Canadian Halifax native, Amanda Redmond, who found her faith after reading the Qur’an three years ago, wears the hijab and has a shop that offers fashions for other women in Islam
A life-altering decision about faith has propelled Amanda Redmond into the Muslim fashion business.
The Halifax native, 23, was stuck overnight in a New York airport nearly three years ago when the soft light of the airport mosque called her in.
It was 3 a.m. and sleep was unlikely, so she picked up the Qur’an and began to read. She was taken aback when the words of the ancient text resonated and she found herself nodding in agreement.
“The values it teaches and what’s written in the Qur’an all make sense to me,” Redmond said in a recent interview.
“I’ve always had a fleeting interest, and I wasn’t any religion to start with, so the more I learned about Islam, the more it made sense to me.”
With a new outlook on what it means to have faith and her interest in Islam growing, she continued to absorb what she could from the culture that was undeniably foreign from her upbringing in suburban Halifax.
In time, it became clear to Redmond she needed to officially convert to Islam and become a Canadian revert Muslimah. She was ready to tuck her hair under a hijab, cover up her arms and live a modest life based on her new-found faith.
“When you feel something is right and you’re not doing it, you think about it all of the time.
I knew I wanted to do it and it was nagging and nagging, and I didn’t know why I wasn’t wearing the hijab and fully converting to Islam. After I made the change, that was the kind of freedom I got.”
Broadly, in Islam, hijab is the principle of modesty, which itself is open to personal interpretation. A Muslim woman may choose to only expose their eyes, others cover their entire body except their face and hands and others don’t observe any special dress rules.
Not every woman who converts to Islam immediately wears the hijab, but within a few months, Redmond was wearing her hijab to school — she is a Mount Saint Vincent University business student — to work, and out with her friends.
“I dabbled for a couple of months, and then one day it was just me. It felt right. But then I found it really difficult to find the appropriate clothing I felt comfortable with, on a modest guideline.”
Redmond’s definition of modesty means her hair and arms are covered, but her hands and face are bare, and bright colours and jeans are OK as long as they are paired with a long, loose-fitting top. With a new personal dress code to live up to, it soon became clear to the young business student that there was a gaping hole in the retail landscape.
There are more than 4,000 Muslims living in Nova Scotia, and she found that the female population is reliant on online shopping and parcels from friends. But it didn’t add up; the cost of shipping would more than double the price of many garments, and items would often arrive looking little like they did online.
The aspiring entrepreneur knew she could offer a more affordable solution.
After a little research, she began making bulk orders from the Middle East and Asia. She settled on a business name — Al-Qamar or The Moon, named after the 54th sura of the Qur’an — set up a Facebook profile and began networking.
“It really baffled me that there was nowhere else in all of Atlantic Canada to buy this stuff.
“I wanted these things, all of my friends bought these things and there are other women here who are asking for these things, so why aren’t they here? I guess I’ll do it.”
Al-Qamar officially launched its online store in September and has now garnered more than 1,200 Facebook fans and a growing reputation as a go-to shop for Muslim women.
The shop offers an assortment of contemporary clothing and accessories, from brightly coloured, ruffled and bejewelled hijabs, sparkling hijab pins to abaya (sleeved dresses), cotton undercaps, lace underscarves and arm sleeves.
Operating in a tight niche market, Redmond said it is important that her products stay affordable and that she doesn’t saturate the market with duplicates.
“I’m focused on bringing in 10 or so of each item. There’s a small pool of women here, and if everyone has the same thing, it’s pretty obvious. I want to stay focused on contemporary, modest clothing for Muslim women.”
To date, business continues to gather speed and Al-Qamar has shipped to buyers across Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and even Sri Lanka.
And although she continues to juggle school, work and the demands of her fledgling online business, Redmond is focused on her next goals — growing the network of Muslim women in the region and opening up a brick-and-mortar retail shop.
“It will take time, but I’m patient. People who know me know I don’t just jump into something without doing my homework.”
The Al-Qamar shop can be found online and on Facebook.