Elle B Mambetov on Overcoming Racism and Pioneering Modest Fashion
The recent injustices towards the black community in the form of police brutality has highlighted a separation that is evident in our society. The discrimination and prejudice against people of colour compared to their counterparts has never been more evident. This is a fact that is a reality to some, known by most and ignored by others.
It was a regular day in the gym when Elle b Mambetov met the man who was later going to defraud her out of $50,000. Elle B, who was an aspiring fashion designer and a premiering name at London fashion week, gained first-hand experience on how the colour of her skin could impact her right to justice and fairness.
Elle was a fashion designer whose career took her all over the world, but it was during her time in London where she met her ex-friend. With the promise of taking her business to the next level and supplying her with the right contacts, Elle fell prey to a business scam. What seemed like a regular meet-cute of two partners with a shared business interested turned out to be scam later revealed to amount to a total of $1.3 million.
After none of the money from her business deals landed in her account did Elle report the scam. What was supposed to be a relief and justice for her turned out to be a 2-year sentence of false imprisonment in a foreign prison? Today after being released from prison and releasing her modest fashion brand's first virtual collection Elle B speaks to Voir Fashion on her black experience in Fashion and Business.
Video Of Elle B Zhou Digital presentation 2019
Today Elle B is a qualified and innovative designer in the modest fashion industry and owns a store in Beverly hills. Speaking openly, she elaborates on her journey in modest fashion her inspirations and for all those who don't know what you need to know.
What inspired you to go into the Modest fashion business?
I recently converted to Islam and what I found fashion-wise, was that there wasn't anything for me. Personally, I wasn't raised in Islam, I'm not used to wearing really big flowy dresses and those type of garment.
Although I wanted to try to dress more modestly, I couldn't find really anything that was breathable. I found that I had to put on like a lot of layers and then I was very hot. So, the reason why I wanted to introduce my light into modest fashion was in part of my own personal journey after converting to Islam.
How have your experiences influenced your work as a designer?
I think my brand is heavily influenced by everything that's happened in my life. Even the name, Elle B Zhou, Zhou actually in Chinese means completion. Living in China is where I learned about a lot of manufacturing. So, even that part of my brand is representative of my journey. Also, my designs are very colourful, that is my personality mostly by nature. I'm very vibrant and expressive, and that is what you see it is an outward expression of who I am.
What's at three things you would like people to know about modest fashion?
Everyone has their own idea of what modesty is, but I think three things I would want people to know are
1. You can create a modest fashion from just about anything as long as you're willing to dive into the world of fashion
2. Women who are trying to dress modestly, need garments that are made from you breathable lightweight but not sheer fabrics. Brands like mine that's why it used you know a lot of silk. I've also used breathable cotton.
3. I want to redefine modest fashion, and one thing that's important to me is layering. Layering to create modesty is one of the most exciting things about modest fashion.
After surviving such tragedy and finding the light at the end of her tunnel, we spoke Elle on the current injustices whose light has taken up our media sources bringing focus to the Black Lives Matter movement.
From your previous experience, what advice would you give to those who face or are facing injustices every day?
I wish that someone could have told me during that time that everything was going to be okay, that you will find a way to survive this, you will be able to rebuild your brand, you will be able to open a store in Beverly Hills one of the most iconic shopping places in the world.
There's no crystal ball that tells you it's going to be okay. I think because I didn't know what was on the other side, I felt paralyzed, shame, sadness and even suicidal because I felt like my life and everything that I built my life to be, was over. For anyone who's going through injustice, I would say just hold on and wait to see what's on the other side. Which was difficult for me to do, but if you could only find a way to hold on and wait to see what's on the other side, life might surprise you.
As a person of colour someone who has faced injustice, how do you plan to use your platform to impact the Black Lives Matter movement?
I am hoping that this time everything that's happening will finally wake people up around the world. Second of all, I have seen being a person who lives a life of success, the minute they wanted to turn you into every black stereotype they did it they said I was dangerous, a criminal, violent and I'm none of those things. The Black Lives Matter movement is important because people have to understand that we are more than the stereotypes they have given us over all decades. I would also like to use my platform not only to discuss the injustice that happened to me and hopefully, one day go into Prison Reform.
As someone who has turned a tragic situation into a success, what advice do you have for young entrepreneurs facing challenges due to Covid-19?
Covid-19 was an unexpected situation that didn't discriminate against anyone, you know black white rich-poor it could affect anyone. My advice for anyone who has been affected by Covid-19, it may have put a damper on your business, maybe you've had to close. Keep going, keep fighting and start again. I lost business deals and opportunities in my life, but the idea is to just keep going. Keep in mind that nothing is wasted, so whatever hardship you're going through, use not to propel you use it to give you the strength to keep fighting to keep persevering.
Speaking on her first-hand experience with injustice, Elle elaborates on what happened to her once she was accused of falsely.
I had to fight against racism with the police racism within the prison system but even my own landlord. The moment that the police were coming looking for me, they labelled me as a dangerous black criminal. They didn't want me even on their property, and they even went so far as to burn and destroy my clothes. It was all of a sudden; they could do whatever to me because I was this person that didn't matter, and black lives matter all matter.
Now that she has overcome, we spoke to Elle on what the future holds not only for her but for her brand and the modest fashion industry.
What is the impact you hope to make in the fashion industry?
I hope that I will open up a new door for Muslim women and for people who want to dress modestly. I hope to give a different insight and experience in fashion. I hope to use my life experiences to channel that into my fashion. I want people to enjoy pieces that they can fall in love with that, in the end, you're still putting on an Elle B Zhou silk top.
What has been your biggest accomplishment in your journey in fashion?
Surviving, for me, has been my biggest accomplishment. When I was in prison, it stole every almost every bit of creativity I had. I would flip through both magazines hoping to I feel inspired to be a designer again, but it really stole so much of my creativity. Thank God I didn't kill myself, thank God I found a way to survive that situation.
According to you, what do you think is the future Modest fashion looks like?
The next thing that I want to do is to make an affordable range. We're Muslim, and we said it, all different you know spectrums right so there are people who can afford $400 dress and there are other people who can't. So, when I say that I want to redefine modest fashion, I want to do that across the spectrum, making sure that people who want to dress modestly genuinely have something that's for them. I have a long list, I started from the top, and I'm just working my way down hopefully over time I will give people what they are truly asking for. I want to make something that people will enjoy and feel beautiful in and wear because that's all we want to do for people who dress modestly.
The story of Elle is just a representation of what is happening to many. To find out more about Elle B Mambetov and view her collection and other works you can follow her on Instagram @ellebzhou and on her website here
Words by Precious Njoki
Graphics by Katie Janes