When Dana Aljamal immigrated from Jordan to Canada with her husband in 2013, she was only 18 years old.
While learning English and building a home for her family in Oakville, Ont., Aljamal overcame several barriers. Some were more difficult than others.
As an observant Muslim woman, Aljamal practices “modest fashion.” Purchasing appropriate, modest clothing in Canada was a challenge.
According to Who What Wear magazine, modest fashion is difficult to define.
“There’s not a single definition to it,” wrote Yusra Siddiqui in their op-ed, The Complete Guide to Modest Fashion, From a Modest Dresser. “Everyone has their own varying explanations of what modest fashion means to them.”
“Shortly, modest fashion is the act of covering up on purpose. The decision to do so can be religious/ethnic fulfillment or to attain a certain aesthetic and level of ease.”
Aljamal said, “It’s a choice I make to commit to my faith and feel more comfortable and confident about myself.”
But when Aljamal immigrated to Canada, she struggled to navigate her lifestyle as a modest dresser.
The most modest dress Aljamal could find wasn’t trendy enough for a young adult. The clothing she bought from big Canadian retailers had to be altered. This required adding fabric and stitching hemlines.
Importing modest fashion from other countries was also expensive, and racked up high duty and shipping charges.
So Aljamal and her husband decided to be part of the solution. They launched their first business, Dana Fashion, in 2017.
Starting as an online retailer, Dana Fashion is a modern and size-inclusive modest fashion brand. They offer a wide selection of dresses and jumpsuits, tops and tunics, hijabs, prayer sets, abayas and topcoats.
According to their website, they “offer comfortable, modest, quality women’s clothing.” They also provide clothing “that reflects both internal and external beauty with high-quality fabrics and affordable prices.”
At first, Aljamal used her family connections in Jordan to source clothing for her store, but business was slow. It took an entire year to sell the 13 trendy, modest pieces Dana and her family hand-selected.
“It took us time to understand the market and what the customers are looking for,” said Aljamal.
“We started to go to many trade shows and that helped us a lot. We can represent our product and people can come in and see the fabrics and see the quality of our clothing.”
By 2019, business had picked up enough to open a local showroom for Dana Fashion in Oakville, Ont.
Around the same time, Aljamal made the choice to offer a wider variety of products. This included a plus size (or “Curve,” as she calls it) clothing line.
“I’ve gained a lot of weight in the last couple of years,” she said. “It was another struggle, finding modest plus size clothing.”
She added, “Finding a plus size, even not modest fashion, is very hard. In modest fashion, it makes it harder.”
Again, Aljamal tried to be part of a solution. “We tried to solve the problem that we had. If I suffered from this thing, other women suffered too,” she said.
Like any business –small businesses especially– the COVID-19 pandemic hit Dana Fashion hard.
Aljamal and her family, now her husband and four- and six-year-old boys, paid their fees to attend more trade shows.
“We needed to switch our plan and decided to do something else,” she said. “We needed to focus more on the online and give the customer more services.”
Aljamal partnered with external marketing agencies and increased focus on digital marketing.
She personally runs Dana Fashion’s Instagram page and has seen a new wave of customers from this outreach.
Some of these customers aren’t traditional modest dressers.
“Modest fashion is not just for Muslims,” said Aljamal. “It’s for anyone who decides to dress modestly and feel comfortable in their clothing.”
Aljamal has even seen non-Muslim customers enter her store after seeing her products on Instagram. She added that it’s the choice of the woman to dress modestly, whether for comfort, personal boundaries or otherwise.
“Our mission is to offer all women that are looking for modest fashion an option without care about her size or her religion,” she said.
Aljamal, who is also a student in Sheridan College’s computer science program, remains passionate about Dana Fashion.
She and her family hope to continue to push boundaries and offer inclusive, trendy fashion to women of all lifestyles.
“We aim to have all of a woman’s needs for modesty,” she said.