Mushky Notik (left) and Mimi Hecht (right) created Mimu Maxi
Together, sisters-in-law Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik run Mimu Maxi, a fashion label the creates clothes that are both modest and chic. The women, members of the Crown Heights Hasidic community, came up with idea for the company when struggling to find something stylish to wear for themselves.
Since opening two years ago, the business has found a customer based in not just other tznius women, but also Muslims and Christians who are looking for a more fashionable way to live a traditional lifestyle. Everything was moving smoothly until last week when a collaboration involving a lime-green maxi-skirt with a hijab-wearing Muslim style-blogger ignited a firestorm on their Facebook page. The Sisterhood’s Elissa Strauss spoke to Hecht about what happened and how fashion can be a great uniter during a time when many feel more divided than ever.
Elissa Strauss: Okay, first tell me a little bit about what you do.
Mimi Hecht: Mushky and I started designing two summers ago when, instead of bemoaning the trials and tribulations of trying to find modest, trendy pieces, we took matters into our own hands. We share a very similar aesthetic for oversized, comfortable menswear and pieces that are easy to “live in.” We don’t have an ideal customer — we just love seeing how so many women of so many backgrounds have embraced what we’re doing. If there was a “favorite” customer, it would be the ones that tell us “I started dressing modestly because of you, thank you for making it easier!”
And then one day you decided to collaborate with a Muslim fashion blogger. How did that come to be?
We had been following Summer’s Hipster Hijabis] instagram account for a very long time, much like we connect and support all other modest-fashion bloggers. We decided to send her a skirt about a month ago, for her to style and share with her followers. Mushky and I love the way a lot of Muslim women today dress and we were excited to see how our skirts would be incorporated into their sense of style. Summer never hesitated to support a Jewish business and was an absolute gem to work with. We are in touch and may meet one day soon!
You reposted the picture of Hipster Hijabis on your Facebook and Instagram accounts, and not everyone was pleased, to say the least. The decision was called “insensitive” and even “appalling”.
A lot of our Jewish followers felt that it was insensitive of us to promote a Muslim blogger when Israel is at war. We ourselves understand the visceral reaction, but there is a problem when we can’t come together to celebrate shared values in peace, yes even when tensions are running high. Of course, we didn’t plan this timing. We posted our photo when Summer posted hers, as we had agreed to do. But we’re very proud we did. In times of darkness, we need to embrace opportunities to unite peacefully! But while many of our followers had a negative reaction, the majority of people are so supportive and found this to be a beautiful collaboration! We had Jewish women writing to us telling us that they were in Israel in bomb shelters with Muslims and thanking us for highlighting our similarities.
Your response was eloquent and extremely thoughtful.
And this is what Jews do: promote Mitzvot. We support and embrace and propagate values that are good and right, for ALL people, irrelevant of any circumstances between us. We cannot adopt the unequivocal mode of hate our enemies have fashioned for us. Rabbi Friedman reminded us of all this, emphasizing these JEWISH values and supported us in being unapologetic in responding to our Jewish followers who reacted so hatefully.
Mushky and I are happy and proud to have “hosted” this blogger on our page, yes at this exact time, and we stand by this decision 100%. Summer is a modest fashion blogger from Missouri who shares some of our deepest values and did not deserve the ensuing response simply by collaborating with us on a beautiful shared cause that we are ALL meant to embrace…more than ever…especially now.
Was it hard to write? And did it quiet your critics?
It was only hard to write our response in that any time you stand for something you bear the brunt of those that disagree. But in standing firm, we galvanized an army of support and were reminded of the Jewish communities openness and readiness to connect with Muslims today. We are Chabad women, and our Rebbe always reminded people that no matter what inherent differences and what there is to disagree on, there must be an area, a way that we can work together and highlight our mutual values. Our collaboration with Summer, yes all the more so during tense times between Jews and Muslims, is a beautiful example of this and we are very proud we were chosen to bridge this gap.
This gets me thinking — yesterday some Jews and Muslims ended their fasts together in an effort towards peace and understanding. Seems like maybe that could be achieved through shopping together too. Not to minimize religious practice or politics or anything, but there does appear to be some potential here. What do you think?
Absolutely. Fashion is a very benign way to connect and maybe it’s the perfect neutral territory to work with other religions to embrace our shared values. Just reading the beautiful comments from Jews and Muslims on our social media is so inspiring, so telling. And so new, isn’t it?
Lastly, please tell me more about the Skirt Leggings listed on your website. I am very intrigued!
Our Skirt Leggings are named to convey the ease and comfort and versatility of our top selling skirt, which is a stretchy maxi that is beyond comfortable! As Jewish women, we only wear dresses and skirts, so the idea to have a skirt that serves as a comfy basic, much like leggings, is very novel. To quote our customers all over the world, “I LIVE in it!” You have to try it to truly get it :)
Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.
Can a Maxi Skirt Bridge Cultural Divide?