Melih (33) has a goal: “We communicate Islam in a language young people can understand, without sacrificing our values in the process.” The shirts in his shop, StyleIslam, focus on the Muslim faith – not in the way you would find in brochures, but with style and character from the point of view of a designer who has taken a good look at the graffiti in his city. A portion of the online sales from his shop is donated to AIDS orphans in Africa. Our interview with Melih:
Where do you live?
I live in Witten, Germany, right in the middle of the Ruhr area.
What do you do other than t-shirts?
I work as the art director for my own agency, Malblock.
How long have you had the shop?
The shop has been online for just about 2 years. We launched in 2007 during Ramadan.
What do you do to market your shop?
We are very active in the Muslim community. We have collaborations with various youth groups, relief organizations etc. We also try to reach our target group using the classical marketing channels.
You donate a portion of the sales from your shop. Where do these proceeds go?
For every article sold, we donate 1 euro to the AIDS orphans project in Burundi, which is an initiative of the non-profit agency Muslime Helfen e.V. We support an orphanage there where the children are cared for around the clock. We donate the all proceeds collected for campaigns like GAZA NOW.
What do you like about Spreadshirt and what could we improve upon?
I like the fact that Spreadshirt allows people outside of Germany to order from the shop. The speed of production and shipping is also remarkable.
Who creates the designs? Which programs do you use for designing?
Until the end of 2008, I designed about 90% of the designs. Since the beginning of this year, I have been working with an Arabic graffiti artist from Stuttgart. This cooperation has led to the symbiosis of Arabic calligraphy and Latin fonts. The designs are partly created by hand and partly using Illustrator.
Your shop connects “message” and designs. How would you briefly describe the motivation behind your shop?
The motivation was to reduce prejudices about Islam in an unconventional way. Our customers can go out in public with StyleIslam messages across their chests and they often find the opportunity to speak with curious passersby about the designs. And since communication is the best antidote to prejudice, I really think that StyleIslam offers something which helps build bridges.
Which books or films provide a good insight into the Islamic culture?
A few of my recommendations would be:
- The Road to Mecca – by Georg Misch (only available at Amazon.de – English dubbing and subtitles available)
- The Message with Anthony Quinn
You recently organized a Muslim comedy contest together with the platform Waymo. Were you satisfied with the results?
I admit we had bigger expectations. However, you really have to take into account that the topics religion and comedy are a very difficult combination. Nevertheless, the top three contestants proved that creative results are still possible. We are glad to have started this project for the fact that it will lead to similar or even completely different projects in the future.