Summer Albarcha is not your average fashion blogger. With her modern take on modest fashion, she’s become the powerhouse behind the brand Hipster Hijabis, which currently has a audience of more than 25,000 followers. While her brand is loved by many, the American-born and Syrian-raised fashionista has received her fair share of criticism for her style choices. Summer has become quite the expert at navigating negative feedback with class and grace, and was recently invited to speak on a fashion panel in Dubai. Oh, and did we mention she’s just 18? Read about her journey of overcoming critics, sharing her unique style and her plans to grow her brand in the future.
Name: Summer Albarcha
Instagram handle: @Hipsterhijabis
Occupation: Fashion Blogger and Stylist, hipsterhijabis.com
School: Saint Louis University
Secretly Obsessed With: Chipotle and Caramel iced coffee
On My Nightstand: Hijab Pins
Last Thing You Read: A History of the World in 6 Glasses
How did you get started?
Hipster Hijabis is the name of the Instagram page I began in August of 2012 as a way to inspire women to embrace dressing modestly, especially in a society where it is not customary, like the United States. I wanted to show that it is possible to still take part in the same mainstream fashions, and just adjust them to fit one’s personal standards of modesty. I was inspired to create this page due to my reluctance to conform with today’s revealing trends that I witnessed throughout my years in a public high school in the United States.
What key elements played into your success?
The key element that played into my success was honestly just keeping up with sharing outfit photos a few times per week and staying engaged with my followers whenever possible. My followers most likely came from keeping up with outfit posts frequently, and responding back to followers. I feel a sense of community with them in responding to personal styling questions and collaboration requests. I also gained a lot of followers from my controversy with Mimu Maxi, and my trip to Dubai for the fashion panel I spoke on.
My plans for the future are to continue posting outfits on Hipster Hijabis and finishing up with my studies, and perhaps starting a Youtube channel. I would definitely like to work in the world of fashion design in the future. I also wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my parents.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
The best piece of advice I have received, which I think is applicable to everyone, is to always be careful about what is being written or shared on personal social media, because there is always a chance for intent to be taken the wrong way and ruin one’s image.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
I faced the struggles of balancing my studies and updating my Instagram as often as I could, as well as expanding my ideas to a website and motivational speaking. I personally like to review everything before posting on Hipster Hijabis, and social media in general, to make sure nothing could be taken with wrong intentions.
I know that there will always be people who disagree, but that does not influence my motivation when I see the enormous amount of encouragement I’m receiving from the rest of my followers. I do my best to stay out of religious and political debates, and instead, I advocate the importance of dressing modestly for all backgrounds for personal empowerment.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
The biggest influence in my life is my mother, She has always been supportive of my interests, and even flew out with me to Dubai to support me in my panel discussion at Fashion Forward Dubai last weekend.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? When do you feel most successful?
I am most proud of my accomplishments in maintaining this site for inspiring women from all faiths with modest fashion since the age of 16, and I am happy to be reaching out to such a broad audience through the power of social media. I feel most successful when I receive positive feedback from family, friends and followers.
I would like to do more motivational speaking in the future. I’ve found that after conducting interviews since the Mimu Maxi controversy that occurred over the summer, my message speaks out to some, and I find it important to continue encouraging others to embrace dressing modestly while still conveying their style, especially in a time where the mainstream fashion is highly revealing and overly sexual.
In Dubai, I was invited to speak in the panel titled “Modest Fashion in Modern Times” as a representation of the younger generation in the West, our views on modest fashion and its availability in the U.S market. I had an amazing experience there, although it was only three days! In general, the main audience for my Instagram and website would be women, and actually women of all faith backgrounds, which I find most encouraging in that I’m able to spread and share a similar message with people from around the world.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
I would tell girls wanting to enter the world of social media and fashion to always be honest. Show your followers you are truly passionate about what you are promoting, and stay consistent in postings and activeness.
I see the fact that I’m younger as more of an empowerment rather than discouragement. News sources are always surprised when I reply that I’m a freshman in university, and that I’ve been posting on my page since I was 16 and in high school. I find it an advantage to be young in that I am having more opportunities to expand my ideas while just starting at my university. It allows others my age to relate to me, whom I find are the most important to influence since college is the time most people are open to new ideas.