entire staff was so professional from beginning to end. The photographer (Pari Dukovic) captured some amazing images and truly saw the beauty in all the models. This feature has truly opened many doors for my models. I am very grateful for the opportunity.
For those who know nothing about the industry, how lucrative is the business of modest fashion?
Modest fashion is definitely lucrative, especially in present day. You can open any fashion magazine and see Modest fashion on any page. Honestly no endeavor will be successful without hard work, dedication, passion, and sacrifice. The fashion industry is extremely competitive and always changing, so you really need to be passionate if you want to succeed.
[I have] no day job. I have a 24hr job. Being an entrepreneur involves countless hours dedicated to your business. I am operating UNDERWRAPS Agency, designing for Amirah Creations, and working as a Creative Director for a few brands. Of course the most rewarding job is raising my 9yr old son.
How do you feel about the way Muslim women are profiled or judged based on their choice to dress modest?
I feel that it’s unfortunate that we live in a society where dressing modest and covering your body is looked upon as something to be attacked, weird, or oppressive. There was a time when modesty was associated with knowledge, class, honor, pride, and status. [It’s] sad to see how disconnected people have become. There has always been, and will always be a unique sense of pride that engulfs a women who dresses modest. She truly knows her value and understands that intellect and achievements are qualities that carry you through life, not showing off your body.
Does that issue ever affect you?
It doesn’t affect me. I am proud and blessed to not only be a Muslim, but to be a Muslim woman. There is so much strength and responsibility in being a Muslim woman. Especially in this society because we dress in a way that automatically identifies us. We must stand in our truth and educate others on how peaceful and beautiful Islam is. I am very confident in who I am and my purpose here.
What do you want people to know about modest fashion in general?
I want people to know that there are many forms of fashion which allow people to express themselves, which is the beauty of fashion. Freedom of expression. I want people to know that modest fashion is not a trend, it has been relevant and evident for many years.
Finish this statement…I discovered my own beauty and power when…
When I realized that my uniqueness, creativity, and confidence were qualities that God gifted me with, and in order to succeed I must embrace them”