(l-r) Designers Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim with models wearing clothes by Mataano.
Born in Alabama but raised in Somalia, Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim -- the founders and identical twins behind the label Mataano -- returned to the U.S. at age nine as civil war erupted back home. Living just outside Washington, D.C., in Northern Virginia, the twins turned to fashion as a way of understanding their new surroundings. "We didn't speak any English, but our mother would buy us fashion magazines," Idyl remembers. "Although we couldn't read them, fashion is a language that everyone understands. We fell in love, and that was it."
African roots with simple American sportswear. Their Spring 2013 collection features breezy silks and organzas in summery, L.A.-inspired beach hues. "We love using color and silk, which is very Somali, in clean, feminine silhouettes," Ayaan explains. "We're designing for a multicultural woman who's strong and doing her own thing -- just like us."
As first-generation Americans, their family pushed them toward "serious paths at serious universities" -- but the twins had their eyes set on fashion and they moved to New York after school. Within days of arriving in the city, Idyl landed an internship with Betsey Johnson and Ayaan got a production job at Jill Stuart. They came together to launch Mataano in 2008.
Their easy-chic clothes quickly landed them an appearance on Oprah and invitations to show in South Africa, Sweden, Jamaica and at New York Fashion Week. Last spring supermodel Iman signed the twins as brand ambassadors for her cosmetics line.
"This is the BeyoncÃ© age," Ayaan says. "We want to be successful and empower women to do the same. It's time for women to rule the world."
Mataano is available at mataano.com
Photographed by Bill Durgin, assisted by Taro Hashimura at Factory Studios
Makeup: Valente Frazier / Hair: Malcolm Curtis Goldie for Bumble & Bumble / Models: (l-r) Fatima at NY Models, Katya at Women Direct, Maylan at Major Model Management and Vika at Muse.