Our Origins Collection photoshoot would not have been possible without a LOT of people, especially our 7 models. Each of these models brought SO much to the table, from their insight, critique, and more. We wanted you guys to learn more about the incredible women who really helped bring our vision to life - so we interviewed them! See below for the interviews & be sure to check them out!
Hi! My name is Duaa and I’m from Sudan although I was born and raised in NJ. I’ve gone to Sudan a total of 6 times, believe it or not! When I was there, I remember thinking how nice it was that so many people shared my culture & deen, a lot more than in Jersey.
I’d have to say that the sense of community is my favorite thing about Sudanese culture. Everyone feels like one big family and it really encompasses the essence of our Ummah. For example, in Ramadan, two trays of iftar are prepared so that the men can take one with them and sit outside to enjoy it with neighbors and anyone who passes by. The way I’d describe it is this big circular tray in which many can eat from. It’s so beautiful because it’s like no one is a stranger- everyone is just part of this big community.
I went to Islamic School, allhumdlillah so I was surrounded by a Muslim community. There weren't any Sudanese Muslims in my school though. So when people did meet me, it was like “Yeah, she’s Sudanese”. Sudan has really only been in the media for the past 2 or so years. Before, I never got a chance to talk about Sudan without having to explain basic things like it’s location, but since the revolution, people have started to hear about the country more.
Being Sudanese means a lot of people have trouble identifying where you come from. There’s a huge debate about whether Sudanese people are Arab or Black. A lot of us get the comment that we don’t look Sudanese but people come in all shapes / colors. Sudan has over 600 tribes and ethnic groups, making us a very diverse group. For me, personally, I don’t really identify with any sort of group.
I remember that a lot of the students in my school were mostly Desi. When people would find out that I could speak Arabic, I was asked “Oh, but you’re Black?”. Even now, when I talk to people, they get confused about why and how I can speak Arabic. One time my school had an event (an African Fashion Show) and I was wearing a cultural dress. Someone came up to me and was like, “Are you Sudanese?”. I was SO shocked - I was like “Yes!!” There was no confusion about where I was from, this person just knew and it felt so nice to have my culture recognized.
During Headed Somewear’s Origins Photoshoot, I think the biggest highlight was that I felt noticed. I felt like I was never given the chance to really share things about my country which is why this shoot was so great. It was an opportunity for myself to learn more about where I’m from the components that make up who I am. Highlighting so many important parts of culture such as the dress was really nice. It was great to get that spotlight and contribute as well.
- A white toub represents women empowerment and feminism in Sudan as well as independence, strength and purity and is usually worn by working women.
South Sudan vs Sudan : Until 2011, they were one country. That year, following decades of civil war, the southern section seceded, becoming the world's newest nation: South Sudan. Today, conflict continues to roil both countries.
Hi! My name is Rida and I’m from Pakistan. My mom came here from Pakistan when she was 20 and I’ve lived in the US since.
I’d have to say that one of my favorite things about Pakistani culture is how much depth there is all across. Oftentimes, because of movies, stereotypes, or mass media, we look at all South Asians as a monolith. However, there is so much depth to Pakistan which I have been uncovering and learning. Poetry, music, literature, history, religion--there is so much variety within one country. Every family, every shopkeeper, every taxi driver, every silai wala (tailor), can show you something about the country you might not have known before.
I like to travel a lot, so I believe you can find home in different places and for different reasons. I am currently a student in New York, and I feel at home when I go to Queens to eat Nihari with my friends. When I go home to my family in Virginia, I feel at home playing with my sisters and talking with my parents.
Therefore, for me, home is wherever you feel your heart is. For me I haven’t been to Pakistan in so long so I would love to find a home there.
The photoshoot at Headed Somewear was so great. The vibe was professional and unifying. It was definitely one of the best photoshoots I’ve done.
Hi! My name is Basima and I’m from Palestine. I was born in Palestine but hadn’t gone back until I was 19 years old, having been raised in Chicago. Of course, that first experience was extremely eye opening. The harsh restrictions of freedom of movement was something every Palestinian hears about. However, to witness this harshness was mind boggling because I had never experienced being prevented from going anywhere in the states.
I instantly fell in love with Palestine. Palestine holds a lot of my identity, so it’s always going to have a piece of me. You feel so much more at ease subhanAllah. Although people are going through considerably more hardships, they’re more content with the things they have. It’s a simpler life there for sure. Everything is not as fast paced as here. It’s almost like there’s no pressure to fulfill so many different goals, goals that sometimes you can’t even identify.
In Palestine, we’d go on the rooftops, watch for shooting stars and be entranced by the fullness and closeness of the moon. It is a sight that makes one realize how vast the world is and how small we really are; a humbling effect.
In Palestine, we have a lot of respect for older generations and love that because they sit and talk over the cup of tea. We were entertained by the stories of our elders, their wisdom and the history of the land showing on their faces. Aspects that I never experienced while in the states. In Palestine, talking came easily when gathering with family.
My experience with the photoshoot went really well overall. It was really inclusive and had intentions of bringing everyone together. Although we all came from different countries, we are still kind of the same & we hold these places near and dear to our heart. I felt like this showed in what we wore.
- Muaddin : the Muslim official of a mosque who summons the faithful to prayer from a minaret five times a day
Hi ! My name is Kausar & I was born in Nigeria. When I was young, I came to the United States and only went back to Nigeria once, when I was 4 years old. Because I was young, I don’t remember much but I do have a lot of photos where I can look back and see my family. I had plans to go back after COVID, hopefully by the ending of this year or next year.
I find it really important to be connected to my family back home. My brothers, sister, and I are the only "American" family. Whatsapp and Facebook are the only ways we communicate with family back home and even then, there is a disconnect. It was like if I could just go back home and meet my family, I would feel whole.
I make it a point to eat cultural food at home and wear traditional clothing to feel connected to the culture. The ankara, for instance, is a clothing item we wear everyday & it has a huge variety of designs. Because we are here in America, we only wear it for Eid or special events but over the years, a lot of us have gotten to a point where we wear it normally. Eating authentic African foods reminds me of the fact that I’m African and proud. I love jollof rice, fufu, and rice and stew.
Nigeria is the most populated African country and I love that I’m from there. Did you know there are over 300 languages spoken in Nigeria? I just love the dialect, the food, and clothing from Nigeria. I have so much pride that I come from such a strong African country.
I realized that when you come to America, immigrants are looked down upon. It can often be hard for many to find their footing and for them to find the confidence to succeed in a country that doesn’t want them to necessarily. However, because of my culture and where I come from, I know that no matter what environment I enter, I can succeed. You’ll literally see a Nigerian name in any area, in any field. I find that to be so inspirational.
The clothing I was wearing to the shoot is what I like to wear for Eid. It’s something worn back in Nigeria day-to-day but here it’s an occasional thing for me. It comes from the “Hausa'' tradition and doesn’t have a specific name. That specific outfit is actually inspired from Pakitani outfits. West African Muslims have a lot of similarities to Muslims from other countries due to trading, going to Mecca, Dubai, or long term effects from the Arab Slave Trade. It’s actually really interesting to me to see how much influence so many cultures have on one another - they’re so similar. For example, thobes for men are so similar across so many cultures. As a Muslim ummah, we are not that much different from each other.
When I introduce myself to people, I immediately say that I’m Nigerian - I don’t say I’m American. Despite that, home for me is here because it is wherever I feel Nigeria is. When I’m at home, I hear people speaking Hausa (my language). Being in an environment where people serve my food or wear my clothes makes me feel like I’m at home. My mom has memories back home and my dad speaks of stories of the old days. When hearing of these memories of Nigeria, I feel connected to my country. I feel comfortable. And even though I have grown up here, there is still a piece of me that feels like it’s missing. I long to be in Nigeria and meet the people back home.
On working with Headed Somewear on the Origins Collection Photoshoot, I absolutely loved the experience. I fell in love with the location because it had such a unique vibe and the location matched the photoshoot which was amazing. It was also so nice to meet the other girls. All the other models had such beautiful names mashAllah, and getting to meet them and learn about where they were from was so beautiful. Not sure if this was intentional or not, but on the sidelines, we had discussions about what our clothing meant to us & our cultures. A few of them didn’t know some things about Nigeria so it was cool telling them about it and say “Nigeria is a majority Muslim, West African country.” It is always great to learn from each other.
- Ankara - colorful prints sewn into any style
- Gele + Iborun: head wrap (ready made or wrapped) and shoulder shawl
- Iro and buba: matching top and bottom usually made of lace material
NOTE: the vocabulary mentioned above specifically come from Yoruba culture and language in Nigeria
Hi! My name is Lipe and I’m from Bangladesh. I came to America in 2004 and was 10 years old when we moved. I remember so many memories about living in Bangladesh and hope to go back soon.
Everything in Bangladesh is homegrown. You had land of your own, and would grow your own food and vegetables. What I miss the most about Bangladesh are the fruits. They were so fresh and had a completely different flavor. The mangoes, for instance, don’t taste the same here at all.
I would say that there definitely are a lot of differences in living in Bangladesh and living here. Back in Bangladesh, I was with my whole family. I don’t have any extended relatives here - just my immediate family. I have 4 siblings -two brothers and two sisters.
I actually went to 2 different schools in Bangladesh - one in the morning & one in the evening. I was top of the class and I remember competing as kids with my friend to get the best grades. We’d go to the first school in the morning, sing “Amar Sonar Bangla” (also pronounced "Amar Shonar Bangla") which is equivalent to what the pledge of allegiance is here. I actually really enjoyed both schools - it was something we don’t have here but still was a lot of fun.
Even though I’d like to go back, I do have a fear of going back to my country. Based on all the safety concerns I hear, I get a bit nervous traveling back and was always told especially never to go visit alone.
The photoshoot with Headed Somewear was amazing. I loved the concept of bringing people from different cultures and to see everyone’s outfits. I love seeing how different and unique everyone's ethnicities are - it was truly so beautiful. I can’t wait for the launch!
Hi! My name is Mysarah and I’m from Egypt. My parents came here in the 80's and I’m so thankful that they still take us back and encourage us to go back. When we are here, we try to incorporate our culture in our day to day life. Even then, I sometimes feel distant to my culture when I'm here which is why going back is so refreshing. I usually take a trip to Egypt every summer with my immediate family. I only have one great uncle and a couple of cousins here - the rest of my family is in Cairo.
The first time I went to Egypt, I was around 2-3 years old. I took swimming lessons there, went to the country club (which was basically like an all encompassing sports club). Those were my earliest memories.
My favorite thing about being Egyptian is how much we value community service. Whether that’s service or helping immediate family, friends, family- there is always a support system there for you. In NY even, the Arab/Egyptian community is very supportive of each other through good & bad times. It’s nice to see that this tradition exists even in my generation, especially during COVID.
Growing up in NY was a whole culture all on it’s own. I’ve learned that because I’ve grown up here, my home is both my NY culture + Arab culture. And you know what? That’s okay. I don’t think I can ever forego either and believe the two cultures can be woven together. I never want to drop either side & appreciate my culture just as equally as the environment I grew up in NY.
Of course, there are conflicts at times, but in my experience, learning to merge the cultures has been something important to me. I try not to stray away from Arabic / cultural principles I've grown up with since they’re way too precious to toss away. Whether that means watching Arabic TV shows with my dad to remember the language, or taking Arabic in college - by putting the effort in I can ensure I keep both parts of my identity. It’s difficult for sure, and everyone has the right to struggle with it and find their own way.
Besides that, I have to say that the photoshoot with Headed Somewear was actually my first time doing any type of modeling! Any other photo I’ve done for brands was on my own time but this was a great experience. All the girls were so sweet, everything was so professional and under control. I felt like the space complimented the vision of the designs - which was the main thing I loved. I felt so accommodated and left with this big, beaming smile!
I loved the hijabs, not just my own. The concept is honestly great. It unifies us, and makes us one community. We are different, true, but we still unite at the end. We can come together over our similarities, and being a part of this photoshoot was a great example of that. We really, really need that in the world right now because there’s too much division and not enough togetherness.
Hi! My name is Suha and I’m from India. I was born in Chicago although I did live in India with my grandparents between the ages of 2 & 4 while my parents were situating themselves in the US. I’ll be honest, it felt a bit like having a foot in both worlds since both were so different.
I would say my favorite thing when I’m in India is my family because I truly do value being surrounded by so many people that I love. Everyone has the same ethnicity and it feels very symbolic and poetic for me to spend quality time with people who represent such a significant part of my identity.
I would be that girl going to Bar Mitzvahs in desi dresses. My mom didn’t know better, bless her. I remember wearing kurta pajama, having henna on my hands, or putting oil in my hair would give reason for getting picked on. People would say “Oh, your hair is oily” or “What do you have on your hands?” I remember wanting to be white and fit in. After reconnecting with the Desi part of me, I have learned to accept that these differences are positive and make me who I am. Now, being Indian is something I'm proud of.
What’s so interesting to me is seeing so many aspects of Indian culture being capitalized. At one point, I was made fun of for these things, but now it’s become the norm. People put haldi (turmeric) in their lattes, and henna is another fleeting trend too.
Where is home to me? I would say home is in the United States. If I had a choice to live in India or the US - I would pick here. I am accustomed to experience and truly do believe that my identity as an American Indian is much stronger than solely Indian. Back in India, I've always looked like an "American larki" (American girl). Here, people identify me as Indian but it's not something that is considered a bad thing. In a more poetic sense, the concept of home resides in connections that I have with people, whether or not they share my ethnic or religious background. Just as much as a physical location can be my home, beautiful people, experiences, and places can be “home.”
The photoshoot with Headed Somewear was one of my favorite experiences. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It was such a breath of fresh air and a wonderful experience in this time right now. We're being figuratively and literally being divided by the people around us through sickness and death. But this shoot allowed us to appreciate life, themes of diversity, sisterhood and modesty which I really appreciated.
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