Zulfiye Tufa

Woman modelling outfit
Zulfiye Tufa
Image: Lahza Photography
Source: Museum Victoria

Australian-born Zulfiye Tufa is a young designer of Turkish/Oromo (East African) heritage. Encouraged by friends, Zulfiye followed her passion for dressing with style and started thehijabstylist.

She found a creative outlet that helps to fill what she sees as a void in the existing fashion market, where Western clothing that does not meet hijab requirements can be altered to be both faith- and fashion-compliant. "There are so many beautiful dresses that I like or that some of my clients will bring me, and what we'll do is we'll 'hijabify' the outfit."

Zulfiye works with clients putting "outfits together for people according to what their style is and what they like." Her work ranges from designing head pieces, modifying existing fashion outfits and complete clothing design.

Video transcript

My name's Zulfiye Tufa. I'm 23 years old and I'm a designer.

I think, definitely, the way that a woman is dressed... ..has an impact on the way that people observe you and people will treat you. And I think... There's this saying that I really love, and it says, 'Dressing nicely is a form of politeness.' And I wholeheartedly agree with that.

My mother's Turkish and my father's from Oromia, which is in Africa. They were both born there and they met in Australia and got married here. I always felt like I was... I felt like I was mixed culturally because I have all the different types of heritage. A lot of Australians, I guess, would see me and might think that I'm not Australian or... which happens quite a lot. People think that I'm from overseas.

Basically, I make clothing that I find that I need but I just can't find them anywhere and that's how this all started. It was because... It started when I was 16. So what I resorted to was... buying a sewing machine with my savings and decided that I was going to start sewing and that's where it started from.

I'm training to be a pharmacist. I'm doing my internship now at a hospital in Melbourne. And what I do is, when I get time, I like to focus on my design work because that's where I let my creativity come out. I've called myself the Hijabstylist and that's the label that I work under.

For me, the moment when I decided that I wanted this to be a career was when I really... people were really reciprocating. They were just so excited when they saw what I was wearing. Like, 'Oh, my God! Where did you get that from? Did you make it? Can you make me one?' So that's where it started from.

I like having the plain Hijabstylist name because, if you're funky, then I'll be funky with you. I'll bring that out. If you're very casual or elegant and that's your style, then that's what I'll work with.

So my work ranges from hijabs, which is the headscarf, to... I do a lot of altering outfits. There are so many beautiful dresses that I like or that some of my clients will bring me and what we do is, we'll 'hijabify' the outfit.

Australian hijab for me is, honestly, whatever the fashion is at the moment but just, you know, choosing to cover up more. Not necessarily starting new trends, but whatever the trend is at that time, making that suitable to women who wear scarves.

My faith does definitely influence my fashion. My faith dictates a certain dress code, and that's a dress code that I agree with and I wholeheartedly accept and believe. I always see a design and I think, 'That looks fabulous. How am I going to wear that with a scarf?' A lot of my inspiration is global, but the beautiful thing about Melbourne is it's so multicultural that it fits in perfectly here. There's so many different backgrounds and cultures and nationalities and I think that ties together nicely.

In terms of social networking, I probably am most active on Instagram, and I like that because it's something that's quite casual and you can post up what you're wearing and you can inspire so many people, and now it's been a few months down the track, and I've got almost 6,000 followers.

People who are open-minded, I find that they look beyond the scarf and they see me as a person, but a lot of people see the scarf first before they see me. I also see myself doing pharmacy and practising pharmacy because I live my life by the motto of you can never be overdressed or overeducated.

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