Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Ibtisam (It means Smile, tabasamu in Kiswahili), Kenyan, born and raised in Mombasa but currently hustling in Nairobi. A lover of marketing and entrepreneurship. I currently work at Unilever and Instagram (ahem, if one spends a considerable amount of time there its work, right?). I run two pages on the gram, @hijabeefied and @msibtisam. Hijabeefied is a space for women, the main purpose being to encourage modesty fashion but I’m working on making it more than just that (stay tuned). Msibtisam is my space for showcasing the bags I design and sell (if you like bags, definitely check it out). What is special about me? I Am A Woman. That’s special right? I am not sure if I am special. Maybe after reading this piece, you’ll find something you consider special about me.
Describe this special kimono?
A couple of days before Eid in 2015, I posted on @hijabeefied about struggling to get an Eid outfit. This gorgeous lady called Zeyana sent me a text saying she has a kimono she’s worn before, it was in great condition and, she could give it to me. I was shocked honestly (how often do you find such amazing people?). I went to pick up this kimono and I fell in love. It’s this satin material with a beautiful blue print. All sorts of beach/calm vibes. That Eid, this girl was sorted!
What made you come up with the idea of the ‘Sisterhood of the Travelling Kimono’?
This year, I did a photo shoot with Bikowesa on my birthday by the beach in Kilifi and I was dressed in that beautiful kimono. I posted a couple of pictures on the gram and so many ladies loved it and asked where they could get one. Now Zeyana had it made in Oman so I couldn’t quite help them. To get that fabric and print wasn’t an easy task either. One random day, this movie came to mind, ‘Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants’, and I thought, why not use that concept to let these ladies have this kimono too? I shared the idea with my best friend, who approved of the concept but was skeptical. I was warned it may damage the kimono or that I might lose the kimono, but regardless, I had this feeling that it was the right thing to do. Through my excitement I immediately shared the idea on my social media, and voila!
How does the ‘Sisterhood of the Travelling Kimono’ work?
I asked ladies who wanted to try it out to repost the picture and caption it with when they wanted it. A couple of ladies showed interest, which was pretty cool. Some wanted to have it, but sadly I am a petite woman so they felt it wouldn’t fit them. I then created a Whatsapp group with the first sisters in line, and tried to figure out how to make it work.
I wrapped it in one of my TAJI bags, wrote a simple letter with the instructions and what the kimono meant to me then handed it over to the first sister. It was her birthday so this worked out really well. It officially kicked off in October, and the kimono is currently with the second sister.
The sister stays with it for two weeks; wears it as much as she wants and shares at least one picture with it on Instagram, using #SisterhoodOfTheTravellingKimono. Once her two weeks are done, she meets the next sister and passes on the kimono.
What is the feedback you’ve gotten from starting it?
The feedback so far is beautiful. I hadn’t even thought it would create this bond. My initial idea was just to let the ladies enjoy an outfit I personally really like.
Here are the first two sisters and their thoughts this far.
How does the Kimono tie in with fashion?
A kimono could easily be a Muslim woman’s best friend, especially maxi types with long sleeves. They provide a great deal of coverage hence allowing a woman to be ‘hijabeefied’. They come in so many different designs and fabrics and can be worn paired with a variety of pieces inside; bodycon dresses, pencil skirts or pants.
What are your best fashion items?
Kimono’s and abaya’s. In one long word: OUTERWEARS. They are ideal for me since I’m a hijabee so they provide a lot of coverage.
Any tips to give someone when styling the Kimono?
Be you and mix your fave pieces together then carry your confidence with you. If it makes YOU feel good, it’s all that matters. Try kimono’s out in different fabrics to see what works for you.
Don’t forget to follow #SisterhoodOfTheTravellingKimono on Instagram to see the different sisters sharing their looks and learn how to join the travel culture of this beautiful Kimono below