Brooklyn Designer Brings Muslim Fashions to the RunwayBy MICHELLE GROSS, CUNY J-School
Michelle GrossFor fashion designer Nailah Lymus, today is the biggest day of her career to date. Her line, Amirah Creations, will make its runway debut in a Fashion Week show, one of New York’s most important milestones for aspiring designers.
While a Fashion Week show is a major undertaking for any young designer, for Ms. Lymus, 27, showcasing her work means more than introducing herself to the fashion world. As a Muslim, an African-American and a single mother, she sees the show as an opportunity to shed new light on Islamic culture and to break stereotypes — especially the ones associated with Muslim women.
“Many people think women in Islam don’t have any type of rights or think we’re very docile and don’t speak up, and we all wear black,” said Ms. Lymus, who lives and works in Clinton Hill. “But we’re women, we like colors, we like makeup, we like wearing bright things, and shoes and heels and everything that woman like. This is our religion, but we’re just like regular people.”
Michelle GrossAt first, Ms. Lymus was reluctant to make her Fashion Week debut on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and worried about the negative associations other New Yorkers might have with Islamic culture, especially today.
Ms. Lymus remembers 9/11 vividly, and the feelings of shock and terror that she experienced that day. But it was the way her fellow students at the high school she attended on Long Island behaved afterward that left a lasting mark on her. A Muslim student in her class was bullied relentlessly.
While she was not harassed, which she attributes to being tough, the anti-Muslim sentiment of others stayed with her. “I have a strong relationship with God,” said Ms. Lymus. “There are extremists, like in any religion, but our religion does not condone their actions.”
Now, 10 years later, she has taken that toughness, and overcome her initial fears about showing her work today. Her show is very much about sharing Muslim culture.
“I feel like we (Muslims) are finally getting back to a sense of ourselves,” Ms. Lymus said. “As the years go by, we do acknowledge what happened, but we don’t want to harp on it. We believe in giving Da’wah [giving back], and designing is my way of doing that.”
A few days before the show, which is Sunday evening at the Dance Art New York Studios near Times Square, she paced around her studio with a nervous energy, leafing through a rack of designs and meticulously inspecting each garment before pulling out her signature piece.
“I call this the goddess dress,” said Ms. Lymus, holding an elegant blue taffeta gown with a long train. This line, like all of her designs, is made with Muslim women, and modesty, in mind. She said that Alexander McQueen’s style has served as an inspiration, and in her designs she emphasizes comfort and femininity above all else.
At the same time, Ms. Lymus walks a fine line between being expressive in her work and staying within the boundaries of her faith.
“I don’t want to misrepresent the religion,” she said. “I feel like what I do should be a reflection of myself as a Muslim, and I want the line to reflect what I am.”