Muslim entrepreneur brings modest fashion to Maine town

Israa Enan opens her handbag and gently pulls out three traditional headscarves, or hijabs.

“So I brought three colors,” said Enan, who lives in the small town of Biddeford, Maine. These are samples from her clothing startup, Muharah Collection, which she launched with a friend last year.

“Very light, very soft, goes with everything,” Enan said while holding the hijabs.

Until recently, Enan was pursuing an entirely different career as a dental assistant, a job she was initially interested in.

But soon after she started, she said her employers asked her if she would replace her hijab with a surgical cap and a smaller headgear underneath.

Enan said she initially agreed, wanting to fit in. “But then I realized that’s not who I am,” she said.

So after several months at the clinic, she resigned and opened the store with a friend. They started importing hijabs from Turkey, selling them for $7 each. The idea is to serve women who struggle to find local stores that meet their fashion needs.

It didn’t take long to find clients like Tabarek Al Abboodi.

“I never bought a hijab in person until Israa opened their Muharah collection,” Al Abboodi said.

Israa Enan reviews one of the hijabs from her fashion startup, Muharah Collection. Enan says she selects colors and fabric types that are especially popular among young Muslim women in Maine. (Ari Snider)

And Enan is meeting more and more people wearing his fashion lines.

“I saw girls, they were like, ‘Oh, we’re wearing your hijabs!’ I was like, ‘That’s cute! This is really awesome.'”

Enan taps into a Muslim clientele that has long been underserved by the mainstream fashion industry, said Lorynn Divita, a clothing merchandising professor at Baylor University.

Divita said the modest fashion industry is growing rapidly in the United States. This includes clothing like hijabs, long dresses, and modest swimwear for people of various religious beliefs.

“Because at this point it’s not saturated with participants,” Divita said. “It’s growing because it’s been underserved so far.”

She said this means there is still plenty of room for small entrepreneurs with connections to their communities to grow.

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