There’s a huge hoohah right now about Marks and Spencer (and House of Fraser) selling a burkini for Muslim women to swim in – this interested me as a few weeks ago I got an email from a lady called Anna Peters who runs the sports clothing company Ahah Maria Active which makes modest workout clothing aimed specifically at Muslim women.
This was something I’d never even thought about before. I’ve been to India and the Emirates and seen women swimming clothed, but I’d never really thought about the gym side of things – but the more I read the more I figured the range broke down a barrier that was causing some women not to exercise – and as far as I’m concerned that’s a good thing.
Intrigued, therefore, I fired over a few questions to Anna to find out more about the range …. here’s our e-chat…
NYNHB: What made you come up with the range? Was there a defining moment?
Anna: Anah Maria Active was inspired when I visited my local gym.
As a Muslim myself I was very aware of how restrictive contemporary women’s activewear can be; many of my friends would purchase clothing two sizes larger than they required, simply to maintain their modesty while working out.
On this particular gym visit I was perturbed to see this lady working out in a firstname.lastname@example.org; a long, very loose-fitting traditional style top and trousers with hijab.
While the woman was managing successfully, I was struck by just how dangerous this might be, should any of the loose fabric the lady was wearing become entangled in the gym equipment. I then set on my mission on creating this collection.
NYNHB: What’s the biggest problem with existing kit when exercising as a Muslim woman?
Anna: The current sports market does not really cater to the Muslim woman.
Most Muslim women avoid form-fitted clothing or clothing which exposes the body.
All Anah Maria Active pieces have been created to ensure that all areas of the body are covered.
For example, all tops are extra long to cover the behind and trousers are loose so it doesn’t show the shape of the leg.
A lot of women, but Muslim women, in particular, are unable to find suitable clothing to wear – on a few occasions I have even come across Muslim women exercising in Abayas (a long loose cloak) in which it would be very easy to trip over.
A lot of Muslim women avoid exercising because of the struggles associated with this.
NYNHB: What types of fabrics are you using? I hate being hot when I exercise – even full-length leggings drive me mad so how have you dealt with that?
Anna: We use a selection of wicking fabrics to allow for moisture to be drawn away from the body keeping you cool whilst you exercise.
NYNHB: Please don’t think I’m being rude here, but the idea of the sports hijab intrigued me. What’s different between it and a normal hijab?
Anna: Not at all, Most hijabs worn by Muslim women are wrapped around the head and neck then pinned on one side. The sports hijab has been created to alleviate all the fuss.
It’s a one-piece hijab without the need for a pin made from a wicking stretchy material which fits snugly over your head allowing for moisture to be absorbed quickly keeping you cool whilst you work out.
NYNHB: Should non-Muslim women also check out your site? What can modest workout clothing offer them?
Anna: If you are a fashion-conscious woman that likes to dress modestly the collection is for you whether you are Muslim or non-Muslim, Christian or atheist.
We have a selection of workout jackets and workout trousers that will keep you feeling cool and comfortable whilst you exercise
NYNHB: What’s your own weekly exercise routine?
Anna: My two favourite activities are running and spinning I usually do at least two classes of spin each week followed by running on one day and weight training the next.
NYNHB: Which item in the range is your favourite?
Anna: My favourite piece to train in is the Venus work out jacket – because of the high tech wicking properties of this pieces it keeps me cool also the fit allows me to run and not worry about whether or not I am revealing too much. That then allows me to focus on my exercise routine.
NYNHB: I see that swimsuits are next for you- what are the challenges involved in that?
It’s been very challenging to design a swimwear collection. I had to make sure that women were able to swim and not worry about areas of the body being exposed, but not cause a safety issue – and at the same time I wanted to make sure that it was fashionable and feminine, I am very excited to reveal this soon.