Black Orchid: Representation Matters
Shahad Mahdi, founder of Black Orchid, is on a mission to remove the stigma of Islamophobia
Black orchids are beautifully unique. The colour and characteristics of this rare flower are said to represent respect, admiration and dignity – much like Shahad Mahdi’s brand, which aims to empower Muslim women within the fashion industry.
Mahdi was in her second year of retail management at Ryerson University when the idea of this pop culture-inspired brand came to mind. “I saw a need for positive representation for Muslim and ethnic women, something that reflects that they can be cool, cute, and strong despite what the media usually portrays,” she said.
Determined to make her idea come to life, Mahdi launched Black Orchid in 2016. The versatile brand offers everything from sweatshirts, phone cases, pouches and accessories – each having fun and admirable graphics of women proudly wearing their hijabs.
Mahdi decided to make Instagram the primary platform for her brand to showcase her designs through artistic visuals. “I think it’s amazing that someone can make an Instagram account and create a community out of it.” she said. “Any entrepreneur who is trying to showcase their work should take advantage of whatever social media platform works with their brand.”
Black Orchid has over 16,000 Instagram followers, but it didn’t happen overnight. Much like any entrepreneur, Mahdi faced some obstacles.
When she first started her brand, she decided to pitch it to the Fashion Zone incubator at Ryerson University. Her idea was shot down, but that didn’t stop her. Mahdi realized that she needed to build an image for her brand in order to be taken seriously. Six months later, Black Orchid started to gain more recognition. Mahdi attended an event where she met the founder of the Fashion Zone and was asked to join the team.
After telling this story, Mahdi stressed that “the biggest way of proving yourself is to show the world that you are overcoming any obstacles that are in your way because that is evidence that you are willing to do whatever it takes to grow your business.”
Women all over the world have been rocking their Black Orchid gear
and posting it on social media.
Mahdi says: “I feel the love, this is what keeps me going. I am lucky to be surrounded by such amazing and strong women that always support me. I think women supporting women is the best thing we can do.”
Her journey is far from over. Mahdi plans to collaborate with more designers to create new products that represent all types of women. “What inspires me to keep going is young women to look at my work and feel like they actually belong and they’re actually being represented,” Mahdi said.
“My main purpose was positive representation and I feel I am reaching my goal more when I see how people share and respond to the brand.”