New York City, NY — When Marya Ayloush started wearing hijab in the 9th grade, the California native always had difficulty finding scarves that appealed to the American-Muslim style.
“My dad is a Syrian immigrant from Lebanon, and my mom is a Mexican American convert to Islam, so my mom didn’t grow up wearing hijab,” Ayloush, now 22, told YR Media by phone.
“So my mom’s solution was to buy fabric from Jo-Ann Fabrics and hem the edges to make head-scarves for me,” said Ayloush. Soon after, Ayloush learned how to make her own scarves, hand-sewing lace and studs onto the scarves to give them a more vibrant look.
“Slowly Muslim girls from my school and city would buy my scarves and wear them to community events. Before I knew it I was getting calls and emails from girls all over southern California to purchase these never-before-seen prints and embellishments.”
By 2010 — as a sophomore in high school — Ayloush founded Austere Attire, a Los Angeles-based hijab brand with styles that quickly sell out and typically rise to the top of Instagram’s Discover page.
Though it initially started as a online shop, Ayloush spent hundreds of hours during her time as a student at UCLA nurturing her business. She splunked through Southern California for the best fabric, hand-sewed scarves, and shipped out orders between classes.
Ayloush graduated from UCLA last spring, and now she dedicates her full-attention to Austere Attire.
The biggest challenge she faces — she told YR Media — isn’t personal, but religious.
“It’s a huge responsibly on my shoulders to ensure that our brand stays true to the Islamic principles of modesty. The concept of hijab is one that encompasses worship of God and can be a very spiritual journey for many women,” said Ayloush.
“I never want to dilute the weight hijab has religiously for the sake of fashion or a quick sale. I’m constantly in a state of reflection of the way in which my scarves uphold Islamic principles.”
Going forward, Ayloush plans to grow her business with the support of her husband. But she also hopes to help destigmatize the trope of the "momtrepreneur."
“As a mom to be right now (seven months along), I’ve noticed that many other successful women in this industry shy away from talking about balancing being a wife, mom, and businesswoman” said Ayloush.
“That’s something I hope to change. Some women think that a full-time job like this requires you to be single or childless out of a false impression that they need to “choose between having a career or raising a family.”
“In fact, we should be promoting women to be able to choose both a family-life and a work-life. The truth is: it is manageable and simply requires compromise and communication between a woman and her partner.”
You can check out Austere Attire here and follow the business on Instagram here.