asalaamu alaikum wr wb sisters,
I’ve been meaning to do a post about my recent Al-Mujalbaba
haul and my interview with Jenneh, the sister who runs it out of NYC!
So first off, my haul. Al-Mujalbaba has been around for decades and is based right here in the USA, out of NYC. They had a retail store for awhile in Queens, but now just run it online. I first heard about her company back in 1997 and ordered from her in 1999-I still remember my order. It was a burgundy, georgette chiffon shaylah. Wallahi sisters, back then. NO ONE knew what a shaylah was and when I got that thing, I had’nt the foggiest clue even how to wear it, and none of the sisters I hung out with knew either so I simply put it on like I would a square..and took the ends and tied them in a *looonggg* knot in the back. LOL. I remember a few times getting the dangly bits in the back caught in doors and stuff so I think I eventually just gave it to someone. Ah yes, those were the days of squares…I pretty much swore off those new-fangled shaylahs until like 2007!
anyway, fast forward. She recently came out with a lot of new designs for the spring/summer season both in scarves and overgarments. What I like about her stuff is the quality is awlays really good and they are made here in the USA, and she tries to employ Muslims primarily! Her designs are unique yet remain conservative and everything she carries will cover properly…also her prices are GOOD!! You can get a new hijab for $3.00 (more on that later) or a simply, plain overgarment for around $40 and since its from within the USA. Little hassle. mash’Allah.
OSH in the Hood…
Seriously, believe me when I say, this is almost the FIRST time-ever, in my life when I got a jilbab/abaya and could find 100% NOTHING wrong with it…in any way, not fabric, not cut, not size, not design…nothing! Usually there is always 1-2 minor (or major) problems with every overgarment which irks me somewhat…i.e. the snaps cause it to pop open when walking across the street, exposing your jeans or it fit too snugly in the lower area or the fabric is cheapo crud (rips, shrinks, you name it!), or the buttons pop off anytime you sneeze, of the cut is a bit off, or its not good for a normal stride. seriously. I come across very few overgarments which have sort of a zen-like perfection. This is one of them!
The fabric is a cotton polyester blend but is a HIGH QUALITY blend, Its not that thin, cheapo junk which pills or plasters itself to the body in every little gust of wind. This is a substantial, weighty, high quality fabric. It also has a wee touch of stretch to it, so it doesnt show the body. But the cut is quite flattering, yet not snug or tight anywhere and its a true A-line, so you can have a normal stride or even run with this on! Its closed front, so nothing can pop open! The details are really nice, not stupid or cheap or tacky. About the hood. generally I loath hooded garments like I loath brown rice because invariably they look lame; i.e. they are big and floppy and look tacky and serve no purpose but to be a nuisance on your back! This jilbabs hood is actually 100% FUNCTIONAL. It has a sturdy drawstring with toggles, so you can pull it in so it looks nice and in a rain or a snow-shower you can pull it up to cover your head. It really is the first time Ive seen a fully functional, usable and nice looking hood on an overgarment (and yes, no scary peaked hood look either!) Then the zippers…the zippers are heavy duty, coat-style metal zippers, the front one is long enough for nursing and there is a second smaller one on the arm which conceals a small pocket which is big enough for stashing some money or perhaps an i-Pod or phone! Now onto the pockets…this jilbab has pockets up the wazoo, mash’Allah! The side pockets are MASSIVE and will fit a ton of stuff…i LOVE pockets…and then there is the large yet well placed kangaroo pocket in the front. I was worried this pocket would look tacky and make me look like I suddenly gained 20lbs in my stomach, but actually the pocket fits well to the abaya yet remains fully function and its big enough to slip some papers, a wallet, your bus pass/subway tickets, cell, whatever into it. In fact my main draw for this jilbab was for its utilitarian appeal. I dont always want to lug a purse with me and I love to be able to chuck the bare necessities in my pockets and Go! I’m decidedly UN-pretentious and I move too fast to be luggin’ around a ton of stuff, unless I’m say, going to class or the library. Even when my son was a baby I would stick him on my hip or back in a sling and shove my pockets full of diapers, snacks, my wallet, cell and whatever else. I never even owned a diaper bag or used a stroller when he was a baby! So I’m all about simplicity.
So overall…I give the jilbab an A+
Onto the scarves…
I’ve been wearing shaylahs now for about 4 year pretty much exclusively. I believe originally I switched to shaylahs because back in 2007-2008 it was getting hard to get decent squares, very few places were carrying them by that time and the ones I did find, I just didnt like the designs! I think I had also wanted a bit of a change and I found a shaylah style which worked for me and so I just stuck with it. Anyway, now I kind of want a bit of a change and am finding myself going back to the squares. Either the Turkish ones or the traditional 44″ kind.
Al-Mujalbaba is kind of a square scarf hub! They have them in chiffon, georgette, yoryu and whatever else! I can hardly keep track and each is a bit different! I chose 3 scarves in Yoryu, 1 of their Georgette chiffon “green” hijabs and then 1 of the pebble georgette “Easy” shaylahs which is a new design.
(A short video I made of the 4 squares… the 3 on the left are Yoryu, the 1 on the right is the “green” hijab, mash’Allah)
Okay so the Yoryu is a pretty substantial feeling Georgette with a texture to it, it sort of has very light crinkles to the fabric. Its really good for a scarf as it doesnt really slide around and it has a nice drape. I also really liked the print options and it was nice for once being able to get squares with a nice all-over print! Also they are a nice substantial 44inches! quality of serging is excellent, everything is professionally done. My only qualm with these was, it took me some work to get them looking nice, as the front would get a bit floppy. I dont know whether its the way I generally style my squares or the fabric or the fact I haven’t really worn squares in 4 years, but I found I had to spritz them just a wee tad with hairspray before wearing to keep them stiff looking. Frankly, floppy front are just a personal pet peeve and I find a similar problem with the Turkish squares so I do that to them as well. But, other than my own personal peeve for floppy fronts, overall the squares were an excellent value!
The “green” hijab is actually a concept unique to al-Mujalbaba, Jenneh expounds upon them in her interview below, but basically they are a square hijab made up of strips of fabric that is cut off from when they cut the squares out of the fabric. So instead of wasting the extra fabric they do something rather brillant by stitching the pieces together (each “green” hijab is made of pieces of the same print, so each scarf is of the same print!) and then selling them for ONLY $3! A sister on a SERIOUS budget could get 3 very nice scarves for less than $10! mash’Allah, she also employs a sister full-time to make these.
I was a bit worried about how the “green” hijab would look,but actually it looks very nice and unless you look hard, cant even really tell its composed of two pieces of material! mash’Allah.
Lastly…the “Easy” Shaylah. I got this one just to try out! Overall its a nice idea but out of everything, this was the only piece which disappointed me. The quality and everything is wonderful, but I did not find it very suitable for me. I found that when I tied it on and pinned it the way I would normally wear a shaylah, it just didnt look or feel that great. It felt a bit strange. Again, I’m stuck in my ways, so I think thats why. But, if your new to shaylahs or want a shaylah that you literaly pop on and go this would probably work better for you, but since I already have a tried and true shaylah style, I couldnt really dig it. Personal preferences aside…the fabric is a navy pebble georgette and which feels very light and airy. I think they should make it a bit longer, like maybe 3-5inches longer so more wrapping can be achieved.
Overall quality wise…excellent, but style wise-according to my own preferences…not so great. But still a good idea.
Lastly…about my ordering experience. It took about awhile for me to get the order because the jilbab was out of stock (and still is) so it was specially made for me (which if you want one, you can order one as a special order) so that took a week but the shipping from NY to where I am also on the East Coast) was just 2 days! Mash’Allah, she got back to me about everything and I know this sister is BUSY, so I appreciate her attentiveness! mash’Allah. I think if the jilbab hadnt have been out of stock, I would have received everything within just a few days.
Onto my interview with sister Jenneh. (her answers are in bold!)
1) Tell me about yourself and how you started Al Mujalbaba?
How I got started is really a long story.
I have been making my own clothing since 13 years old and sketching designs since 8, however, this was not a career choice so I studied being a secretary and later in college accounting.
It was not until after have my 3rd child, my first daughter, that I stayed home to be a homemaker and then again took up sewing for my children.
So many sisters would see the outfits I made for my children especially the girls that they started bringing me bags of fabric to make clothing for their daughters also and sometimes their sons.
Later while volunteering at one of the Islamic schools they asked me to do their uniforms. From that I was doing uniforms for about 3 or 4 schools in the NY metro area.
That later lead to scarves other clothing and the rest is AL-Mujalbaba today.
2) Tell me about the styles you provide, who you cater too and how you develop your garments? Where are they made?
As far as the styles we provide, I really like making overgaments or jilbabs but we pretty much do what customers request. Plus sizes are also our specialty since many of the plus size sisters have problems getting clothing to fit them properly and we keep in mind the shape of the American sisters. Well as far as developing he garments, we see what is in style like and also get feedback from out customers. We make a variety of garments to suit everyones mode of dressing and life style.
99% of our clothing is made in New York.
3) Tell me what its like running Al Mujalbaba out of NY, how have you seen styles change since you started in the 90’s till today?
Running the day to day operations of Al-Mujalbaba is a full time job for at least 3 people,which means I need to hire a few. Of course most of our orders come from the internet but we also have orders from long time customers and first time customers who do not order online. So there is a lot of time spend updating the website, posting pics on Facebook, answering emails, packing and shipping orders, etc.
As far as styles yes, there are changes mostly coming from the non Muslim mode of dressing. The 90’s was the decade of the jilbab. Everyone was wearing jilbabs. When 2000 hit more sister began to wear skirts, as the trend was towards the Indian skirts and tops. We are influenced by the society at large.
4) I get questions about your niqabs and about the different fabrics you use for the niqabs and the hijabs, can you tell me a bit about them??
We basically use georgette for all our hijabs and niqabs. We also use newer fabrics that come on the market, such as Yoryu chiffon, a few years ago pebble georgette was popular as was crushed chiffon. As the fabrics change, what is available also changes.
We have 2 types of georgette, the standard or regular georgette which has been around for decades and now e have the pebble georgette which is a little heavier and has more texture.
5) Tell me about those “green” hijabs, how did those come about? Have sisters been receptive towards them?
For years the georgette fabric came 44″-45″ wide, so this is no problem since most of the georgette scarves are a square. When georgette began to appear on the market as 60″ wide, I had to cut off the excess 14″15″. The I had these so many of these strips from cutting the goergette I had to box them. After while I had about 24 boxes lined up /stacked up along the wall. Each time I would look at them and try to think what to do with them. Then Alhamdulillah, Allah(swt) gave me the idea to sew them in a square and sell them at a lesser price. I had help from a sister. She sorts the pieces and sews them together. It was an instant hit. I remember the first time I sold them it was in NJ.Everyone was wondering what I was selling. So it was and continues to be a big hit.
Now sisters look for them and it is a big success. Alhamdulillah.
6) How did your “urban” overgarments line develop? Which types of overgarments been the most popular?
The urban overgarments developed when my computer SEO person told me she wanted an overgarment that looked like a windbreaker. So I began to do research online and come up with 3 styles, she like all. After that and up till now we continually make 2 of the original 3. From there I experimented with different fabrics and did touches like zipper, extra pockets etc. We started making these about 8 years ago and they still sell well.
The very simple but reliable a-line has sold and continues to sell for over 20 years now.
Upon my mentioning my big draw for the Urban jilbab…the pockets, the zippers…the functionality she wrote;
Yes, our garments should be practical to how we live and function.
Wallahi sis Jenneh…I couldnt agree more!!! mash’Allah.
I just wanted to add………..I am big on having clothing made in USA .
Yup, I think thats important too!
Okay sisters…I hope you all liked my review and my interview! If you’ve ordered from Al-Mujalbab, feel free to share your experiences with her company and products!