How Yasmine Hammad got inspired to designs prayer gowns for mothers and daughters

The mother-of-two says a lack of the sort of prayer gowns she wanted inspired her to design her own, and that her daughters' desire to pray alongside her led her to create a range for mothers and daughters.

Designer Yasmine Hammad. Pawan Singh / The National
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How do you encourage young girls to be ­inspired by prayer until they reach an age where worshipping five times a day becomes part of their everyday lives, when even adults struggle to commit without lapsing?

Yasmine Hammad’s daughters, 6-year-old Tamara and 4-year-old Alia, provided her with an answer. After watching their mother perform her prayers for years, they would clamour onto her lap and beg for the chance to pray alongside her.

“By then, I had been tailoring my own prayer gowns,” says Hammad. She moved to Dubai eight years ago from her home country of Egypt, after getting married, and would spend the weekend out in the city, carrying her prayer clothes with her in a grocery bag.

“I’m not veiled, so I wanted proper, loose, modest prayer clothing I could throw on over whatever I was wearing so I could pray while out and about,” she says. “I never found what I wanted in Dubai.”

She wanted simple, white prayer clothes that fit well, with a ­dedicated bag or pouch, suited for her slight frame and not so long that she would trip over them or need to pin them up, as she had been doing.

Unable to find anyone selling such clothing, Hammad began making her own. When her friends found out, they asked her to help customise their prayer gowns as well. When her daughters wanted their own outfits, it seemed like the next logical step.

“I let Tamara sketch her own prayer gowns and pick what colours she liked – she drew a lot of rainbow gowns, and I thought, why not?” she says.

“I am inspired by my kids ­anyway in daily life, so why not let them inspire me in how to encourage them to pray? I got her sketches tailored for her and her friends and cousins, and more and more people started asking for them.”

The idea of inspiring a passion for prayer through the creation of a collection of prayer clothes specially designed for mothers and daughters became Hammad’s dream, and two months ago she launched Salaty, a “prayerwear” brand offering a selection of beautiful, well-designed gowns.

“I really wanted to focus on kids because I couldn’t find anything suitable for my daughters,” says Hammad. “I wanted to inspire kids, set them up for a lifetime of prayer, instil the passion for prayer and learning in them, and encourage them to see it as something special and fun – and make them happy when they put on their prayer clothes.”

The children’s clothes come in three sizes: small, for ages 4 to 6; medium, for ages 7 to 9; and large, for ages 10 to 12. The gowns have snap buttons below the chin which allow adjustments to the head cover. There is also a strap that pulls the bottom of the gown up for smaller girls or lowers it for tall ones.

“We used a thin, silky fabric that doesn’t wrinkle and falls nicely, and it’s all compact and small so it can be taken along anywhere, just folded and put away nicely,” says Hammad.

The gowns also come with a small, matching pouch and a prayer mat with padding that can be removed when it needs to be washed.

“It’s this attention to detail that I cared about,” says Hammad, who spent months trawling through Bur Dubai and Bastakiya and Karama gathering fabric samples, meeting tailors and figuring out how to get her designs just right.

She sketches them in her home in The Greens, sources the fabrics and gets tailors around Dubai to create her gowns, which she sells by mail order.

“We’re able to shop internationally and we keep coming up with new ideas to grow,” she says.

These ideas include a “Mommy and Me” collection of matching prayer clothing, and an ­extra- wide prayer mat that allows mother and daughter to pray side by side.

Another idea was to include a free, laminated, reward-style “Prayer Chart” with each order, on which to keep track of a child’s prayers and further motivate them. No purchase is necessary – you can download it for free from the Salaty website and print it.

“The whole idea, whether for women or children, is to make prayer a beautiful and comfortable experience – that’s our main message,” says Hammad.

“It’s not meant to be rushed, you’re not meant to just throw a bed sheet over whatever you’re wearing to cover up. We are meeting God in prayer.

“We dress up and make an effort for an interview, or to meet our boss at work, wanting to look decent and modest and turned out just right. What about when we meet God?”

The right prayer clothes, she says, enhance the experience of praying, instil self-confidence and put one in the right state of mind.

“This isn’t just a job for me, it’s my third baby,” says Hammad. “I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I love what I’m doing and I believe in it.”

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