Modern Mary, established by Seema S. Sahin in 2008, is a fashion brand for the modern woman. Modern Mary’s designs are inspired by the beauty of modesty. Seema’s unique aesthetic vision captures the essence of modesty without compromising style. She’s had a handful of amazing women purchase her designs, including Daisy Khan, Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA); Andrea Kalin, the founder and president of Spark Media; ambassadors, and many more! Check out my interview about her fabulous boutique.
Mz Mahogany Chic: Who is Seema S. Sahin? Tell me about the Modern Mary brand.
Seema: I believe that fashion and modesty are not opposing forces. When harmonized they create beautiful silhouettes that are both feminine and modern.
I don’t design only for image, I design for a lifestyle. Modesty is never compromised with my designs. From fabric to cut, the designs are thoughtfully sold. I want women to feel stylish and confident. My concept balances the desire to be fashionable while being true to the self; no matter who she is, where she is from, or her way of life. My collection speaks to all women looking for feminine, trendy, and unique designs.
What inspires me to design is a desire to adhere to my values without limiting myself to preconceived notions, designing for women who come from various backgrounds and traditions. I want to design for ALL women, and my designs are for ALL women. My designs give women the chance to express themselves while being true to their identity. It can be challenging finding styles that express their cultural heritage, American identity, and at the same time being true to their faith. What motivates me is trying to reconcile these three forces and translate them into my designs. Creating modest designs is one thing, but there is certain flair to my designs that makes it stand out and appealing. The uniqueness of each design attracts different women and speaks to different women. I try to design something for everyone.
Seema: Finding modest fashionable designs in mainstream clothing stores is not only limited, but can pose a challenge for many women. There is an underserved market in the American retail industry. These women are consumers, but continue to struggle finding products that fit their needs. Women shopping at major clothing brands have to be creative in order to piece together a modest look, which can be difficult, expensive, and at times uncomfortable depending on the weather. I wanted to create a hassle free shopping experience for these women, offering them a fashionable alternative that already fits with the guidelines of their faith.
I’ve always had an understanding of fashion and a strong sense of how to style. When shopping through the malls, there was no difficulty in creating a modest wardrobe, rather a challenge. Actually, the challenge was exciting and refreshing; kept me hunting through each store in the mall. Women would always stop me and ask me, “where did you buy that?” or “how did you think of putting that outfit together?” Noticing the comments and compliments, I knew I was doing something right. And what is better than putting together an outfit? Designing an outfit! I want women to have a fun and comfortable shopping experience. The only way was to bring the designs to them. I know what elements are needed to make a modest yet modern design. Design is not just how it looks, but how it fits, how it feels, and how it flows. Not only is designing a passion of mine, but I am good at it.
After I started designing, I knew that an online store was not enough, which is why I decided to open up a boutique. The Boutique offers my customers an exclusive shopping experience without compromise to privacy and comfort. The boutique’s modern and high end appeal reflects the same values as my brand, Modern Mary.
Mz Mahogany: How did it feel seeing your collection on a runway for the first time?
Seema: My first major runway show was at DC Fashion Week Fall 2011. My designs were featured in their International Couture Collections show. Seeing my designs going down the runway, and hearing applauds from the audience, not only was it amazing but a surreal moment. Fashion shows bring your designs to life. I will continue to watch my designs going down the runway.
Mz Mahogany: What was the most difficult aspect in launching your own label and boutique?
Seema: Being able to balance the role of being a mother, a wife, a designer, and an entrepreneur. It’s a struggle everyday but thankfully, my passion for designing is what keeps me going. I have a vision but anchored to the ground by reality and resources. When starting a business, it’s more than just pursuing a passion. Yes, you have to be passionate about what you are doing, but you also have to be persistent, willing to learn, and ready to play various roles. I can’t run a business by just designing- I had to learn to be a manager, bookkeeper, marketer, etc. Thankfully I have a great support network I can turn to when seeking advice and guidance- from family to colleagues.
Mz Mahogany: Tell me about your ‘Red Evening Caftan’ (which is one of my favorites by the way) and your inspiration to create it.
Seema: I have designed many evening dresses for clients. This particular piece was inspired by Southeast Asian fashion. I’ve always been a fan of Indian/Pakistani designs. I love their combination of color and patterns. I wanted to create a silhouette that combines elements from both worlds, East and West. I love this design too!
Mz Mahogany: Do you have another favorite?
Seema: Yes this one features Ana Marie Lawson and was photographed by Naiffer Romero.
Mz Mahogany: What can we expect from the Modern Mary brand in the near future?
Seema: A major fashion Brand, featured in Department Stores, Editorials in Vogue, and on the runway at New York Fashion Week!
Mz Mahogany: Can’t wait to see your designs hit the NYFW runway one day!
For more information Seema Sahin and the Modern Mary brand, please visit her website at http://www.modernmary.com/ You can also stop by her boutique near Tyson’s Corner in Vienna Virginia.