Time to look beyond the veil as a modest fashion trend among Muslim ladies.
People often talk about the Westernisation of fashion in their respective cultures but quite often they tend to ignore the Eastern influences that play quite an interesting role in dressing up a sizeable chunk of the world population. As the First lady of Pakistan – Bushra Imran – is making news headlines for her choice of attire during public outings, the world press is still trying to uncover the message she’s trying to send across via her burqa looks. Although half of the world still can’t differentiate between a hijab, a burqa, and an abaya, Bushra Bibi’s choice of clothing has initiated a conversation around Muslim fashion and haute couture trends in 2018.
When it comes to modest fashion, one can look at the way many Muslim ladies have always chosen their traditional attire to exhibit their religious sentiments. While some might disagree and call it a sign of oppression and restriction, some choose to stay covered top-to-toe willingly. Recently, when Sara Iftekhar, a 20-year-old hijab-wearing Muslim woman was short-listed to compete at the Miss England finals, she was quoted saying, “Everyone is beautiful in their own way, regardless of weight, race, colour or shape.” Which brings us to the subject of acceptance of traditional garments from the East and Middle-East in the global fashion industry, since Western fashion media still regards these age-old silhouettes as “conservative”.
Interestingly, accordingly to fashion experts, Muslim fashion has been evolving slowly and if you look closely there is a lot that has changed over the years. Underneath the traditional abaya one can find a modern woman, who knows what she wants and is ready to take on more challenging roles keeping her faith and fashion together.
Designer Charu Parashar points out, “Muslim women are leading a modest fashion revolution worldwide, and are embracing modern trends with changing times. Most Indian Muslim women in the small towns are still very traditional as far, but the Western mindset has certainly influenced the urban population. As far as Indian designers are concerned, labels like J J Valaya, Tarun Tahiliani, Charu Parashar, Manish Malhotra etc. have created a huge fan following in the UAE and Middle-East markets. In recent years, Western brands such as DKNY, Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger, Mango have also launched special editions to cater to the Muslim fashion aficionados.”
While it’s a huge opportunity for designers to cater to this untapped market segment, Parashar emphasises on her personal creations for the Muslim market and adds, “We have a huge demand for kaftan and abayas for the UAE market. We understand the style sensitivity and creativity of the ladies, who are yet come out of the closet to enjoy all forms of fashion. When talking about trends, I feel the colour black is traditional and evergreen, but women are also opting for printed, jewel-toned colour palette and even encrusted precious gems on their abayas. As lace is less prominent and opaque fabrics are more in demand, women are looking at more sleek silhouettes to replace the older versions.”
Whereas, designer Zenab Alam, who found a label in 2015 to cater to UAE market exclusively, believes that there is a huge potential in the niche luxury abaya market in India as well. She says, “India with a Muslim population of 172 million is catching up with the trends. However, there is a “clash” between contemporary trends and conventional religious modesty in India, but the newage fashion-conscious Muslim women are making different sartorial choices. Abbayas are now being featured on international runways and now being transformed from a utilitarian garment to a style statement symbolising grace, elegance, and charm. Modest clothing has been on the rise in recent years regardless of religious beliefs. Gone are the days of the plain, voluminous, uniform black robe; today, there is a major transformation that has taken place in abaya trends from cuts to luxe fabrics to colours. These new trends have made the silhouette more popular, and the demand for asymmetric cuts and luxury fabrics has gone up considerably in past few years.”
With the rise of social media influencers in this segment, the idea of wearing hijab and abaya styled with beautiful accessories is now appealing to a lot of young Muslim women. Parashar mentions that some Muslim bloggers have even taken a step ahead and collaborated to create collections for international fashion houses. She says, “Hana Tajima, a British creative blogger collaborated with Uniqlo and launched her hijab line in 2015 in Asia and later in 2016 in the USA. While, British designer and blogger Dina Torkia, takes her role of a trendsetter quite seriously and creates new styles every day. Designer Iman Aldebe is not only designing but also making an effort to change the image of Muslim women. Her famous turban line is being displayed exclusively from Paris to New York. While Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan recently had an amazing show at the New York Fashion Week showcasing her hijab and abaya line.”
As designers in India are blending fashion, faith, and creativity to carve a niche, it’s high time that the naysayers take notice of this burgeoning market and drop the veil of ignorance to keep up with time.