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Identical twins Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim . Originally from Somalia, they both relocated to Washington D.C. with their family for a better life. After graduating from Boston University and The University of Michigan, Ayaan and Idyl headed to the big apple, determined to make their mark in the fashion and design world. These entrepreneurial spirited sisters worked their way from the bottom up in this industry and took the hands-on approach to develop their craft. In 2008, Ayaan and Idyl launched Mataano. Mataano’s Spring 2009 collection debuted in November of 2008, in New York City. The collection featured ten dresses. This blossoming success didn’t go unnoticed, because Oprah invited both sisters on her show (Young Millionaire Moguls episode). Oprah compared their success to the Olsen Twins and applauded them for their wonderful achievements. The Mataano sisters are making serious moves. They are an inspiration. Reinforcing that with hard work and determination, anything is possible.
Mataano which means ‘twins‘ in Somali language embraces the African culture particularly that of the Somalian Women which they decided to represent in their collection. What is an African Inspired brand without COLOURS? These sisters, are upsetting the New York fashion status quo and they are making waves. Mataano was present at The African Fashion Week in Jo’Burg where they presented their Spring/Summer 2011 collection.
Here is their Interview with Haute Fashion Africa.com
HauTeFashionAfrica: So tell us, How did Mataano come about?
Ayaan,Idyl Mohallim: In late 2008, after years of dreaming about starting our own collection, we took a bold step together, launching Mataano (translated as “twins” in Somali), and developing a platform from which to express our vision and bring forth our creations to the marketplace.
HFA: Growing up, were there any influences that helped you both decide to pursue a career in fashion?
A,I M: While we were growing up in Somalia, we were always aware of the fashion of very beautiful women who wore dazzling, colourful dresses. When we moved to Washington, D.C, we got exposed to a more contemporary style of fashion, especially through the magazines and books our mother gave us to read in order to learn English more quickly. We never thought our love of fashion would one day lead us to this point.
HFA: Why did you ladies choose New York and any regrets so far?
A,I M: New York is one of the top fashion capitals in the world. So it was a no brainer. We try to never have regrets.
HFA: How easy has it been, working alongside your twin?
A,I M: Working together has been a blessing. We give each other support and encouragement to help us achieve our mutual dream.
HFA: How do you manage to fuse cultural with ‘everyday Manhattan lifestyle’ and incorporate these into your designs ??
A,I M: Our design aesthetic is always influenced by the intermingling of cultures. We are a product of Somali and American heritage, so it is important our designs reflect that. We design for the multi-cultural woman, and are inspired by the global village.
HFA: What mainly inspires your designs and what are your designs aimed at reflecting?
A,I M: For us, designing is an expression of who we are as women. It can be the simplicity of a Somali Caftan or the detailed intricacies of a ball gown. We design for the international woman who doesn’t know where the day is going to take her.
HFA: With you being of the Somali Descent and getting inspiration from the homeland, Would this mean that your designs are very conservative and not for the average party girl?
A,I M: We try not to think about rules when we design. For us fashion is an expression. We do have options in our collections, so there is something for everyone.
HFA: How well would you say that ‘Mataano’ has influenced the fashion industry in the past 2 years?
A,I M: Mataano is still in it’s infancy stage. We hope to make our mark , but we have a long way to go.
HFA: Earlier on this year, you were interviewed on CNN and had the opportunity to be on Oprah, How would you say this has affected the brand name; Positively / Negatively?
A,I M: All Press is positive press. Being on Oprah and CNN has given us the national credibility that will bring Mataano to the forefront in fashion. We are well on our way to making Mataano a recognizable name in the fashion industry.
HFA: What sort of expansion is Mataano looking at in the next few years?
A,I M: We want our brand to become global. So that means being carried in international stores.
HFA: A collection for men in the future under ‘Mataano’; Possibility or Impossibility??
A,I M: Everything is a possibility. We want to do it all.
HFA: The stakes of being a fashion designer would be high in New York, what makes Mataano a brand that stands out?
A,I M: It’s always hard when you are a new designer. You don’t have brand recognition. Most editors and boutiques don’t want to try new designers. So we just want to keep breaking down doors and sharing our unique story.
HFA: Any established designers out there that motivate/ help push you to the beyond your limit?
A,I M: Oscar de la Renta! He is a fashion icon and is head of one of the most influential fashion houses in the world.
HFA: Any additional information you wanted to pass across to the readers with regards to the brand?
A,I M: We recently had a soft launch of our online store, check out The Mataano Online store.
HFA: Many Thanks for your time ladies.
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