“Selecting Your Team is One of the Most Important Decisions You Will Make” Words of Wisdom with Muna Khalif
I had the pleasure of interviewing Muna Khalif, a talented new women’s wear designer who is ushering in a new era in fashion, proving that modesty can allure and traditions can be endlessly reimagined. After years of feeling neglected by mainstream Western apparel brands, Khalif, a first generation Somali-American, set out fill the gap. With the mission of making chic, stylish, and professional ready-to-wear accessible to everyone, including women of ancient traditions with specific standards of dress, she created The Muna Khalif Collection.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was born in California and raised in Minnesota in a Somali-American household. I am a recent graduate from St. Thomas University’s OPUS School of Business, with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a concentration in Entrepreneurship. This company really spurred from a personal challenge of trying to find stylish apparel without having to compromise religious values of modesty. Having developed a love and appreciation for fashion and design early on, I had to create innovative ways to adapt the clothing that I found in stores.
After graduating from college, my perspective greatly shifted. I started out waiting for someone else to create space for me — to design with people like me in mind. Muna Khalif was born out of impatience and a bold declaration that I need not wait for someone else — that I could in fact forge my own space and in turn create space for countless other women. That is where the power of Muna Khalif comes from.
Muna Khalif is a women’s clothing brand that creates clothes for the modern professional woman who desires demure fashion that is both bold and elegant.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
There are two moments recently that were really quite memorable. Most recently, I was invited to partake in London Modest Fashion Week and ended up having the honor of closing the show. Seeing how well the collection was received and the countless young women who were able to see themselves in the line really reaffirmed why I set out to create the company.
Another memorable moment took place outside one of the shows. While getting ready to enter the building, I was approached by some people covering the show for Vogue. They photographed me while I was wearing one of the pieces from our spring collection and they ended up featuring the image on Vogue.com. Having grown up pouring over the magazine page by page, looking for inspiration — that moment was one that I truly treasure.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Muna Khalif marries elegant and billowing Eastern attire and sleek Western professional wear — bringing together styles that seemingly contradict. This ability to reimagine and modernize the traditional is really what allows us to stand out.
Secondly, our company works to distinguish itself by designing clothing with all types of women in mind and particularly with an understanding of the needs of women who seek out modest fashion. I design from a very personal place. Ultimately, Muna Khalif really isn’t about the clothing, but about the women who wear the line. My hope is that this line serves to empower women everywhere to continue to strive for greater heights and to never dim their own light. We always design with an eye towards the powerful, the global-minded, and the bold — he leading lady. My long-term vision for the brand is to continue to innovate, to continue to marry styles that on the surface seem to contradict, and to reach a wider audience.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am incredibly grateful to the women in my family because, not only have they served as muses for the clothing we design, but they have been exemplary in demonstrating what it means to be a powerful woman. They continue to be a great source of inspiration and embolden me to reach for greater heights. They are truly the embodiment of the Muna Khalif collection.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Representation really matters. As someone who didn’t see themselves represented in mainstream fashion, I work to in ensure that more women are included. Having young women of all backgrounds see themselves in our company is really important to me. I want them to know that someone is designing with them in mind — so that they feel seen, understood, and celebrated.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Selecting your team is one of the most important decisions you will make. Surround yourself with people who believe in your vision and challenge you to do better and be better.
2. You must truly believe in your vision. Along the way, there will be many challenges and obstacles that will test you, and at times you will waver. Why you started — your purpose — will serve as a great source of strength and enable you to overcome those difficult moments.
3. Flexibility is key. There is no denying the importance of planning, but there are many times where those plans will be interrupted or undermined. You must learn to quickly think on your feet and prepare to handle the unexpected.
4. To not take setbacks personally. As an entrepreneur and founder of a company you become very connected to your work. Your work really becomes an extension of you. It’s important to maintain perspective and see setbacks as a moment of growth rather than finality.
5. Lastly, celebrate the small victories. In your efforts of realize your vision and reach the highest of heights, do not forget to enjoy the process and perspective and distance.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I would love to have the opportunity to sit down with and collaborate with Iman — a truly iconic fashion model, entrepreneur, and fellow Somali-American.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!