Meet Mahdiyyah Muhammad: Founder & CEO of Latest Ravishing Fashion Line
When viewing some of the most powerful fashion moguls of our time, Amancio Ortega, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, and Daymond John might come to mind. Each aforementioned CEO was both successful in the realm of economics and influence of what the fashion industry is today. However, just as in sports or various business sectors, a birth of new ideas and influences can arrive by fearless entrepreneurs who step up to the task. The next fearless entrepreneur we have the pleasure of introducing is Mahdiyyah Muhammad.
Mahdiyyah Muhammed, CEO of Mahdiyyah, is one of the strongest burgeoning fashion moguls of our generation. We say this confidently because Mahdiyyah’s unique sewing styles, beautiful wardrobes and philanthropy to teach others how to create was one of the biggest reasons that attracted Product of Society to interview her for our Q&A. Likewise, check out our discussion below and let us know what you think!
For more information on where to contact Mahdiyyah for product inquiries click here!
So tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and at what age did you begin showing signs of creating your own fashion line?
“I am originally from East Orange, NJ. I was born in Brooklyn so I have quite a bit of family in both areas, but my upbringing was solely in NJ. I would say around the age of 7 or 8 is when I started to show signs of interest in fashion. From the time I was young, my mother said we couldn’t afford to buy a ton of barbie doll clothes for me to switch their outfits as much as like and the other girls on my block had crates full. I got creative and started to make their outfits out of old tights and scraps from my mother and aunt’s closets. I got made fun of, obviously, but so goes the story. I always tried to make it work. By age 10 I watched my mother hem enough of my brother’s pants by hand to teach myself the method and thats when I started to practice and take it more seriously.”
That’s really dope! But In an industry where many people go to fashion or art school before pursuing a career in fashion, did you ever feel it was necessary to attend a trade school versus a four year college?
“Ironically enough, I wanted to attend F.I.T and at age 11 I went to my mother with a proposal where I created a mock portfolio of images. These images were of those that I put together from magazines and my own disposable camera from pictures developed. She expressed to me her worry about me getting into such a fickle industry and suggested I instead do something more practical. So for a while I stopped sewing and I stopped fashion and focused on my writing, speaking, and reading. Although my heart was really in fashion I took her advice. I decided to go to Hampton to pursue an English degree and possibly teach or study law. After a few years at Hampton I learned that I did not want to teach, yet still wanted to do Fashion. By the time I had started to take my designs seriously I initially felt at a great disadvantage to others in the industry, but what I realized is that if you are good at something that naturally comes to you, as long as you practice day in and day out, you will perfect your necessary skills. Moreover, technical training is not always necessary in these cases. I started to see my lack of proper training as an advantage as I had never been boxed in, told what was “in”, or given a rubric to compare myself to. The freedom to do as I wished with my craft was there.”
Where do you get your inspiration from to design your clothes?
“The inspiration comes from so many things. My part-Sudanese background, my upbringing in East Orange and the styles that were big as I grew up there; and also studying the history of Fashion and trends. At a young age my mother discouraged following trends in fashion and encouraged me to think outside of the box and wear what I wanted (lol she let me choose my first outfit in the 1st grade which was an all-green monochrome outfit because green is my favorite color and taught me about neutrals and matching when I came home). She always used to say “you know Mah Mah, fashion just repeats itself. It’s one big cycle and if you are familiar with what era is being repeated now, you’ll always stay ahead of the trend.” I try to apply this notion as well.”
In an industry where black women are rarely seen as CEOs of mega fashion lines, how has this notion motivated you since the start of business?
“I never really paid much attention to that. I think the minute you start to speak those ideas and stats on yourself, or even think it applies to you, its the beginning of the end. If I was worried about what this or that organization allows or doesn’t allow, I would’ve never started my business. If I was aiming to work my way up in someone else’s fashion house, then sure, I would worry about my climb to the top and the lack thereof of women who look like me in those positions. I’d be playing by someone else’s rules though, in someone else’s house so that’s what I would be subjecting myself to. I don’t desire that nor do I desire that way of doing things. That’s not my plan.”
I really love that answer! Currently are your products only located online?
“At the moment I take all orders, collaborations, and style pulls through email and phone. My garments are available and can be shopped through retail in Brooklyn, Fresno, and Carmel. I have my hands in a few things so I have not added my garments to an online store for shopping just yet. I think the focus is maintaining customer experience while providing a larger quantity in stock for availability, which takes some market research. As a designer, you don’t want to have a bunch of nothing in stock just because you’re focus is on quantity. Mine is on quality.”
6. People like Kanye have stressed the importance of black creatives making their own fashion show. Do you have plans on having your own fashion show?
“I think that’s a great point. Make your own everything, and why stop at Fashion Show? My plans are to do a few things that surpass just your expected Fashion Show.I try not to create ceilings or definite goals, I like when I create a list of goals and then as I near the point where I cross them off the list, the idea births another idea. I allow the space for them to grow into something bigger. Can’t tell you all the details right now, but that’s what I’m hinting at here.”
Do you have any initiatives planned for young entrepreneurs who want to learn how to sew?
“Yes, definitely…you’ll be seeing some of that very soon. I think a large part of our focus should be on the youth and shaping their minds correctly from a young age. I have a few things brewing, and want to create a space of opportunities for them. I won’t be able to do it alone though, so I will be imploring the help of my peers. I also think it should be about more than sewing. Life skills in general are important. I find it strange when young women and men don’t know how to cook, or take care of plants, or fix a tear in their pants, etc…but as my mother used to always say “if you get put out on the street today, how will you survive? You must always know a skill that can easily create some stream of wealth for yourself. Don’t box yourself in to just checking one thing off the list.” I knew I had to be good at more than one thing. I quote her a lot, but from an early age she made sure my brother and I weren’t limited to just what East Orange had to offer. She did the work, and took the time to seek out free camps, programs, etc. I knew how to play the harp, shoot a rifle, archery, speak Arabic, ceramics, the list goes on. It troubles me when I see a child limited in their abilities due to their circumstances or assumed disadvantages. I think that’s impossible, because the mind’s capacity allows for so much more if you unlock certain chambers in their mind, especially for children.
That’s real,Outside of Fashion are there any other interests or hobbies you have or have recently taken up?
“Well I’m not sure if I would call it a hobby but I enjoy music. Specifically listening to and collecting vinyl…I think it just sounds different, and makes me feel a way that radio, and digital do not. Growing up I had the aunt that played Mary J. Blige, and Bad Boy, the mother that played Hamilton Bohannon, and the brother that played everything else under the sun so my music choices vary. I enjoy a good sample mix where the dj identifies the original song sampled and then plays the recent songs that contain said sample.I try to listen in that way. My favorite song of all time is Louis Armstrong-What a Wonderful World. Another one of my interests is holistic health. I stopped eating meat and dairy almost five years ago and since then also removed any over the counter medications, etc. What I’ve learned from this lifestyle change is that majority of what you need to heal has already been provided in nature and I think its something worth looking in to for those of us who put our health as a priority.”
Any last words of wisdom or motivation for our readers pursuing the fashion industry?
“It is important to not allow the thoughts or words of others to penetrate your vision. The way you have had it in your mind should only grow or evolve into something greater. Do not limit yourself to what you are being told is what you are supposed to do. Do not take what is given to you just because you are told it is all that is available. The same way food options magically appear when you tell someone you have an allergy to something, apply this same notion in life. Always ask yourself, “is this it?”, “could there be more?” “what’s behind door number two?”. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and bad wouldn’t look so good if it wasn’t for worse. Always keep in mind that what your thoughts reveal to you are real, but the same way you can train a stomach to turn to abs, you can train your mind to manifest. Peace and love.