Based out of San Francisco, CA, Framed People is the freshest face on the hijab-brand scene. With her unique designs and dedication to making stylish yet comfortable hijabs, you will find yourself with a collection of her pieces within a short time of becoming a customer. My favorite piece, the chiffon scarf with rose gold shimmer piping, has been sold out nearly since it was stocked.
Initially, I was simply an acquaintance of Zain Abdullah, founder and designer, through social media. I was pleasantly surprised to see her at Friday prayer some time ago and decided to say hello and wish her well on her business endeavors in person. We maintained contact and met for a cup of coffee to do this interview. Zain was wearing the dusty pink chiffon scarf with a petite rose gold zipper. In typical Arab fashion, we politely argued about which one of us would pay for coffee before settling into a cozy table near a window. And by the end of the discussion, which went on tangents about growing up in Chicago suburbs, having friends in common, and the mutual pride as well as issues we have about the community we were raised in, it felt like I was simply catching up with an old friend. Neither of us wanted the conversation to end.
She grew up in Oak Lawn, IL and attended Aqsa School, an all-girls Islamic school in Bridgeview, IL. The path she initially took after graduating in 2008 didn’t lead to the title of fashion designer, though. With an extensive science background, Zain planned to attend pharmacy school after college and did so for one year. During that year, however, she had a crisis: the two roads diverged in the middle of the woods kind. She was unhappy with where we she was going on this path and began to reevaluate parts of her life: school, religion, hijab, etc. Pharmacy school was not where she wanted to be, but to be sure, she decided she would wait until she finished out the year to determine if she would continue. At the end of that year, she took one off and after some soul searching, she applied to fashion school. Having always loved fashion and design, she knew this was it. Being accepted to Columbia College Chicago confirmed fashion was the path she was truly meant to be on.
It’s perfectly OK to choose a career that isn’t “normal.”
MM: What prompted your move to San Francisco?
ZA: Simply put, I recently got married and my husband works there. He is from the Chicagoland area as well, so we’re based out of San Francisco for that reason. San Francisco is awesome. A lot of the influences for Framed People come from San Francisco: the people, the weather, the colors… It’s a very happy place.
Speaking of influences, how did you come up with the name Framed People?
It was going to simply be “framed,” but I decided against it. I wrote down words I associated with hijab and considered what comes to mind when thinking of what hijab does to our faces, minds, souls. I thought: it frames us. I heard an Islamic scholar say once, the clothes we wear are closest to our souls. It’s a reflection of our souls. And our hijab does that as well. I played around with the name a few times and “Framed People” kept coming back around in my mind. I wrote it down on a white board and kept looking at it and then finally bought the domain name, said bismillah (in the name of God), and began this journey.
What do you believe sets Framed People apart from other hijab brands?
Aside from my designs, I spent months doing research on every hijab brand in America and in the Middle East. Most hijab brands were getting their hijabs from China. Local hijab retailers don’t design the products they sell. They make large purchase orders from overseas vendors. I had a bit of a crisis because I genuinely thought these brands were designing their own products. I felt awful about it for a while. My husband helped me deal with the dilemma and supported me when I decided that I want to design my own products. So again, I said bismillah and chose to pursue this in the way that felt right to me.
I browsed fabric options in warehouses throughout Los Angeles. We design and manufacture our products locally in LA. These are quality hijabs. They can be washed without being worn down. We’ve done the research. I’ve washed these hijabs 15-20 times and it did not wear down the fabric or designs. Before I started wearing my own hijabs, I bought hijabs from many other retailers and washed them only to find they fell apart —and these were not inexpensive hijabs.
Was your goal always to design modest fashion?
No, initially my goal was to get a job with a designer in Chicago. There are quite a few local designers in Chicago doing amazing work and I thought I would start learning the ins and outs of the fashion industry through them. Then, in my second year of fashion school, I met a Muslim designer from London who I connected with and encouraged me to consider designing. The rest is history!
What do you want people to know about Framed People?
We’re a family. It’s not exclusive. It’s inclusive. “Welcome to the Family” is written in the bio on our website. It’s about empowering each person through faith, fashion, and our adventures through life. I want people to feel like we really are a family. I hope that by me sharing my story with other Muslim women, they’ll feel empowered to pursue their own passions despite the expectations of their families and the community. I left pharmacy school because I was only there to make my family happy. I want Framed People to empower women. It’s our Framed Family.
What impact do you hope to make?
Framed People is a safe haven for women. It’s an inclusive family where we empower and support one another as women. I see it in so many communities: women are just stepped on. Framed People is about motivating and encouraging women. This is how Framed People came about, after all. I encourage any woman with an idea to get it validated and hit the ground running in pursuit of it.
You definitely took the road less traveled. What would you say to others in the position you found yourself in (when you left pharmacy school)?
I would say, it’s scary in the beginning! I initially remember thinking I had made a mistake leaving pharmacy school. Whenever we try and make a positive change in our life, we experience resistance. And more often than not, that resistance is internal. Sometimes we put obstacles in our own way. This type of resistance is actually a good sign. It just means you’re pushing yourself to an unfamiliar place. I always remind myself that when I don’t know what I’m doing, that’s exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s perfectly OK to choose a career that isn’t “normal.” It’s perfectly OK to live a life that others don’t understand. However, it is not OK to give up on your unique personality or hide your special gifts because you would be doing a great disservice to society, and most importantly, yourself.
Support a fellow Muslim entrepreneur and one of the most genuine people I’ve met by visiting framedpeople.com to ‘choose your frame’ and become part of the #FramedFamily. You can also join the fun by following @framedpeople on Instagram and Snapchat.