Fashion never fails to open up a world of opportunity and creativity. Whoever you are, you can always find a space where you belong, and it’s the designers—big or small—who make that possible.
because is a small fashion and accessories brand created by fashion designer Hawwaa Ibrahim. Coming up on its first anniversary,because aims to provide affordable whimsical fashion for any person who’s not afraid to be seen. It’s all-inclusive. Just because.
We sat down with the designer themself to learn more about what it takes to work in fashion and the real story behind running a small business. Success, failures, and truths.
Please, tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Hawwaa Ibrahim (she/they). I am a 21-year-old non-binary Muslim fashion designer from Minnesota. I’ve been designing since I was 12, but just recently, almost a year ago, I started my official brand/business called because.
How did you get started on your brand?
The reason I decided to finally start my brand is kind of a sad one; I was in a really rough spot in the summer of 2019. Too many bad things were happening to me and I just couldn’t handle it all. I needed something to distract me from my sadness and anxiety, so I did what I’ve wanted to do since I was 12: I started my business. Albeit, I should have planned it out a little more. It was kind of a spur of the moment thing that I was determined to achieve but once I got started, everything ended up working out. The key was social media and supportive people like my Minnesota family and the ones at We Are Fluide. Without those things, I wouldn’t be here.
What does it take to run a small fashion brand?
It takes passion, motivation, and kindness towards yourself. Everyone always says that you need thick skin to be in the fashion industry but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I’ve been designing runway and for clients, since I was 17 so, from my experience, I think what you truly need is to believe in yourself and believe that what you’re doing is great. Not everyone is going to have the same taste as you, not everyone is going to appreciate you but when you truly have confidence in yourself and you open yourself up to learning, life kind of works out for you on its own. That’s me speaking from experience! Not everyone is mean, not everyone is out to get you. Once you surround yourself with positivity alongside your goals, you’ll do fine!
What’s the best and worst thing about having your own fashion brand?
The best thing about owning my brand is being able to see all of the different people around the United States wear my clothing and accessories (international shipping is not available just yet)! I get so excited because I remember younger me wishing and dreaming about it, and now that it’s actually happening on a wider scale, it’s so surreal every time. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that feeling. The worse thing about it having to do literally everything! That includes packaging, social media, content, website, and more! It’s still great because I love doing it, but it becomes so much sometimes. Especially because I’m still a student and I have other jobs. Plus, everything I sell is handmade, so it takes some time, haha! If I’m going to be rawer, it really sucks when you don’t make any sales in a day or sometimes more! Especially when releasing a new product that you’re convinced is going to do well...that always stings but you live and you learn and you keep moving forward!
How have you grown your brand over this past year?
Through social media! No doubt about it. I was strictly using Instagram at first, but I’ve noticed Instagram has a lot of flaws when it comes to advertising or trying to get yourself out there when you’re smaller. The algorithm can be so messy.
I started shifting my focus over to TikTok since there are so many opportunities to get discovered over there. Plus, it’s fun! A TikTok I did about my brand onWe Are Fluide’s account actually pushed me to use it more and I’m so happy I stuck to it!
What is one of your favorite pieces you’ve created?
My favorite piece has to be the smiley face dress I designed for Fall/Winter 2018! It’s an older collection called “SODA”, but I think about that design a lot! Thankfully, it flew right off the runway!
Does anyone or anything inspire your brand?
I don’t usually look to a specific thing to grab inspirations from, but I do admire the fashion of the 1950s and 1960s. I always find that it influences a lot of the silhouettes I design. Other than that, modern art is something that I love looking at if I’m stuck!
What’s one thing you wish you could tell your past self about owning a brand?
It takes time.
What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
I don’t want to be cliche at all when it comes to this question so, I’ll try my best to be completely honest: you have to start doing things for yourself. To please yourself and nobody else.
It’s not a game of who fits in the best within fashion. It’s the ones who stand out the most who prevail in the end and stick around. There is no need to bring other people down or compare your success to that of someone else’s.
Everyone starts in a different place, and everyone is exactly where they need to be in their lives. Even if you don't think you are. I don’t think enough people understand that if something is meant to happen to you, it’s going to happen no matter what. No one can stop it. No one can change it or take it away from you. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and everything will be fine. No matter how long it takes.