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Activewear allows Muslim women and girls to hit the court

Swatches | February 1, 2024 | By:

Kalsoni founder Muna Mohamed with her activewear collection at an REI store in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. She also sells at pop-up events and through the company’s website. The business’s name comes from the Somali word for “confidence.” Image: Kalsoni

FOMO at school can come in so many forms, but with culturally appropriate activewear by Kalsoni, Muslim girls no longer have to be stuck on the literal sidelines, unable to play sports because of the tailoring of the team uniforms and the athletes’ need to wear the hijab in public.

The business is the brainchild of Muna Mohamed of Minneapolis, Minn. While she was an undergrad at Augsburg University, she worked on a project to design uniforms for Muslim girls in a community basketball program. As a University of Minnesota kinesiology graduate student preparing to become a physical therapist, she participated in a two-year community project to promote healthy, active living among East African women and girls. As a part of the latter project, the group members designed modest activewear and learned to sew a gym bag for it. An avid basketball fan and athlete, she could identify with the issue of needing just the right gear that allowed her to stay true to her faith practices on appropriate dress in public.

A love of playing basketball while growing up—and struggles keeping her hijab in place while playing—were experiences that Muna Mohamed could draw on when working out the designs that became Kalsoni activewear. Her basketball connections, through playing and coaching, also provided her with willing models for the company’s activewear, seen throughout these images. 

“As a girl navigating my way through sports, figuring out what to wear was a continuous balancing act between comfort and authenticity,” she says. “Unlike my peers who could simply focus on playing the game, I often grappled with the challenge of finding sports attire that respected my cultural and religious values.”

Fast-forward a few years, and Kalsoni is answering that need. The company products feature tunics and head coverings in styles that provide the desired modesty—and hold up to the chlorine in a swimming pool. The fabric is stretchy enough for athletic activity, yet the designs provide the coverage that Muslim women and girls require while allowing freedom of movement. And the hijabs won’t fall off as a player leaps up for that game-winning layup. 

The Lady Warriors’ uniforms were developed for a team from the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minn., during Mohamed’s undergraduate studies, created with the help of the University of Minnesota School of Design.

During the prototyping phase of her products, Mohamed participated in the MN Cup, a competition for startups looking for funding. She also took part in business incubator programs such as those by Target and REI, aiding her with insights into logistics and business mentorship.

“The programs also offered valuable knowledge on pitching, branding and storytelling, venture capital, and so much more,” she says. “As someone without a business background, these incubators laid a crucial foundation, offering insights into early stage business development … . And most of all, being part of these programs made me feel seen and heard in the business space.”

Kalsoni sport shawls are made from four-way stretch fabric left over from the tunic tops and have an inner headband and tieback feature to ensure they stay secure. Images: Kalsoni

The company sells its activewear in Minnesota REI locations, on its own website and at pop-up events, and it supports charitable organizations such as Girls on the Run Minnesota to provide hijabs to female participants.

“[The company is] more than just offering activewear,” Mohamed says. “It’s about fostering confidence and empowerment among girls and women, allowing them to participate in sports without compromising their comfort or their beliefs.”

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