DOUBLE DOSE OF STYLE
Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim are generating major buzz with their womenâ€™s clothing line, Mataano. And the success is that much sweeter given their backstory: The Somali-born twins lived in their home country until age 9 before fleeing with their family to escape an escalating civil war. They settled in northern Virginia, a place that, according to Ayaan, was â€œfar away from anything remotely fashionable.â€
Since moving to New York in 2003, the two have earned their stripes in the clothing industry: Ayaan did stints at Jill Stuart and TSE, while Idyl cut her teeth at Betsey Johnson and served as an assistant fashion editor for BlackBook. But by last November, they became their own bosses and jump- started Mataano (which means â€œtwinsâ€ in Somali). Their inaugural line featured ultrafeminine spring dresses, while the Fall 2009 collection includes modern pieces infused with 1920s flair.
THE OPRAH EFFECT
A few weeks after launching their brand, the women appeared on Oprah, where they received business advice from Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. â€œWhen people hear that [we were on the show], it gives us instant credibility,â€ Idyl says. â€œIt has definitely opened a lot of doors.â€
THEYâ€™VE GOT THE LOOK
No phantom CEOs here; the twins sketch and select the fabrics for all of Mataanoâ€™s frocks. Idyl describes their collection as â€œsimple, yet elegant dresses that are well made and designed to flatter a range of shapes.â€ The inspi- ration for the clothes comes from the rich colors of Somalia and the myriad sil- houettes of American designâ€”essentially an embrace of the twinsâ€™ cultural heritages. The sisters want the brand to become a household name. â€œWeâ€™ve been pleased with everyoneâ€™s reaction, and we intend to deliver on those expectations,â€ Idyl adds.â€œWeâ€™re cautiously optimistic.â€