32-YEAR-OLD EGYPTIAN ARTIST SOHA MOHAMED TAHA TALKS FASHION AS A FORM OF EXPRESSION AND SELF-RESPECT
With some international designers heralding a more conservative return to glamour for S/S19, Soha Mohamed Taha, a 32-year-old Egyptian designer living in Al Ain, has been delivering it on the streets, in her signature black hijab. “To me, modesty is a way of life, it’s how you carry yourself, and how you choose to be seen. It’s both internal as well as external,” explains Soha of her striking and unconventional style. “It isn’t just about how much skin I choose to cover or whether I’m wearing a hijab or not, it’s about self-respect and the way you present yourself. I love wearing clothes that express my individuality and creativity – I just so happen to wear a hijab and dress modestly.”
It is in this quest to prove that her headscarf is a form of expression, not oppression, that led Soha to garner more than 400,000 followers on Instagram, who take their daily style cues from her simple, modest, yet highly fashionable posts. “It doesn’t really bother me anymore to know that there are still people out there who think modesty is regressive, because if they look around, all they’ll see is modest high fashion on the runways and covered-up girls making headlines and gracing the covers of international magazines,” says Soha. “As long as I leave the house feeling confident in what I wear, it doesn’t matter what people might think. I’ll keep inspiring because it’s always fun to inspire other woman and to be the reason they feel good about their style choices.”
It is thanks to her, and the slew of chic, conservative women throughout the Middle East and the world, that the spotlight on modest fashion is shining brighter than ever. “When Dolce & Gabbana designed its first abaya line back in 2016, I was so surprised and really excited that they took this step. I felt like it was more than just an abaya line, it was about the message they were sending. They wanted to give Middle Eastern women some sort of inclusion and appreciation,” says Soha. “But still, without modest influencers and fashion-savvy Arab women on social media showing the world their incredible modest style, none of this would have happened. I believe we inspired designers and brands all over the world to create, and get out of their comfort zone in one way or another.”
With a strong sense of self, and armed with an even stronger wardrobe to boot, Soha’s double tap-worthy posts are proof that “conservative clothing is anything but boring.” As she adamantly states, “I’m a sucker for suits and oversized jackets. And I love outfits where I can wear tops, bottoms and accessories all in the same colour, because no matter what colour I go for, it’ll always look fresh and modern.” Usually found in a Zimmermann dress or Tibi suit, which she describes as her weakness, Soha is also a supporter of local emerging designers: her wardrobe full of pieces by Lama Jouni and Madiyah Al Sharqi, who she counts on for stylish modest staples.
“The most valuable thing in my closet though has to be my grandmother’s Chanel hat. My mum inherited it from her and gave it to me when I was six years old and, although I don’t wear it anymore, it means so much to me.” And her love for fashion hasn’t stopped there. Just like many other strong creatives, Soha has managed to take a lifelong passion and turn it into a successful career, channelling her affinity for clothes into the abaya line she started in 2015. “There’s something very special about making your own clothes and watching an idea come to life. I love creating, and seeing other women wearing my designs.”
SOHA’S EDIT FOR CHIC LIVING…
- Words: Lucy Wildman