Unveil the captivating world of designers who are reaping the rewards of Muslim women’s fashion, as they embrace cultural diversity and seize lucrative opportunities. The apparel choices of Muslim women are intensely scrutinized, as regulations on clothing exist in Muslim-majority countries as well as the countries where Islam is a minority. France prohibits face coverings, banning the niqab, Iran, a theocratic government, and Saudi Arabia, a monarchy dependent on clerical support, require women to wear a hijab, a head covering, and an abaya, a long cloak, respectively. Only last year did Turkey partially relax a ban on female civil servants wearing headscarves that had been in place since Ataturk’s establishment of the modern secular state.
While the majority of Muslim women prefer to dress modestly in public, the desire to be fashionable has been on the rise, likely due to the relative youth and growing wealth of the Islamic world. A growing sense of religious identity has also contributed to the boost in modest fashion. The 1970s Islamic revival and the shared sense of persecution following the September 11th attacks led many Muslim women to express their beliefs through their clothing, as stated by Reina Lewis, an academic at the London College of Fashion and editor of “Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith.” Many argue that Islamic dress is more fitting for modern life than traditional attire in their respective countries, with Saudi professor Aziza Al-Yousef stating that the hijab helps women be appreciated for their intelligence rather than their appearance.
This has resulted in a distinct and rapidly growing subcategory of the fashion industry. Each season brings new designs of burkinis, head-to-foot swimsuits, and modest wedding dresses. YouTube videos demonstrate how to create a “beehive” hijab, a headscarf made taller by the addition of anything from a carton to a hairpiece. Magazines such as Egypt’s “Hijab Fashion” showcase luxurious abayas, and Iran boasts of local brands created by female designers.
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The Landscape of Muslim Women’s Fashion: Embracing Faith
The internet and the concept of a Muslim “umma” or global community, contribute to the creation of styles that have no borders. However, some trends do not gain popularity outside of their respective regions. For instance, Turkey’s craze for long denim coats has not caught on in neighboring Syria. The shopping malls in conservative Riyadh are brimming with abayas of varying shapes and sizes, often with leopard-print accents or zip-fronts inspired by sportswear. In cosmopolitan Jeddah, black abayas are accompanied by green and navy ones, often with unique accents.
Islamic fashion shows are held in Dubai, Jakarta, and Kuala Lumpur. Interest in this fashion is spreading beyond the Islamic world, with London, Paris, and America hosting their modest fashion events. Mainstream fashion styles are also influencing the industry. John Galliano’s couture collections and H&M, a popular high-street brand, have featured turbans and Middle East-inspired designs.
Luxury designers profit as high-end fashion designers from the Gulf increase. Waad Ali, a Qatari designer, noticed this trend after graduating from Doha University in 2010. Her clothes and abayas now cost $550. Gulf women, unable to afford such prices, still wear desired clothing under their abayas, like skinny jeans and slinky tops. Indonesia, Malaysia, and Turkey have fashionable chains catering to local Muslim preferences. Mainstream retailers, however, miss out on this attractive market, as noted by Ms. Lewis.
The debate over what Islam mandates for women’s clothing intertwines with fashion. Most Muslims interpret the Quran as describing the Prophet Muhammad’s wives covering their hair, but only a few see this as a requirement for all women. For the most conservative, the notion of Islamic fashion is unacceptable.
Some imams criticize women wearing skinny jeans or excessive make-up, even with a hijab, as these garments draw attention. Others believe attractive clothing can dispel the misconception of Muslim women’s oppression, as they see beauty as Allah’s creation.
Islamic fashion is a fast-growing segment of the industry. Muslim women want to express their faith and be fashionable. Modest fashion has gained popularity worldwide. Designers and retailers cater to local Muslim tastes. However, a debate remains over Islamic clothing requirements. Some see it as contradictory to modesty upheld by Muslim women.
Nonetheless, the rise of Islamic fashion represents an attractive market that mainstream fashion retailers are beginning to notice. Experience the transformative power of fashion. Marvel at the remarkable success of designers in Muslim women’s fashion. They have tapped into a rich tapestry, shaping a thriving industry. This industry celebrates diversity and empowers women globally.
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