Nadia Issa may only be a sophomore in college, but she already has clear career goals set for herself — and the ambition to make it happen. Nadia grew up between Africa and America and was influenced by the contrasting fashion trends she experienced in both regions. However, she could never find clothing that was exactly what she was looking for in either place. Growing up Muslim, Nadia was taught to dress modestly, but when living in America, she found it difficult to find stores that only sold conservative pieces. Nadia now has her sights set on starting her own clothing line to address this gap in the fashion industry by designing modest yet timeless pieces for any woman to feel beautiful in.
I caught up with Nadia to learn more about her own sense of style, and where she sees herself and her clothing line in the future.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up between America and Africa. I spent half my childhood here and the other half there, so I got a taste of both worlds.
What is your earliest memory of a noticeable interest in fashion?
Growing up in two different places, I got to see the traditional cultural and modest fashion style [in Africa], and growing up here, I got to see the more revealing, solid color fashion.
Who or what influences your style?
My mom and sister. My mom is a big fashion icon to me because she has her own unique style. She gets her clothes custom made, so all her pieces are so pretty and so unique.
I remember going into my mom’s closet and looking at her stuff and being like “oh my god!”.
Describe your personal style in four words or one phrase.
Timeless, elegant, modest, and clean.
What’s your go-to item in your closet?
I would say my camel coat for right now because of the season. I also love rings – they’re essential for me. I love A-line skirts, they’re a go-to most days. Oh, and high waisted palazzo pants! But I only like the solid color ones, I’m not into the floral ones.
Who are your favorite designers, and what do you like about their designs?
Even though they’re not well known, I like local African designers. They’re so creative and their stuff is so unique. When you look at American styles and you see something in Louis Vuitton, you can probably find it in Chanel or Gucci or something because they’re all kind of similar, just different colors. But back in Africa, you see all these unique cuts and silhouettes and that’s so pretty to me.
Did you ever consider leaving the Indy area? If so, what made you stay?
I want to stay here. I feel like Indiana has a sense of community that bigger cities like New York or Chicago don’t have. It doesn’t have a lot of fashion things going on, but I really like the community aspect and I feel like you can create a fashion house here, you just got to put a lot more work into it.
What trends are you noticing for spring fashion?
One thing I saw from recent runways is that people are stepping back from flowers and florals. Now it’s leaning more towards solid colors and looser fabrics. Also, geometric patterns are becoming more of a thing now. I thought that was going to stay as a winter trend but it’s carrying into spring. I think pastel colors are going to be very big, as well as classic blue because it was named the Pantone color of the year – I really hope to get more blue in my wardrobe. Also, sheer fabrics, especially for sleeves. Pillow bags — not a big fan but that’s a thing, as well as big scrunchies. Oh, and color leather! I really like the pink leather pencil skirts, those are so cute!
What’s next for you? What short and long term goals are on your list?
I want to have my very own fashion line. My goal is to provide women with modest clothes that are elegant but at the same time still designer. Currently, a lot of girls who want to dress modestly don’t have many options, so they have to take a couple of pieces and put them together. I want to provide a one stop shop where you can get beautiful clothes that are, at the same time, modest. Growing up, I had to literally go store to store, like get a top that goes under this and then a dress — and it was too much. I just want a place where you can go and get a modest dress and feel like you’re pretty and at the same time you’re covered.
It’s self expression. Growing up, it was my outlet to express myself. I know a lot of people say fashion is an expression, but truly it is. Being a triple minority in a predominately white school, fashion is a way for me to say “don’t judge me, I have so much more to offer.” It also opens up doors to meet people. I’ve met a lot of people that I wouldn’t have because, for instance, if I have a cute jacket on that someone likes then they’ll be like “oh I like your jacket!” and we’ll start talking. Fashion helps me tell a story that I don’t have to open my mouth to tell; a lot of people don’t want to listen, but if you’re seeing a story on me, you don’t have a choice.
So I want to have my own fashion line, and hopefully in the future it grows into this big fashion house that provides more clothing options for women, as well as job opportunities. My goal is to provide jobs to women in underdeveloped countries so they have the chance to make money for their family. I feel like it’s one thing to go on a mission trip and donate money — because right when you leave the money runs out and you’re back to square one. Instead, I want to give them job opportunities so they have a way to forever sustain themselves.
Worst fashion trend?
Dirty sneakers. I don’t even like sneakers, so the whole thing that you keep your sneakers dirty to be fashionable, I’m not a big fan of. Also, now we have a lot of brands that just put their brand on everything, and I don’t like that. I’ll see a bag and the whole bag will say the brand’s name, you don’t even have a chance to see the structure or anything of the bag – the whole point is the brand’s name. I feel like it’s about the actual product, and these brands just think “I’m gonna staple my brand on this” whatever it is, and just call it fashion. I don’t like that.
Best fashion trend?
A-line skirts, maxi dresses, and high waisted palazzo pants!
Last but certainly not least, name your favorite fashion icon.
My mom! She was a makeup artist always looks fabulous. When you go into my mom’s closet, all you see is custom-made clothes. She wears color in a way that’s flattering. I’m not a big fan of crazy greens and oranges and all that, but the way that she wears it, oh my god, so pretty!
Keep up with Nadia on Instagram!