Meet the Maker: Jomana Siddiqui By Carly McFadden

As seen in Holiday Shop 2024.

Jomana Siddiqui founded Pences Design Studio in 2003 as a custom stationery company. Sensing a growing need for products for underrepresented holidays, Siddiqui set out to create pieces for celebrations such as Ramadan and Eid without falling into cultural stereotypes.

In 2011, Siddiqui founded modernEID, answering the call for modern gift, home goods and partyware that creates new traditions for Muslim-American families. Her designs are celebratory, modern and stylish while avoiding stereotypical imagery often associated with Muslim holidays.

What is the mission of modern EID?

Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.
Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.

Our mission since 2011 has been to help create Ramadan/Eid traditions that were inclusive for people from all cultural backgrounds while avoiding cultural stereotypes. This initial motivation has now blossomed into a brand that celebrates the modern home and all celebrations — no matter the occasion.

We create with an ethical conscience. We think how and where products are made matters. We pride ourselves on making goods ethically and responsibly, using local suppliers and family-owned businesses as our production partners.

Our products are always our original designs — never a copy. We focus on emerging trends and products made using quality materials designed to last. We believe in quality over quantity, always.

How would you describe your design style and products?

I love studying emerging trends in the fashion and décor space and will often incorporate that into my designs. My style is modern and contemporary, with a hint of an upcoming trend.

Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.
Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.

When it came to designing for modernEID, I didn’t think everything made for the Muslim consumer necessarily needed to have a palm tree/camel/gilding on it to be relevant. Moreover, so many American Muslims are from such diverse cultures. And while my personal ethnic heritage is Lebanese, I strongly felt that it was limiting that Muslim products should only cater to those of Middle Eastern backgrounds or use stereotypical imagery — this excludes, for example, Asian, Latino and African cultures that are part of the same community. So I set out to make a product line that would not only offer modern design, but help create new traditions for American Muslims.

I love combining styles, taking something traditional and adding a modern spin to it.

What void do your products fill in the industry?

Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.
Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.

When we started in 2011, there were virtually no other American companies around that catered to the Eid market. Back then, it was a stark landscape as lack of products coupled with lack of inclusion in the retail space left American Muslims with little to no products for celebrating Ramadan and Eid.

As I set out to offer a solution for the communities these products were designed for, I also made it part of our mission to change the representation and awareness of American Muslims in the media and marketplace.

modernEID revolutionized the way Ramadan and Eid holidays were celebrated locally by bringing in modern décor ideas and providing products for an underrepresented group. As we gained traction in the marketplace and media attention after our first collaboration with a local Macy’s store, I have seen the landscape quickly change with many newer companies coming up.

Where does the representation of Ramadan and Eid stand currently in the retail industry? What can be done to broaden that representation, and what role do you hope your company plays in that?

Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.
Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.

With a history of battling lack of awareness and xenophobia, many American Muslims are accustomed to not being included in the retail space or have their holidays acknowledged positively in the media. While many first- and second-generation American Muslims have a storied ethnic background, our nationality is American and we have a unique perspective with our foot in two cultures. We have our own diverse culture, and I wanted modernEID products to reflect that and be a tool for those who are creating new Eid and Ramadan traditions for ourselves and generations to come.

It has always been a challenge to get American retailers to understand the growing need and large demographic being ignored around these holidays and communities. While many small companies struggle to get their products seen, I face the same struggle coupled with the added burden of educating retailers as to why these products are important. It has been a slow progress as the retail landscape has to change. It took eight years of selling direct to consumer online and working behind the scenes just to get our products into a store, with a pop-up experience in Macy’s. While modernEID has been the trailblazer in this niche industry, my biggest obstacle is getting in front of retail buyers.

Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.
Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.

I truly believe that the more retail buyers partner with experts in this industry to carry responsible products, the more the landscape will change. I envision modernEID as a guide for retailers to learn about the intricacies of these diverse cultures and as a collaborative partner on a product line, whether I produce it or not. The goal is to get sensibly designed products that defy cultural stereotypes, continuing the mission I set out to do years ago.

What’s something few people know about you?

Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.
Photo courtesy of Jomana Siddiqui.

While my current work is in the design industry, I actually studied neuroscience in college and was on my way to get my Ph.D. in Chicago. Various life circumstances led me to return to SoCal, and I fell into design as a hobby. I’m actually a self-taught graphic designer and product designer. While I embrace my creative side, it’s that science background in me that keeps me constantly learning and researching better ways to run my biz.

Carly McFadden

Carly McFadden is the editorial director of Gift Shop Plus, Stationery Trends and Lawn & Garden Retailer.

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