Welcome to Chic Muslimah!
Where were you born?
I grew up in leafy suburbs of North London
Where do you live?
Currently living in East London because of work, but will be making my way back around the A406 to North London this summer!
I’m a junior doctor.
For people who do not know you can you give us a brief outline of how your involvement with The Great British Sewing Bee came about?
I’ve been a fan of The Great British Sewing Bee from the very first episode. I remember my mum calling me up while I was away for a medical placement telling me to put the TV on ‘right now!’ I’ve always had an interest in craft and making things, so she knew this show would be right up my street- and she wasn’t wrong! I was hooked and dreamed of going on the show. I always joked with my family and friends that getting on to The Great British Sewing Bee was my “life goal”. The only problem was: I couldn’t sew very well. It wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I took up sewing properly (having only ever made simple things on and off over the years) to make myself a graduation dress.
It was only this year, after Nadiya’s victory speech on The Great British Bake Off that I thought, ‘maybe I can do this?’ and sent in an application.
What inspired you to create the looks on the show?
I wanted to create items that reflected my style and personality and I was always conscious about trying to make things with a modest edge, especially as that was one of the main reasons I started to sew in the first place. I always tried to make something that I would wear which meant taking risks and trying something a bit different (like the African outfit cape!)
I always try to bring back fabric from holidays and love the diversity and vibrancy of fabrics from around the world and I think that inspired my looks. I also love the designs by Zuhair Murad and Naeem Khan.
Is there anyone or anything that keeps you inspired or motivated?
I love the way fabrics and clothes can tell a story, from how the designs on African wax cotton can tell which country they’ve come from, to how a sari is worn letting you know where the wearer hails from. I think it’s amazing how clothing is so diverse and unique to countries, cultures and individuals. Meeting people from all over the world, in person or even on social media inspires my designs and style. There’s a richness in clothes that I never knew of before I started sewing.
My main motivation during The Sewing Bee was my family; they have been behind me every step of the way, sometimes even pushing me through the door when I didn’t think I could do it!
Could you pick one highlight from The Great British Sewing Bee on the BBC?
I don’t think I could pick just the one highlight, the whole experience was amazing and I had so much fun with the other sewers and judges on the show. I loved the camaraderie we had, cheering each other on even when things were going very, very wrong. And when things did go wrong it wouldn’t take long before we’d broken into spontaneous singing of “Let it go”.
If I had to pick one it would probably be the response I’ve had from my leaving speech. All the way up to it airing, I’ve been quite nervous about how people would react to what I had to say. It felt very raw and open when I said it, which is why I started to cry, having promised myself that I wouldn’t cry on national TV! I guess it’s something everyone can relate to, that feeling of being alone and like you don’t fit in. When you go to the shops you can feel “too slim/large/short/tall” or in my case I felt too frumpy and ugly for wanting to cover up. It took a while before I felt comfortable with myself and realise that I define who I am. Sewing helped me to find my happy place and I’m so happy to hear people say they’ve been inspired to sew because of what I said.
Do you have a signature look?
Bright colours and a matching lipstick.
What is your favourite accessory piece?
You can never go wrong with a statement necklace! I love picking up necklaces while on holiday too. That way I know that they’re pretty unique.
What has been your biggest challenge in your career?
I think the biggest challenge was learning how to balance work and life whilst working as a junior doctor. My husband and I are both junior doctors and had to move away from family and friends for our first jobs. The hours can be long, and the work stressful and we ended up just falling into the trap of eat, sleep, work, repeat. It was exhausting and depressing and we both decided we needed to learn how to take back our time and spend it on things we enjoy. For me, finding time to work on something, whether that’s reading a book, or working on a dress helps me to clear my head, keeping me happier and healthier mentally and spiritually.
What other projects or ventures are you working on?
At the moment it is all medicine related! I love teaching as well so I’m currently finishing off my post-graduate degree in Medical Education. I’m also about to start training as a GP.
What style of clothes do you prefer?
I love a mix of trouser and skirts with statement colours and shapes. At the moment I like bringing an ethnic twist to what I wear, whether that’s through the fabric, accessories or upcycling Asian clothes. Most of all, it needs to be minimal effort and layers!
A beauty tip you would like to share?
I’m not much of a makeup junkie, but there’s only one thing I swear by and that’s Rose water and Glycerin! My mum shared it with me and I love it. It’s an oldie but a goldie! I dab a little on my face after jumping out of the shower and it keeps my skin looking clearer and works as a moisturiser.
Any cooking tips you would like to share?
I tend to cook with my husband and we have a set menu of meals we can whip up in 30min any day of the week, so working as a team to make dinner is probably the best tip I can share!
Any tips on how you juggle work and home life?
Interests or hobbies?
Sewing, crochet and (attempting) to keep fit. Although that last one isn’t my favourite I do like feeling stronger and fitter.
Anything and everything! I do love Thai and Italian food but can never go wrong with my mum’s Shepherd’s pie… or a cheeky chicken burger.
Raspberries with strawberries coming in a close second!
Inception, the soundtrack by Han Zimmer gives me goose bumps
Favourite television programme?
Arrested Development, Never nudes rejoice!
Favourite holiday destination?
Zanzibar, I spent 7 weeks there as a medical student on placement in their main hospital. I could never get bored of the place and would go back in a flash!
“God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear” words to remember.
Little Women- Louisa May Alcott
Three words that sum you up?
“Work in progress”
What are your future plans?
At the moment I’m looking forward to start training to be a GP. I’m really passionate about encouraging young Muslims to follow their passion, step up and be heard. At the moment I’m working on setting up mentoring/talks with professional, Muslim women for young Muslim girls, to share their experiences and hopefully encourage them into the field.
Sewing wise, the response has been so huge and positive that I’m thinking of posting more tutorials on my blogs for beginners and maybe more hijab-friendly/modest sewing patterns. So watch this space!
A quick message to inspire other people reading this interview …
In a world that can feel full of negativity, remember that there is hope, love and beauty in us all. Love one another and be kind. The rest will work itself out.