10 Jul 2020

A leap of faith

From Voices, 8:00 am on 10 July 2020

It was through discovering Islam that Veronika Edali found herself on a journey that eventually led her and husband Volkan to set up their business designing and selling "modest active wear" - a line of swim leggings, tunics, hoodies and of course, colourful, breathable sports hijabs. 

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Photo: Fit Generation Apparel

Veronika arrived in New Zealand as a 15-year-old international student from a small town in Russia, Koppeysk. Converting to Islam at the age of 18  was a result of her curiosity, research and digging into the faith - and meeting Volkan in highschool, originally from Turkey and Muslim himself.

Flooded with questions from Veronika, Volkan's own knowledge of this faith increased through their relationship. "As a teenager, there was only so much I knew about religion" he says. "We had lots of deep conversations. One day when she decided to convert, I was like - OK cool, if that's what you want to do..I wasn't expecting it."

At the time she was contemplating taking up Islam, Veronika lost her father back home in Russia. "I was looking for answers, I always had a lot of questions. And I found the answers I was looking for in Islam. It's been eight years and I haven't looked back." 

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Photo: Veronika Edali

The next turning point in her journey with the faith was three years later, when she decided to wear hijab in 2015.

"I asked myself, what are you waiting for? And so I took the next step.

"I was already dressing modestly but when I wore hijab, everything just got a little harder. I loved swimming, boogie-boarding. Going for a run, you get sweaty and hot in this turban that I wear..it's a lot of fabric and pins. I was getting very uncomfortable. I'm sure so many women are not able to live their lives fully, enjoy the beach, the outdoors. And we live in New Zealand!"

A transformative South Island road trip and a shared fitness programme later, the pair decided to take control over their time and health, and started putting together own start-up business - making fitness friendly, functional and modest active wear, including a hijab that stays on through even the most rigorous workout.

"I thought if I was struggling, I'm sure hundreds and thousands of other women were too, so let's go from there."

Veronika was a full time photographer and Volkan trained and worked as an aeronautical engineer before they both decided to start the active wear label. They plunged right in and took up handing their new venture full time.

"We've worked so hard to get here..blood, sweat and tears have all come in handy" says Veronika. 

Their fledgling business is now making steady sales and Veronika and Volkan have their eyes firmly set on growing their business further afield globally. Volkan says "that we can add value, get more people into a healthy lifestyle, and we can actually help solve a problem..a real problem out there, makes us so happy".