Juma’s Designers, Alia and Jamil Juma, Want to See More Men in Harem Pants


Juma's Alia and Jamil are more than just design partners. They're siblings (Juma is their last name, which means Friday in Arabic). And as such, they share everything, including their five-year-old Toronto-based ready-to-wear label and their closets. "My brother and I have always shared clothes," Alia, 29, explains. "I wear my brother's jeans and he wears mine. So we incorporate that into our line." Jamil, 31, owns up to his cross-dressing. "Sometimes I go into her closet if I'm not feeling anything that I have," he says. "These days, people are doing that a lot more. There is a whole theme of androgyny going on and it's okay. It's normal." The Juma look embodies androgyny with loose cardigans, pants, skirts, and tops that fit both men and women in a palette of neutral nudes, soft grays, and black, while their dominant use of soft jersey fabrics translates into comfort. Alia, who spearheads the creative side of the company, refuses to pinpoint specific muses for fall and spring, rather saying that inspiration stems from fusing east with west to remain in a constant evolution of mixing silhouettes, cultures, and blurring genders, which is her goal. "I don't think men have to dress masculine, and women don't have to be ultrafemme," she says of her designs, which have evolved from street goth into a mix of dark, sporty, and contemporary (she got her start by creating avant-garde pieces for drag performers). "You can still be strong and powerful any way you dress. Juma is for young, professional people who don't want to fit into a mold. It's time to break out of molds." The proof is in the sales. Jamil, a former engineer who handles the business side of the company, says that the unisex kurta drop-crotch harem pants are the label's biggest seller. "We've been showing those pants since 2005 and the first time we showed it to buyers they laughed at us," Jamil told us. "And now it's all over the place and people are coming to us for them." The demand was so high that they had to create several variations — dressy, men's, women's, jumper-style — just to keep up. This weekend, the Canadian duo leaves for Hong Kong, China, and Bali to live for two months to seek out inspiration and fabrics, with hopes to move their business to New York within months of their return to North America. Together, of course. "We feed off each other," Jamil says. "There is trust there," Alia agrees. "There are no formalities. It's perfect." Juma is available at Oak, Cry Wolf, and the label's online store. Click ahead to see what's available this fall, and what you can look forward to for spring.