Muslim fashion designer creates conservative, affordable clothes

Lisa Vogl sees her clothes as solutions. For Muslim women like herself in the United States, affordable, fashionable, and conservative apparel is hard to come by, says Ms. Vogl. So she launched a clothing line, now featured in Macy's stores, to meet that need. 

Julio Cortez/AP/File
Shoppers walk into a Macy's department store at Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J. Verona Collection, a clothing line designed by Lisa Vogl, is now being sold at Macy's as part of the company's first ever modest clothing line.

Long-sleeved ruffled shirts, wide-leg jumpsuits and an assortment of hijabs – all creations of Lisa Vogl – are now featured at Macy's as part of the company's first ever launch of a women's modest clothing line.

To shoppers, they're just clothes, but to Ms. Vogl they're solutions.

Vogl lives in Orlando and is a practicing Muslim who chooses to dress conservatively. She often had to visit different stores in hopes of finding the right styles to layer to suit the modest tastes she preferred. Rather than wait around for someone to fulfill her clothing needs, Vogl, along with Verona Collection co-founder Alaa Ammuss, launched the clothing line in 2015 at an Orlando boutique.

"There are millions of Muslim women here in the US, and there's a lack of clothing that would work to meet our religious requirements as well as be fashionable and affordable at the same time," she said, adding that the clothes were for anyone seeking modest attire.

While the feedback at Macy's has been largely positive, not everyone gave the product line a warm reception. Some took to social media to vent their frustrations.

One Twitter user called for a boycott of Macy's, writing, "#Macy's stores adds the oppressive islamic Hijab as a new fashion statement. ARE U KIDDING? While other women are being murdered over trying to NOT WEAR IT??? @Macys has gone MAD!"

Another user wrote on Twitter, "this makes me sick. #Macy's CLUELESS of what's going on in #Iran and women's rights there. Shame on you @Macys Women in Iran DON'T want to wear the #hijab. Its a symbol of oppression to them."

Vogl says that wearing the Muslim head covering was a matter of choice and that people often misunderstand the reasoning behind it. She also said Islam itself is widely misunderstood.

"People of other faiths might think there are a lot of differences, but in fact, we're a lot more alike than you would think," she said. "I'm blessed to be in a country where I can practice my religion freely."

Vogl's venture with Macy's began after she attended the company's women and minority focused business development workshop in New York in 2017. After seeing that there was a viable market for women's modest clothing, Macy's offered to ink a deal.

"Lisa Vogl shared her vision to create a collection that speaks to a community of women looking for a solution to their fashion needs," Macy's said in a statement. "Verona Collection is a perfect example of a strong business that provides a unique product that serves a community of women looking for fashionable modest clothing options."

Vogl called the moment Macy's picked up her clothing line "surreal."

"For us, for my community, this is a very big deal," Vogl said. "I think more so talking about us being able to be represented, and Macy's took a very huge step of inclusivity and we're very really thankful to be partnered with a company that values diversity."

While launching any business poses risk, the venture is Vogl's second. Vogl left Daytona State College (DSC) one class shy of graduation to start her own photography business, her first.

"I've never been a person that does things that are the status quo," Vogl said. "I've always been a risk-taker.... I didn't know if I had any talent. I sometimes just jump into things and then go full force."

DSC's School of Photography chair Dan Biferie said Vogl's unwavering determination and "grit" set her apart from other students.

"She was an outstanding student," Mr. Biferie said. "I remember her being bright, articulate, and creative."

She found success as a fashion photographer and traveled extensively, with her work being featured in a number of national publications. Her achievements came as no surprise to Biferie.

"I felt that she was going to be successful with whatever she pursued," he said.

For the past seven years, Vogl has returned to DSC as to share her knowledge as a guest lecturer. She's also conducted student workshops including the photo shoot for the clothing line at Macy's.

DSC sophomore Frank Colalella, who worked as a photographer on the Macy's shoot, dismissed the clothing line's critics, saying the work wasn't about religion, but rather, about inclusivity.

"She did it for herself and not for anyone else," Mr. Colalella said. "I think what she's doing is brave."

Despite her string of recent successes, Vogl said she has no plans to rest on her laurels.

"Honestly, in the fashion industry I don't think there's ever a definition of 'made it,' " she said. "You always have to keep working. You always have to keep improving yourself. You always have to keep pushing it. Fashion evolves. You always have to stay ahead of the game."

This article was reported by the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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