Istanbul:- Recently, Istanbul witnessed some thing which was unthinkable some twenty years ago. Fashion designers from across the globe attended a modest Muslim fashion show in the town where the models showed Islamic dresses only. Tureky`s growing conservative elites participated in the show.
The models appeared on the stage while covered from head to toe. A woman sashays on to the stage, immaculately preened, swathed in green silk. From her head to her stilettoa ed feet, little flesh is on the display.
“I like to keep my outfits simple and then use accessories,” she says, showing off her gold bangles.
The audience of women in designer sunglasses, jewels and headscarves snap photos on their mobile phones.
This is a showcase of “modest” haute couture aimed at Turkey’s growing conservative Muslim elite, and the first event of its kind in a country that has long clung to its secularist foundations.
“Turkey was a nation of primarily pious, conservative Muslims ruled by a secular elite minority,” Jenny White of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies said. “Now pious Muslims have gained power and wealth and are confidently pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a Muslim.
“For the first time in (the Turkish republic’s) history, Islamic dress is associated with upward mobility.”
Designers from Indonesia to Azerbaijan have converged on Istanbul for International Modest Fashion Week. The setting is the Ottoman splendour of Haydarpasa railway station, the westernmost terminal of the line that once took the faithful to Mecca.
In the Islamic fashion industry, Turkey is a big business, the world’s largest consumer of Islam-friendly clothing with a market worth $34 billion a year.
“Most of our customers come from Turkey,” said Ulviya Hassan, who set up Hijab Queen in Azerbaijan with her cousin Farida Efendiyeva. “There are a growing number of women wearing the hijab in Azerbaijan, but the number is small. We set up business out of necessity: my cousin started covering her head and couldn’t find anything fashionable.”
About 45 per cent of Turkish women wear the headscarf, but the issue has long been a flashpoint between secularists and conservatives in the country.
For almost 90 years, covered women were banned from entering universities or working in public offices, according to rules set by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the republic and architect of its secular constitution.
When the ruling AKP, a party founded on conservative Islamic principles, lifted the ban in 2013 secularists were outraged, seeing it as a betrayal of Ataturk’s legacy.
As events like Modest Fashion Week show, Turkey’s conservatives can no longer be pushed to the margins.
Across town, another high-society event took place at the weekend: the wedding of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s daughter Sumeyye to Selcuk Bayraktar. It was less a family event than a showcase of Turkey’s growing influence across the Islamic world. Guests included Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri. The bride wore white silk and rhinestones from head to ankles. It was a scene unthinkable 20 years ago.
“In the 1990s if you were a devout Muslim in Turkey and wanted to be stylish as well you had to get a tailor,” Professor White said. But, these days, you can get any dress of your choice almost instantly via online stores or offline fashion boutiques spread all over the country.
“Modest Fashion Week shows the self-confidence and creativity of the industry and the women it dresses. Elite Muslim fashion is a billboard for the AKP’s success.”