Modest Transitions is Philly’s new fiber arts shop

Hasan’s shop officially opened up at the end of February. She never planned to open up a shop, but in some ways, she’s been actively training for it since she was a teenager.

“I always was a maker,” said Hasan. “Everything is self-taught.”

Growing up, she learned how to sew and harvest plants and herbs from her mother. The two of them would sew messenger bags for her peers at Philadelphia High School for Girls. It was their side hustle, a way to afford extracurriculars, but Hasan thought what they were doing was “old woman stuff.”

Now she laughs about it.

After fabrics are dyed, workshop participants unwrap and wash their fabrics to see how natural materials create color. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“I’m just eating my words because everything that my mom used to do, I’m doing it right now,” she said.

Hasan’s making took a turn in 2014 when she converted to Islam. She began to transition to more modest fashion, but found it difficult to find apparel that would suit her new identity as a Muslim woman, as well as the other parts of her.

“I couldn’t display my personality how I wanted to, which is really bubbly, vibrant and bold and confident and silly,” she said.

The exterior of Modest Transitions
Modest Transitions is a natural clothing store on East Girard Avenue in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

It was a gap that she decided to fill herself, by sewing her own wardrobe.

Hasan’s experience with her faith is one of the big inspirations behind the formation of the shop, as well as its name. It represents her transition into modesty, but it also speaks to the different kinds of changes people experience throughout their lives.

Another big transition for Hasan was motherhood.

When she gave birth to her first son, Mustafa, in 2018, she struggled with postpartum depression. At the time, Hasan was enrolled in a design and sustainability course at Moore College of Art & Design. Part of her final for the class involved selecting three different sustainable techniques for the capsule collection she was designing. She focused on embroidery, block-printing, and natural dyeing.

Modest Transitions owner, Melanie Hasan, places bundled fabrics in a steam bath
Modest Transitions owner, Melanie Hasan, places bundled fabrics in a steam bath in the kitchen at the back of the shop. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The fiber work helped Hasan cope and became a part of her healing journey.

“When I was battling postpartum, these mediums became very therapeutic for me,” said Hasan.

The maker became fascinated with natural dyeing in particular, using everyday ingredients like onion and avocado skins to transform the color of fabrics. As a new mom, it was something she could also do with her son.

Anita Shire

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