Apparel for Liberation: Avow

The American modest apparel community has a new sweetheart brand gaining quick recognition for its quality blend of design concept and garment construction. California based Avow Apparel is about liberation–the liberty to be who you are at all stages of your journey in life through the declaration of clothing. To the outside spectator, Avow represents a journey as well. We have watched from inception its careful development, travels and inspiration through the eyes of its artist and head designer Ciem whom we have had the pleasure to meet on a pair of occasions. A woman with grace that represents what Avow is about–an aura of mixed inspiration of art, paths of life and an understanding comfort that inspires the person with her to freely be thyself. In addition to our ‘Style Talk’ segment, Avow also adds new pieces to its collection of liberating apparel. We took the time to learn more about Avow and its lifestyle.

How does Avow Apparel differ from other American modest brands?

“Avow is a lifestyle brand that focuses on the journey, from the beginning, of the transformation of the self into a spiritual place of peace within. The brand is rooted in the idea that who you are on the outside is a direct reflection of what is within and those two worlds do not have to be diametrically opposed. It is about feeling comfortable in your own skin, being free to be who you are within the context of the juxtaposition of the spiritual & physical worlds. What makes Avow unique and sets us apart from other modest American brands is that we come from a place of deep-rooted artistic expression. Our designer has been sewing since the age of 7 and has been an artist since she can remember. The Avow story is her story. It is about the journey that she took and every inch of that journey is reflected in the collections she designs. This closeness to the product is what breaths life into each piece, thus, making it more than just clothing. The point of view is clear, the pieces are uniquely designed & constructed, and each piece takes the Avow woman to a place of safety, a place she can call home, a place that makes her feel at peace knowing that she can be herself yet still walk on this path to spiritual freedom.”

Tell us a bit on how the vision of Avow came to being.

“The story of Avow is a long and beautiful journey. It began way before it ever came into being but we’ll give you the condensed version of the story. In 2003 when our lead designer embraced Islam she noticed a serious void in the market for fashion forward apparel that spoke to her personal style. She knew that this could not be a style that only resonated with her. She thought about life and the various levels and paths women are on. The idea that if a human being is of a certain faith means that everyone that falls under that umbrella automatically makes them the same is a notion that puts limits on what we as a human race are capable of. This thought really struck a cord with her and she made it her mission to provide women with the options they are looking for, options that speak to who they are as individuals while maintaining that common thread that binds us…spirituality.”

What does the name ‘Avow’ mean?

“Avow is a verb, which means ‘to openly declare’. This idea of declaring what one stands for means so much more than what one may think at first glance. It does not just speak to the idea that Muslim women must declare their position in terms of religion due to the simple fact that they wear a head covering because Avow is for everyone, not just women of faith. Avow, as a brand name, is the idea that we are expressing ourselves artistically through our personal style. It is the notion of freedom, liberation, forward movement, spiritual freedom in a sense, and this can & does apply to anyone. Human beings have the innate desire to express themselves, to feel comfortable being who they are, and Avow is all about the concept that being who you are does not have to be in conflict with what you believe (no matter what those beliefs are).”

Give us a bit of background on the head designer for Avow.

“The lead designer for Avow has a background rooted in clothing design. Coming from a long line of women who design & sew, her passion had always resided in the arts, specifically designing & constructing clothing. She was taught the principles of sewing, from age 7 by her mother, grandmother, & aunts. She also has an affinity for painting & drawing. She attended art school at Virginia Commonwealth University and graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Fashion Design. Her experience ranges from internships at major brands such as Armani & Betsey Johnson to design positions at both large and small retailers. When she graduated she went on to design at Levi’s, Calvin Klein, Live Mechanics, Lonsdale London, the list goes on. Her style combines an element of feminine boho styling/details with clean lines & structure. She frequently travels to NY, London, Paris, Belgium, and Asia in search for inspiration, to view the latest trends, get inspired, & develop new fabrics & styles. Much of her inspiration is drawn from the mix of cultures she encounters. With her own background being Armenian and her husband being of West African descent, she is constantly finding herself inspired by the blending of culture. This, in turn, inspires the blending of textures, colors, prints, fabrics, and you will find this as a common thread that ties each original Avow design.”

Describe your most recent additions. 

“All of our collections come from the same core inspiration—-travel, art, the journey, culture, space, & time. With that said, here’s some insight into the concepts of our recent pieces:

Le Afrique Skirt—The feeling of safety and self-expression for the self rather than for others. Through the use of bright color & print layered with dark nesting lines this piece expresses the idea that some forms of artistic expression as for the self and not for others, thus, the feeling of safety.

Day Dream Top—The gauze fabric trimmed with lace show the feminine side of the Avow woman, representing our complexities & intricacies, while the tribal embroidery gives a nod to the resilient nature of a woman—that ability to be strong yet subtle.

Nomad Dress, Black Embroidered Colorway—Lace trims in a feminine shapes give this dress it’s unique touch. The layered laser cut gauze fabric give a nod to the path we are on. It’s about the journey, the path is patched and repaired, we have to deconstruct to reconstruct. It’s the idea that to heal we must look within, confront, repair, and move forward.

Wandering Star Top—The full circle cut tunic invokes the feeling of freedom. It is loose and open, the fabric has texture which represents the path we walk along and all its perfect imperfections, the hand done element of crochet lace gives a nod to the idea that old tradtiions become new again and add intrinsic beauty to any piece.

Bohemian Dreams Top, Olive/Indigo—The layered lace, hand dyed, washed, deconstructed, & reconstructed elements that make up this garment mimic the various levels and layers of life and hman interaction between the self, the earth, & living beings.”

Give us an insight to the process of making an Avow piece.

“We start with trend research & inspiration travel. This process gives us insight into what is happening the marketplace and where the industry is headed in terms of trend. Once we have completed our research on trends in silhouettes, color, fabrics, and technical innovation we then develop our concept. Our core concept stays true throughout the process—It’s about the journey of the Avow woman—but our seasonal concepts are derived from the many facets of her life combined with the trends we feel strongly about. We translate our concepts into mood boards, which mimic the overall vibe of the collection through imagery, words, textures, print direction, etc. We then develop a seasonal color palette, prints, embroideries, graphics, and begin designing the pieces that build the story of each season. Once the overall designs are complete we begin making patterns and then we send our final patterns, artwork for prints, embroideries, textile designs, etc. to our sample house in India where all of our pieces come to life. A few times a year we travel to India to work with our sample house on special wash techniques, developing custom fabrics and trims, and coming up with new embroidery patterns and stitch techniques.”

What’s next for Avow?

“Currently we are working on setting up show rooms in both NY & LA and presenting our line to potential retailers. We are also working on representation in the UK so that retailers there can also showcase our collections. We love the idea of maintaining a small design house in California and continuing to sell at our online retail store but we also know the possibilities are endless and Avow is all about the journey. We plan to continue to support local art through our various pop-up shops that we’ve been hosting in the Bay area (featuring our collections coupled with fine art on display and for sale by amazing local talent). In the near future we’d love to host a pop-up event in NY as well as in LA. We also plan to travel a lot more and broaden our scope for gathering inspiration. We love Africa and are planning to go on our next inspiration trip to gather our thoughts and bring new culture to our collection. The idea of heading somewhere like Zanzibar is exciting but still working out all the details of our next journey.”

See the new addition pieces by Avow Apparel at


Interviewed by Mariana, modest style editor and founder of The Demureist who enjoys diversity in cultures, eateries, religions, styles and a good conversation over tea. “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication” – Leonardo De Vinci  [ Follow me on  Instagram     Google+    Twitter ]


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Photo Credit: AvowApparel

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