4 Questions With Mataano's Designers

Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim, the sisters behind the clothing line Mataano, talk race, economy and fashion icons.

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Somalian-American twin designers Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim, of the line Mataano, presented their Spring 2012 collection Sunday night at the Time Warner Center, offering a mix of tropical prints, vintage silhouettes and vibrant colors. Inspired by the 1960s and '70s, the call was for pleated, silk-chiffon multilayered skirts, washed silk, crepe de chine floral, dotted bandeau tops and print stretched-cotton rompers.

We stopped the duo before their show to hear more about their inspirations, their fashion icons and how the economy has affected their bottom line.

The Root: Tell me about your line this season. What was your inspiration? What can we look forward to?

Idyl Mohallim: Color. We have two different prints. Last spring it was very neutral, muted colors. This season, we wanted to go back to color. You'll see flowers and lots of vibrant tones.

Ayaan Mohallim: Our trip to St. Lucia over Christmas inspired our collection. We loved the flowers and the blooms, and we decided we were going to go in that direction for spring.

TR: There are always discussions of race and people of color in fashion. Have things gotten harder or easier? Is it still the same as it was years ago?

IM: I think it's a movement. People of color are like trends. They come in and go out. We try not to focus on that. Our whole mission is to cater to the multicultural woman. We appeal to women of all shades, and the clothes we make appeal to all women. We represent diversity, so we try not to worry about that.

TR: Who are your fashion icons? Which designers inspire you?

IM: Iman. We have so many. As designers, I personally love the higher-end, old-school designers, like Oscar de la Renta for his use of prints and embroidery, and I love Donna Karan for her use of jersey and how she pays attention to the body.

AM: I love the strong woman. Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera. In terms of women we admire for their fashion choices, we both love Michelle Obama, as well as Halle Berry and Zoe Saldana's sexy, glamorous Hollywood essence. They're all elegant and very classy. To be sexy, you don't have to wear tight or short clothes; you can be sexy and exude understated elegance.