The many hues of faith

Nasreen Anshad’s brand SAWB makes beautiful garments specially created for Namaz with dreamy designs 
Nasreen Anshad
Nasreen Anshad

Picture this. The next time you offer Namaz, you are in a single, free-flowing, comfortable garment adorned with flowers or stars and sometimes even polka prints. The prayer dresses or Jilbabs may not be that familiar to people in Kerala. However, 28-year-old Nasreen Anshad is bringing Jilbab into vogue among the women here through her venture SAWB. 

The whole idea is to offer dresses for Muslim women that they could wear with elegance during prayers. An MCA graduate, Nasreen’s foray into garment designing happened by chance. It all started last year when Nasreen was just searching for modest wear on the web. “I came across the prayer dresses on my search. But these weren’t available here. So I thought of making one for myself. I designed a Jilbab and my mother stitched it. After a few trials, we eventually got the attire right,” says Nasreen.

Nasreen started getting some customers  for this specially designed prayer garment. And soon it turned into a huge business with over 1,000 pieces of Jilbabs getting sold every two weeks. Usually, women wear an Abaya and a Makhana while praying. The Jilbab comes as a single piece, making it a convenient garment for the prayers. It is also easy to carry as well. “A lot of people prefer buying Jilbab because it is comfortable and convenient. It is also beautiful and elegant to wear and is travel friendly,” says Nasreen.

The prayer dresses that Nasreen makes are modelled after the kinds available in Dubai. Nasreen says the style of these dresses changes according to the country. “The prayer dresses made in London or Indonesia are completely different. The reason Jilbab isn’t available here is since it is very pricey to even import. I wanted to make them and offer them to everyone at an affordable price,” says Nasreen.

The main challenge the novice designer faced was to convince people of the faith that wearing a colourful dress while praying was okay. “There is a misconception that you should wear only white. But this is nowhere mentioned in the Quran. What the Quran says is that one should wear the best dress while offering prayers,” says Nasreen.

So, Nasreen’s Jilbabs come in a grand array of colours and patterns, all designed by her. When she started out, it was her mother who used to stitch the garments. Now she has employed a women’s collective to stitch the garments. The Jilbabs are available in three sizes — for kids, teens and adults. The garment is made out of soft crepe and will last for three to four years, she says. “I feel so happy and proud now. This is a venture that happened by chance and people have embraced it. I want to incorporate more styles into the Jilbab, like the different versions available in various countries,” Nasreen says.

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