Subhi Taha, 24, is of Palestinian/Filipino descent but was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He’s a blogger and men’s and women’s modestwear designer with an ever-so-cheerful personality and a constantly positive outlook on life. As a Muslim living in the United States, he is mainly inspired by his faith. Khaleejesque was lucky enough to talk to him and ask him a few questions to find out more about his life in the U.S., career, and blogging.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I got my bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication about three and a half years ago. After graduating, I received a position at Fossil as a Graphic Designer; eventually receiving another position at the company on the Skagen brand team as their Social Media Art Director. I spent about three years at Fossil; that’s where most of my professional design experience comes from.
Just a couple of months ago, I decided to leave and take some time to work on my personal goals in developing my own modestwear label and re-develop my personal social media strategy. Basically, I love everything design. It started off mainly in graphics, but I’m now shifting more into apparel design. I also really enjoy art direction/photostyling and photography.
I just enjoy connecting with others like me around the world. I also make a lot of comedy-based content. That’s kind of how I started it all.
Why did you start vlogging?
It was an accident really. The video trend of “Stuff _____ People Say” was big and I thought I’d make one about Arab dads. It was an extremely poorly produced video; I literally shoot it on my laptop camera. I didn’t think it’d get shared past my group of friends, but the next morning after uploading it on YouTube, it blew up. People were commenting, asking me to make more videos, so I did.
It started off mostly comedy-based, but eventually became what it is now; a series of vlogs talking about my life as a Muslim, Arab-American in a super chill way. Essentially my goal is to connect with those like me around the world; hopefully inspiring them in their faith and life goals; pushing them towards success in this life; and most importantly, the Hereafter.
I want to normalize life as a Muslim in the West because I know what it’s like growing up feeling alone; like there aren’t others like me out there. I want to help them approach school, work, family, friendships, and all other aspects of life in the West—while not having to not let go of their Muslim identity. So many out there have such great potential, it’s just a matter of letting them know that they do.
What is it like living as a Muslim in the U.S.?
It wasn’t that easy growing up. The area I lived in didn’t have a lot of Muslims so I always felt excluded to some extent, but it was more of an internal struggle. Thankfully it was never discrimination coming from others. It was a very diverse suburb town, so everyone knew what it felt like to be ‘different’ at some point. Now, there’s a lot larger of a Muslim community in the Dallas area, so there are more mosques, where we’re able to come together and truly feel what it’s like being part of a larger Muslim community.
Unfortunately, with all that’s going on in the world—we’re now seeing a lot of acts of hate against us because we do have so many Muslim areas. And it’s disturbing because we’ve always seen this hatred on TV in other areas of the country, but now we see that these deeply ignorant people live all around and just down the street from us. The mosque I grew up in actually made it on the national news channels because an armed anti-Islam protest was held at the mosque. Men with guns walked up and down the entrance of the parking lot, it was not an easy sight. However, we did receive a lot of counter-protesters welcoming us with open arms, letting us know that not all non-Muslims dislike us. It was really uplifting seeing all the support for our community on social media. So, where the “bad” in some shines, the “good” in most shines even brighter.
What challenges have you faced to reach the destination or the position you’re currently at?
I’d say the biggest challenge was myself. Self-doubt; I’d always compare myself to others, which made me doubt my ability to be successful. I’ve always been the type to discourage myself because I wasn’t doing things the way I knew others were doing it. I didn’t study fashion so I felt like I would never be able to reach the potential of others who have, or that my work wasn’t as good as others, especially before realizing minimalism was my aesthetic. I always thought everyone else’s work was better than mine because mine was so “plain.”
In social media, I’d compare myself to the more well-known influencers, but that’s what separates me from everyone else. And once I realized that, things started moving forward because I stopped doubting my work. To be different is to be successful.
How did you start falling in love with fashion and combining it with minimalism?
I’ve always had an interest in fashion. The idea of creating something with my hands, and being able to wear it always intrigued me. It seemed like the truest form of self-expression. My uncle from my mom’s side owned his own couture atelier in Vancouver, so growing up I was easily exposed to the field. But I never thought it was something I myself could actually pursue, which is why I didn’t even think to study it in college.
Once I started working at Fossil, I was then exposed to fashion at a corporate level. Seeing upfront that working in the fashion field isn’t an impractical goal, that’s when I started to pick up the sewing machine and watch YouTube videos on how to make my own patterns and construct garments. My goal became to eventually own my own line.
I’ve always been a minimalist; in every aspect of my life—but especially my designs. What made it even better for me was that I saw an awful lot of minimalist concepts in my faith. The idea of simplicity, and living a modest life is essential to Islam, and because I wanted my line to be faith-based, it was icing on the cake, realizing Islam and minimalism go hand-in-hand.
Tell us more about your photostyling.
It really came out of nowhere! I didn’t know photostyling was a thing until I met photostylists late in my career at Fossil. I didn’t know it had a name, but I had always done it for my social media channels, and very much enjoyed it. That’s where most of my experience in the skill came from, and now with the importance of social media in large companies—there’s an increasing need for art directors or photostylists.
I was noticed by the Skagen brand team at Fossil through my personal Instagram since we share the minimalist aesthetic. They reached out and offered me a position as their Social Media Art Director. Obviously, I took it.
I learned a lot about the process of photostyling not only in social media but the role it plays in a fashion brand’s seasonal story. I later ended up leaving the job, but now I feel confident in my photostyling abilities and enjoy it that much more. It’ll definitely help me with developing seasonal stories for my own line.
How are you inspired, in regards to your designs, photography, or any aesthetic creation that crosses your mind?
Mainly by my faith, and that’s something I’ve just recently, in the past few years, been able to realize. I had always felt these forms of inspiration but never understood why they struck me the way they did. But the stronger I connected with God, and more Qur’an reading that I did, the more I began to understand the hidden connection between my guiding principles/main forms of inspiration, and my faith.
There are so many concepts in the religion that I feel, easily align with how I’ve always approached design. The idea of simplicity—living a modest, humble life is a concept in Islam that inspires every detail of my work. The things I create are very basic and understated, never extravagant or overly detailed. Even the idea of truth and honesty in Islam; it inspires me to strive for work that’s true to its nature.
Unforced, raw, straight to the point—not trying to be something that it’s not. In my social media photography, I try to avoid overly staged sets. I don’t try to give the perception of a life that is not mine. And when I start to feel overworked and need a break from creating, I take inspiration from the Creator himself. I take moments out in nature and give myself time to breathe and relax. I’ll take a road trip with my family to the mountains, a lake, a beach, or a waterfall. I ignore all that has been on my mind and let myself enjoy the blessing God gave me in being able to witness his work in person. I visited various canyons in Utah last year and it forever changed my view on design, and life itself. It was a life changing experience. So, whether it be taking inspiration from Islamic concepts, or from experiencing his work in nature, my Creator is always my guiding light.
To see more of Subhi’s collection visit his website.