We’re pleased to announce Khaoula Abtouche as AM Women’s sixth Muslim Woman of the Month!
If you’re someone who is active and likes to stay fit, but have been unhappy with the athleticwear available for Muslim women, then you’re certainly not alone. In North America, it’s hard enough to find a women’s only gym, and if you don’t, it can be quite intimidating to attend conventional gyms that are primarily used by men.
It is even more challenging if you’d like to maintain your modesty, whether you wear hijab or not. But you no longer need to worry, as Khaoula Abtouche has got you covered–pun intended!
As a university graduate working her first full-time job, Khaoula found herself struggling to keep her energy levels up. When she began taking care of her nutritional and fitness needs in order to give 100% every day, she found several obstacles in her way.
One such obstacle was the lack of decent looking, good quality athleticwear that respects her need to maintain hijab in a male-dominated gym environment. It’s tough enough having to do sports next to male strangers, but having wardrobe malfunctions, or getting super hot in uncomfortable, and unsuitable athletic wear just makes it so much harder!
Being the self-starter that she is, Khaoula made it her mission to create a line that would not only take care of her hijab needs, but would literally keep her covered and comfortable no matter what kind of exercise she did. This meant coming up with her own designs based on what she had noticed were gaps in the athleisure world, as far as modesty and functionality were concerned.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Khaoula, where she shared the story of how her athleisure company, Dignitii Activewear, came to be. Read on to learn about her journey, and the inspiration for her brand.
What is the idea behind Dignitii?
Our business philosophy is to combine the latest sportswear technology with functionality and style. This means that our top priorities when producing an item is the quality of the fabric and the innovative design.
Our niche is Muslim women, aged between 16 and 40, living in North America and Europe, who are looking to better themselves, and are ready to invest in their health. The current team consists of me as the director and manager of every aspect of the brand, and my manufacturer with his dedicated production team.
My education background is in psychology, but I started my first business at the age of 20 with my mom, and my passion for business has grown since.
I want Muslim women to lead a healthy life, full of purpose, and full of service.
What does Dignitii stand for?
Dignitii stands for the word dignity. The ‘Dignity’ domain was already taken, so I came up with an alternative spelling that was available. I chose to name my brand Dignitii because of what the brand stands for. I want Muslim women to lead a healthy life, full of purpose, and full of service.
Dignitii aims to encourage Muslim women to get stronger physically and mentally in order to live a fulfilling life, while staying true to their Islamic values. In other words, it wants to see Muslimahs living a dignified, full life. Dignity can have so many layers of meaning, and that’s why I thought it would be the perfect name for my line.
What’s the story behind Dignitii?
Dignitii stemmed from my own need for modest sportswear. After graduating university and starting my full-time job, I found that I gained unhealthy habits due to the stressful life of university, and a time consuming 9-5 job. I had no energy and felt lethargic all the time. I desperately wanted to improve my health and have sustained energy.
So, I started to educate myself about fitness and nutrition. I also started training at the gym. In the area where I live, there is no women’s only gym, and public gyms were and still are mostly attended by men.
When training, I would wear a long cotton tunic that I had, a jersey hijab, and some joggers to keep my modesty. I didn’t feel very confident walking in the gym with these casual clothes as I didn’t look very sporty in them.
Would you say that the way you dressed made you feel like you didn’t belong in the gym?
Yes, definitely. I didn’t feel sporty. I didn’t feel like I looked like someone who knew what to do at the gym. It really decreased my confidence. During my training, I would get so hot and drenched in sweat that I would often stop in the middle of my workout, and leave. The clothing I was wearing was hindering my performance, and my jersey hijab kept moving and made me feel suffocated.
Is this when you decided to make your own line?
I started to research modest sportswear. To my disappointment, there were very few modest activewear brands, and most of them were of low-quality, poor design, and often had tacky colors and patterns.
I found two other brands that were okay, but the tunic was too short for my liking. This is when I decided that I was going to dedicate the next few years in building the go-to brand for modest sportswear.
We want to stand for our Islamic values of sustainable living and ethical practices.
Did you design the style of the line yourself, or how did it come about?
I’m the one who designed the whole product, meaning that I drew the look of it, and I am behind the thought process, and the innovation. But I definitely went to a clothing designer to help me make the pattern. We did a lot of samples together, and we worked together for over two years to come up with this final design.
So, it was a long process of trial and error until we found the right fit. I’m not a designer myself, but I definitely had a team of designers, pattern-makers, and seamstresses to help me through the process to get to the final product.
You are based in Montreal, Canada. Are your products sourced, cut, and assembled in Canada?
Yes. Our manufacturers, the cutters, and the sewing is all done here in Canada. The fabrics themselves are made in Asia, as I think almost all fabrics are, but we deal with a reputable Canadian company that imports them here.
Everything from beginning to end is done ethically and fairly. We want to stand for our Islamic values of sustainable living and ethical practices.
Why is fitness important to you?
I realized that in order to change the world and make an impact in this life, you need to have energy and vitality to create that change. If you are constantly tired, out of shape, and unhealthy, you won’t have the stamina to serve your family and your community with excellence.
That’s very well said. I completely agree! What lessons have you learned in your first year of athletic fashion business experience?
Marketing is key. You can have an amazing product, but if people don’t know about it, they won’t be able to buy it and benefit from it.
What do you think are the greatest obstacles for Muslim women to obtain their fitness/wellness goals?
The first obstacle I think is mindset. Muslim women do not put a lot of importance in being fit and strong, especially as they become moms. They take care of everyone else except themselves.
The second obstacle I believe is not feeling confident in working out at the gym or engaging in sports in general. They have limiting/incorrect beliefs that it’s not modest to move your body. Although, it is clearly known that our mother, Aisha (RA), used to race the Prophet (PBUH), and win. She was definitely in shape!
The third obstacle is not finding the proper sports apparel to workout in that is comfortable, stylish, and does not hinder their performance.
What’s special about your Dignitii athletic line?
1- Our innovative design
Each Dignitii piece is designed to solve the problems that hijabis face when working out. For example, one of the unique features in our Performance Tech tops is the tuck-in design–a piece of fabric inside the garment that can be tucked in the pants to prevent the shirt from riding up, and uncovering the stomach while doing movements, like handstands and yoga poses. Our sportswear has all the features you need to feel comfortable and workout in peace.
Our garments are made with the latest sportswear technology to ensure breathability, antibacterial properties to stave off odors, and sweat-wicking properties to keep you cool and comfortable while you workout.
We use fabric that is certified by OEKO-TEX, and is tested for harmful substances. We use environmentally-friendly treatments that are certified by the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency). Finally, we produce our activewear in ethical factories.
We do not compromise on the quality of the fabric for the sake of reducing our costs, and getting more profit. Actually, our sportswear is underpriced at this moment because we get the best fabrics while trying to maintain a retail price that is reasonable for our customers.
We are still testing the market, and may have to increase our prices to make the business more financially sustainable and have healthy margins. One thing that we can guarantee is that our garments endure the test of time. You can wash our garments over and over again, and they will still look new.
I can certainly testify to that! I’ve had mine for over a year and a half (I’ve used it indoors and outdoors regularly), and it looks as good as my new one! Which reminds me…when is your new line coming out?
We will be releasing new colors for our Performance Tech Top at the end of August, beginning of September, Inshallah. Due to the quarantine in Canada, we had to stall operations. All manufacturing stopped, but we got back to work at the beginning of the summer and we’re hoping to launch by the end of the season.
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
In 5-10 years, Dignitii would have grown to be a worldwide renown modest sportswear and athleisure brand, that carries stylish and functional activewear for most sports, ranging from gymwear, to swimwear, hiking, etc. We will carry a variety of sports hijabs that are specifically made for certain sports (gym, swim, soccer (group sports), boxing (high impact sports) etc.).
Dignitii will be the provider of sportswear to Muslim athletes worldwide, Inshallah. We will primarily operate as an online brand, and we will open warehouses in different parts of the world to provide low shipping costs and fast deliveries.
Your body is the vessel that allows you to do things in your life.
Dignitii will have hundreds of employees, all fairly paid, and will create an ethical work culture of excellence and obedience to God.
Dignitii will also become a source of fitness and wellness knowledge for women through Youtube, blogs, fitness conferences, events, and fitness programs.
Mashallah! That sounds amazing! You certainly have a clear vision, and that’s key to success! May Allah grant you all that and more! What’s the best advice you’d give our readers to encourage them to take charge of their health?
Your body is the vessel that allows you to do things in your life. If you do not take care of it, it will not perform well, and will limit your ability to create goodness in this world. As the Prophet (PBUH) said, ‘’A strong believer is better than a weak believer.’’
Amen to that! Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. We wish you all the best!
Ok, jazakillah khair!
If you’d like to check out Dignitii’s line of athleticwear, you can find them at www.dignitii.com. You may also stay updated on Khaoula’s activities on Instagram and Facebook, @dignitii and @khaoulaabt, or you can view her exercise and wellness videos on Youtube.