Palestinian-Irish influencer Marwa Biltagi makes strides for inclusivity

Born and raised in California, Palestinian-Irish Instagram star Marwa Biltagi is one to watch. (File/Getty)
Updated 05 August 2019

Palestinian-Irish influencer Marwa Biltagi makes strides for inclusivity

DUBAI: Born and raised in California, Palestinian-Irish Instagram star Marwa Biltagi has created a niche for herself as a hijab-wearing influencer who appeals to fans outside the Muslim community.

With more than 28,000 followers on her Instagram account @mademoisellememe — where she posts snaps from her travels and shows off her feminine-to-funky style — the blogger spoke to Arab News about her career and the rise of modest fashion around the world.

“It started as a creative outlet. I wanted to build a fashion and lifestyle platform that was not based around my life in the traditional blogging way, but about a total lifestyle that I curated for my readers in my own personal taste,” Biltagi told Arab News.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Closet essential: a statement coat. @moeez #modiststyle

A post shared by Marwa Meme Biltagi (@mademoisellememe) on

“I used my nickname, Meme, because I wanted my ideas, writings and content to be received by a wide audience instead of being labeled as a Muslim or hijab-focused website that is too niche for others to read,” she added.

However, Biltagi is a keen supporter of being identifiably Muslim on social media, saying it creates a “more diverse and inclusive environment for self-expression.”

It can be difficult to adopt fashion trends that don’t adhere to modest fashion guidelines, the influencer admitted, but she has become an expert and twisting trends into her own style — a skill modest wear lovers from around the world have had to hone over the years.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

DELPOZO Two piece jacquard suit from @themodist, Hijab from @hautehijab @moeez

A post shared by Marwa Meme Biltagi (@mademoisellememe) on

“I don’t follow trends closely, but if there is something in particular that tickles my fancy, I will incorporate it into my closet in a way where it doesn’t look like I am trying too hard… In general, I don’t think all trends are meant for everyone. For instance, the biker short is not for a modest fashion girl. One might try to incorporate it in a modest way, but it just doesn’t make sense. Not all trends make sense for a modest dresser just like not all trends work for certain body types and heights,” she said.

The influencer, who is regularly spotted at New York Fashion Week, has not had an easy road to the top and opened up about the struggles of being self-employed.

“The major difficulty has always been the struggle of being an entrepreneur (who) is paving a path no one has taken… Inclusivity is still very new in 2019. The political climate adds to the hardship of being a Muslim working woman. Even with that said, I am very hopeful for our role in fashion and the arts in the future.”


Startup of the Week: Saudi baker and chef winning hearts of food lovers

Photo supplied
Updated 20 August 2019

Startup of the Week: Saudi baker and chef winning hearts of food lovers

  • Working over 15 hours a day and being self-taught was just the start; Essam is the interior and graphic designer, the marketer, the CEO and the chef at White Mountain

A Saudi bakery and restaurant business specializing in pastries is finding its way into Saudi hearts with a delectable selection of fine Italian, French, and Swiss foods.
Ahmad Essam, 28, a self-taught baker and chef, left a productive family business to create what is now one of the most prestigious bakeries in Alkhobar.
Essam set up his bakery and restaurant while working as a production engineer, selling tarts and cakes to his friends.
He was overwhelmed by the encouragement he received, and little by little Essam, his dream of running his own company emerged.
Working over 15 hours a day and being self-taught was just the start; Essam is the interior and graphic designer, the marketer, the CEO and the chef at White Mountain.
Baking French pastries such as croissants, macarons, mille-feuille, eclairs and tarts require a true artisan. Essam described the glory he feels when he bakes, saying: “Dealing with precise tips to get the real essence of French pastries and reaching a level to bake without recipes is a matter of experience and good knowledge. Being a real baker requires a lot of learning as it’s not only about mixing water and flour; its trick lies behind the process of fermentation that sometimes lasts for days.’’
Every once in a while, the young man distributes membership books to loyal customers. “On Valentine’s Day, we distributed 3,000 roses,” he added.
Essam is very passionate, and dreams of opening a cooking academy in Saudi Arabia so he can inspire other amateur bakers; he told Arab News about his future 12,000-square-meters cooking village project that he is aiming to create in Riyadh, “including a library that collects all cookbooks, a seasonal spice shop, a great lake garden, a pizzeria, glossary shop and more, all of which falls under one theme: Cooking.”
For him, business is an obsession and profession. “Chefs have their egos. They are dealing with a tricky job and they know what they are doing exactly. They do not accept comments or advice from other chefs,” he explained.
You can follow him for more information on White Mountain on Instagram: @wm.bakery.