For Aminah Mohammed, Islam is a source of strength. But it was not always this way.
Struggling to find her life’s purpose, Mohammed lost sight of faith. With nowhere to turn in 2018, after reaching one of the lowest points in her life, it would take reconnecting with Islam for her to find her way.
“When you are in a bad place, sometimes you believe you don’t need to focus on something greater. It’s only when I was feeling hopeless, and God brought me to my lowest possible point, I was made to appreciate my faith,” she said.
Now 28, Mohammed owns the local fashion brand, Imaan Trinidad. Her intention was to create a brand Muslim women could identify with and feel empowered.
It was always a struggle to find her life’s calling. Growing up, Mohammed resented academics.
While attending St Augustine Girls' High School (SAGHS), she was grouped into the science subjects. She felt pigeon-holed.
“I was always a child that couldn’t focus but I was exceptionally good at crafts and coming up with good ideas.
“But being in a 'prestige' school, they tend to send you down a science or a business route.”
Though dissatisfied, Mohammed did not have many choices and did the assigned subjects. Obtaining numerous grade ones, she even excelled at CSEC and CAPE examinations.
While everything seemed picture perfect, there was a different story behind the scenes. Quietly, Mohammed was struggling to cope with the stress of school and had frequent anxiety attacks.
She told WMN, “Coming out of sixth form I was confused. I felt like I needed to be in a particular job to be accepted and be considered important.”
So, Mohammed followed most of her friends who went into the field of medicine.
In 2012, after graduating from SAGHS, Mohammed tried her hand at dentistry. The “experiment” did not last long. The next year, she stopped her studies at the UWI School of Dentistry.
“I decided not to write the exams and I decided to take a year off,” she said. The decision received a mixed reception from her parents.
Mohammed’s father, TV host, commentator and journalist Fazeer Mohammed understood her desire to undertake creative pursuits. Her mother, Lystra, believed in the value of a “traditional” education.
But both parents agreed Mohammed should finish dentistry after which she could follow her creative side.
“I understood where both of my parents were coming from but as a young person you feel very confused.”
For Mohammed, the decision to leave dental school was already made and in 2013 she officially left.
So, what happened next?
In 2014, she decided to pursue events management.
“I was always fascinated with events management and used to plan family events. At that time, I felt events was the outlet for me to express my creativity.”
Her parents accepted the decision, but it came with one condition – Mohammed must obtain “formal” qualifications even if it was in events management.
Not pleased with local offerings, she applied to do a bachelor of arts degree in events management at the University of Greenwich in London. She started the programme in 2014.
“Living abroad and going after something that I wanted was an eye-opening experience.”
After graduating in 2017, Mohammed returned to TT and founded a small events company, Bespoke Events, under which she planned several events including her sister’s wedding.
For once, Mohammed felt a sense of purpose. But the joy was short-lived. Over the next year she faced a series of personal struggles. Already on the edge, harsh criticism of one of the events she had planned was the proverbial straw.
In 2018, she closed Bespoke Events. Severe bouts of anxiety attacks followed the decision.
At this point, Mohammed admitted to being distant from her faith but over several months, she worked on reconnecting to her beliefs.
How did she do it?
“People that came into my life played a huge part in my reconnection with Allah. Their faith and focus on Allah completely changed me. We sometimes think we need a lot of Islamic knowledge and guidance, from an imam, to be able to connect with Allah. In fact, it is the day to day struggles and difficulty that brings us closest to Allah.”
Mohammed’s renewed faith led to the creation of the Imaan Trinidad brand in 2019. Imaan is Arabic for “faith” or “belief” in Islamic theology. The word also denotes a believer’s faith in various aspects of Islam.
While Mohammed had no formal training in design, she saw an opportunity to be creative and express her faith. The decision led to some self-conflict.
“How was I going to use my creativity and love for fashion for the sake of Allah? At the end of the day, he gave me this skill for a reason, and it was upon me to use it for good.”
Mohammed said a hijab is much more than a head scarf.
“When you see someone wearing the hijab you expect a certain behaviour from them. The hijab is a protection for us and commands its own level of respect.
While she wanted Muslim women to be able to identify with Imaan, she set boundaries to ensure the brand does not conflict with her beliefs. The brand’s goal is not for Muslim women to make a fashion statement but rather to celebrate the hijab.
“I wanted to create a space where the Muslim Caribbean woman felt at home and felt free to be who she is, unashamedly. It’s a space where she stands tall on her expression of modesty in its true sense.”
Bringing Imaan to life was not easy. Mohammed suffered anxiety attacks while creating the brand, triggered as she questioned whether the brand would be successful and attract customers. She was also challenged to find quality fabrics and a reliable production supplier.
With faith and family support, she was able to overcome the obstacles. She is especially grateful to her sister, Nadimah, who helped in the brand’s creation and continues to assist in its daily operations.
“Any advice my family gives me, it comes from Islam first, so there is a very rich essence to the advice they give. Having that strong support system gave me confidence.”
For now, the brand only sells hijabs but there are plans to sell other products, in the future.
So, what makes Imaan Trinidad’s hijabs unique?
Hijabs produced by the brand focuses on solving issues of breathability and durability when women wear them. The materials used to make the hijabs help solve these issues.
In August, Imaan Trinidad launched a premium jersey hijab collection made from viscose and lycra materials to give the hijabs a cotton finish. Mohammed said jersey hijabs are popular due to its comfort. She said the collection is something her customers have been asking for.
Now, Mohammed looks forward, to the future of Imaan Trinidad, even with the ongoing covid19 pandemic. Cementing the brand’s online presence is a priority.
“I honestly believe the future is online, so I don’t see the brand having a storefront.”
“Pursuing studies, in design, would definitely be something I would be open to in the future. I think it’s really important to keep growing in both character and skillsets."
Mohammed also features a weekly series, Imaan Woman, on the brand’s social media accounts, which shares inspirational stories of women who overcome challenges and are game-changers in their communities.
“An Imaan woman is proud of herself and her hijab not just in beauty but in all aspects of life including her character. The brand helps demystify the Muslim woman and shows our side of life.”
People interested in Imaan Trinidad can find the brand on Facebook at Imaan Trinidad, on Instagram on @imaantrinidad or send an email to email@example.com