Behind the Scenes: The Design Behind Oola Sportswear
By Oola Sports   ·    September 26, 2016    ·    Behind the Scenes, Design

Oola Sportswear was born out of a need for loose-fitting, performance-driven, modest activewear. Friends Haya Al Ghanim and Amina Ahmadi bonded while training for a Mount Kilimanjaro hike over the difficult time they both had finding sports hijabs with flair and performance garments that not only met their hiking needs, but also aligned with their values.

At the end of the Kilimanjaro hike, the two women ended up going back home to Doha, Qatar to found Oola — for the first time ever, they melded athletic fabrics with modest styles, without compromising on either.

A Common Problem for Modest Women

Most women’s sportswear is too tight, too short, too low-cut, or built in short-sleeved-only options. For women who value modesty out of personal values or practicing religion — such as those of the Islamic, Orthodox Judaic or Coptic Christian faiths — finding athletic wear that performs and comes in desired styles is a tiring hunt.

Good activewear, depending on the sport, is quick-drying, breathable, and/or water-repellent. Coming across attire that is all three and enables a woman to stay covered fashionably in comfort is all too uncommon.

Experiencing this struggle themselves is how the Mount Kilimanjaro trip inspired Haya and Amina to design activewear that has all of the above. “While we were training for Kilimanjaro, we really wanted to train outside, but we were really struggling to find something to wear that was appropriate for training outdoors,” says co-founder Amina. “We knew at that point that we wanted to do something about it, but it was the experience of Kili itself that brought Oola to life. We made up our mind that we were going to go back home and do something about it.”

Designed for Athletic Performance and Modest Style

Oola Sports Hijab Tube Scarf

With their past issues finding sportswear, Oola’s team created a line of comfortable, functional, stylish modest sportswear that hits every need co-founders Haya Al Ghanim and Amina had while prior to a Mount Kilimanjaro hike, where the idea for Oola was born. The line includes three head covers (toque, tube scarf, and scarf) for maximum flexibility in styling and usage, and also includes multiple tops, pants, and jackets in various colors. [Tube scarf pictured above.]

A few design elements that make Oola sports head covers and hijabs unique from other options on the market include the following features:

  • Breathable, moisture-absorbent athletic fabrics keep you comfortable in the action
  • Snaps on the toque enable usage of both the tube scarf and scarf (no more difficult pins!)
  • Soft, stretchy, wrinkle-free fabric enables easy use and garment care
  • Toque depth and shape is designed for full coverage of hair and ears
  • Ribbed stretch bands enable maximum stability while also enabling adjustability

“We use modern sportswear fabrics in loose-fitting, modest activewear,” says Oola Co-founder and Product Development Director Amina Ahmadi. She and co-founder Haya had plenty of time to discuss their dream sportswear pieces while hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, where the idea for the company began. When they got back home after the trip, they brought their ideas and passion to designer Lilian Gabriel Barbosa, a friend who later became the third co-founder and added a level of design expertise and talent to round out the founding team.

“It’s the perfect match,” says Ahmadi. “Haya and I sketch up our dream garments, and then Lilian [who is from Brazil and doesn’t wear head covers or related attire] sketches multiple options to address our needs. Having her fresh eye on the matter, without preconceived ideas of what a hijab is, for example, is an added pro.”

Ultimate Variety and Flexibility

Oola Sportswear Sports Hijab Activewear

Every woman is different. Her activewear should be, too. That’s why Oola’s tops and pants are versatile, while offering the coverage many women seek. Oola head covers, though, are where the magic happens. With a toque, tube scarf, and scarf, the combinations are vast.

“We offer choice through our different head pieces and combinations,” says co-founder Amina Ahmadi. “All three, too, stay in place due to the design, shape, materials, and snaps!”

The various head covers are designed to meet different tastes, preferences, and activity requirements. The toque alone, for example, could be suitable for a woman who is looking for minimal coverage — the toque, too, is suitable for any activity. It fully covers the ears and is deep enough to tuck all of one’s hair into, without needing to use a hair tie.

Oola runners jogging in Oxygen Park

The tube scarf, another option, is very light and easy to put on — it slides over the head and snaps to the toque for added elegance and coverage. The combination of toque and tube scarf is ideal for running, crossfit, and other intense activities.

Finally, the scarf offers an option sought by ladies looking for a more traditional look. It’s elegant and flowing in design, but uses lightweight, breathable, and moisture-absorbent material. Current scarves on the market, pins and all, tend to fall off the head pretty often, unless the fabric offers good friction. Oola scarves, though, snap to the toque, which makes them stay in place for as long as a woman can run, cycle, skip, or punch! We also offer edge snaps at the end of the scarf, to offer flexibility in style, typically matched with the intensity level of the sport or activity. (Stay tuned for some tutorials on the many ways to wear the scarf!)

Many early testers have told us that Oola gear feels so great on that it not only makes sense for working out, but it’d also be great for traveling. We’re looking forward to seeing it used in many cases. We’re just glad we’re able to bring a much-needed line to market!

Getting to a Prototype

Selecting Oola fabrics in GermanyThe Oola team did extensive research and visited many factories to choose the best manufacturer for the job. The research began with trade fairs, which took place all across the world. From Germany and the UK to multiple stops in Asia, Oola’s co-founders made multiple samples at various factories across the globe, testing material from different suppliers.

The first Oola collection is being manufactured in Taiwan. Quality, timeline, and availability all played a factor in booking the ultimate producer.

The products, after multiple samples and adjustments, are now very close to coming to market! Oola will be announcing the full line launch on October 9th, and we’ve got a lot of exciting updates to share with our community, those who have been with us on this journey the past 16 months and those who are just joining now. It was January 2015 when we got back from Mount Kilimanjaro and June when we officially incorporated. This month, we’re finally bringing our products to market!

“Our goal is to grow the brand to be the first option women think of for loose-fitting activewear and sports hijabs,” says co-founder Haya. “We love the outdoors. We want to be comfortable while we exercise. And we want our friends to be able to join, too. Plus, I believe when women experience outdoor activities, they’re more likely to influence and encourage their children to be active. In founding Oola, we can be part of creating a healthy lifestyle for the next generation.”