As we embarked on the ambitious project of rebranding Malek Fahd Islamic School, we were acutely aware of the pivotal role the school uniform would play in embodying the new brand on a day-to-day. For us, this was much more than a design change; it was an opportunity to delve deep into the community’s heart, understand their needs, and craft an attire that captured the school’s ethos, translating it into a tangible form that could be worn with pride.
A missed opportunity
Our initial interaction with the existing uniform at Malek Fahd Islamic School was enlightening. We observed that while the uniform carried a sense of formality, it did not align with the practical needs and daily activities of the students. This traditional design compromised on comfort and functionality, aspects crucial for active, growing children.
Reflecting on the last design of the uniform, it became clear that it was a missed opportunity. With the combined insights from our initial analysis and the forward-thinking vision of Dr. Zachariah Matthews, the principal of Malek Fahd Islamic School, we were poised to create a uniform that would not only respect the heritage and values of the school but also embrace the functional needs of its students.
A collaborative and original design approach
In reimagining the new uniform, it was essential to engage with a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Central to this process were the students themselves. Understanding their preferences in colours, their need for mobility, and comfort in varying weather conditions was crucial. The ‘child-first’ philosophy championed by the principal and our team was not just a slogan but a guiding principle.
Many lenses, clearer vision
Balancing the expectations of a neat, formal appearance with the practicality required for student daily wear represented a significant challenge. This required us to rethink fabrics, styles, and maintenance needs from the ground up.
Gathering feedback from a community of young Muslim women creatives, also brought a unique and valuable perspective. Their insights into dressing in a way that respects Islamic principles while being comfortable, stylish, and suitable for young women were pivotal in shaping the new uniform design for the female students of Malek Fahd Islamic School.
The creative journey
During the design process, we explored various colour palettes, identifying how they would feel as part of the new visual identity. The lines and cuts of the uniforms were designed with careful consideration of movement, ensuring that students could engage in their daily activities without restraint.
Sportswear as a lifestyle choice
Our quest for perfectionas led us to seek inspiration from major sports and lifestyle brands such as Nike and Adidas. Observing the current trends, we noted a leaning towards sharper colours, sleek designs, and visually striking motifs. To us, these elements symbolised a sense of readiness and versatility – attributes we wanted to instil in our new uniform design.
Drawing inspiration from these brands, we wanted to create a uniform that was similarly versatile, envisioning a look that would blur the lines between athletic, school and casual attire – something students could embrace not just for school activities, but also as a part of their weekend wardrobe.
The coach jacket
Introducing a unique piece of apparel – the coach jacket – into the Malek Fahd Islamic School uniform came from our realisation that the traditional blazer was not meeting students’ needs; they didn’t fit well and weren’t versatile enough to be shared among siblings of different sizes.
Our aim was to design something unisex; adaptable to different body types and stylish whether worn snug or a bit baggier.
This approach also tapped into the generational aspect of the school – where families have a long-standing connection, and uniforms are often passed down from one child to another. By creating a coach jacket that could be easily shared and handed down, we were not only adding a practical element but also helping families save both time and money.
Cost-effectiveness was another key consideration in our design process. We wanted the school uniform to be accessible to anyone in the community, so every decision regarding design and materials was made with affordability in mind. This meant choosing fabrics and cuts that were durable and easy to maintain, ensuring the uniform could withstand frequent use, without imposing a significant financial burden on families.
The coach jacket we eventually designed featured a smart collar and bunched sleeves – specific design choices that accentuated its versatility. The jacket retained a formal edge, necessary for the private school setting, while introducing a more relaxed and modern vibe. Its adaptability to different styles, body types, genders and needs made it an instant hit among students.
Empowering the young women of the school
In redesigning the uniform for Malek Fahd Islamic School, a key focus was on the functional needs of growing young women, particularly in the context of physical activity and comfort. The previous uniform included a skirt that was impractical for activities like running or playing. It was clear that this aspect of the uniform needed a thoughtful take to accommodate the active lifestyles of young students without compromising on modesty.
Another important consideration was the physical changes young women undergo during puberty. The old uniform did not adequately accommodate these changes, often leading to discomfort and self-consciousness among students. Being a teenager is a delicate time of life, especially for Muslim girls who are balancing their faith, personal identity, and the desire to feel confident and proud in what they wear. Our goal was to design a uniform that supported them through these transformative years, providing comfort and confidence in equal measure.
From static to kinetic
In adhering to Islamic values, we understood the necessity of having a full-length A-line skirt that covered the ankles. This presented a design challenge: to create a skirt that was not only modest and in line with Islamic teachings but also light, flexible, and suitable for movement. To achieve this we selected materials that offered these qualities, ensuring that the skirt would support rather than hinder the students’ day-to-day activities and comfort.
The design of the hijabs was another critical aspect. The feedback indicated that the existing hijab design involved too many pieces, making it cumbersome for students. We aimed to simplify this, creating a hijab that was easy to wear and manage for students of all ages. This not only made life easier for the students but also for parents and teachers, reducing the burden of having to constantly monitor the students’ adherence to dress codes.
Concept to closet
Bringing our vision for the Malek Fahd Islamic School uniform to life was a journey that required not just creativity and innovation, but also the expertise of a specialist in the field. This is where our collaboration with Midford, a company renowned for its expertise in school uniform wear, became invaluable.
Trust in the process
Midford’s respect for the design process was evident from the outset. They understood what we were trying to achieve and played a pivotal role in recommending fabrics and materials that aligned with our goal. Midford’s contribution extended to the creation of samples, which were instrumental in the process. These samples provided us with tangible representations of our concepts, allowing us to refine and tweak each design until they were perfect. The ability to see, feel, and test the uniforms in their physical form brought a new level of depth and precision to our work culminating in a process that spanned an entire year.
To facilitate the manufacturing process, our designs were transformed into specialised documents. These documents detailed every aspect of the design, from the exact measurements and cuts to the specific types of fabrics and stitching techniques to be used.
A new era
Initially, the plan was to allow a year for transitioning from the old to the new uniform. However, the positive reception from both students and their families has greatly expedited this process. Today, more than 95% of students have embraced the new uniform, and the speed of transition underscores the overarching support for the rebranding initiative.
Engaging with alumni and other female Muslim designers was an invaluable part of the journey. Their contributions ensured that the uniform was not just a garment but a representation of the community’s evolving identity and aspirations, and we thank them for their input.
In this new era, the reimagined uniform of Malek Fahd Islamic School stands as a symbol of a lifestyle where faith and learning coexist, guiding students to embrace and express their Islamic identity confidently in every aspect of their schooling experience.