For many Muslim women, being modest does not exclude being fashionable. The launch of DKNY’s new Ramadan collection shows that retailers have started to take notice, tapping into this market of nearly half a billion women. The clothes, which have been dubbed “effortlessly chic” by Muslim fashion bloggers, showcase gorgeous fabrics, intricate designs and stitching in all the right places.
The style is all about layering long loose fabrics and mixing a variety of textures to compliment a woman’s figure–but without showing it off. Created by designers Tamara al Gabbani and Yalda Golsharifi, the line will only be available in the Middle East for now, but as global demand grows for Islamic fashion, it’s only a matter of time before it makes its way into western stores.
The popularity of chic but modest fashion has been a cornerstone of Muslimahs (a term for female Muslims) for some time now. However, Muslim fashion blogs are also catching on with certain members of the Christian and Jewish community, who also advocate for modesty. Muslim photo shoots, dedicated to hip yet conservative fashion looks have garnered huge followings on Pintrest and Tumblr, showing women can be fashionable, fierce and still respect their religion. DKNY’s foray into this world shows that inclusive treatment of all their clients is not only a smart business practice, but one that can translate to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
To see where DKNY’s inspiration comes from, we can take a look at popular Muslim-wear websites. Mainstays such as Hijab Look, exhibits inspiring fashions from Muslim women around the globe. Pictures reveal how mixing fabrics, long skirts, streamlined designs and delicately placed scarves can actually accentuate a woman’s best features, while still keeping bare skin at a minimum.
Hijabs, or headscarves are considered an intrinsic part of Muslim femininity by many. A wearable commitment to their religion, similar to that of a nun’s habit, they have also undergone a radical style revamp in recent years. A quick trip through any Middle Eastern market shows hundreds of styles, cuts, patterns and fabrics, all defining a different look. Some women gravitate towards long loose hijabs, wrapped around their head in layers resembling a waterfall. Others prefer a tightly woven turban-style headscarf that can show off their earrings.
Like women from almost every culture on earth, Muslim women see their fashion choices as intrinsically linked to expressing their identity. Although some might look towards Saudi Arabia and conclude that all women wear indistinguishable black garments, the truth is that is far from the case. In places where the black abaya (long loose dress) is cultural de rigueur it’s common to find women luxuriating in flowing custom creations.
Butterfly style silhouettes, where the sleeves are attached with lace or beading to the body of the dress, are incredibly popular on the Arabian Peninsula. Soft fabrics, needle work, sheer combinations of patterned fabric, diamantes, and splashes of patterned color are often woven into the various styles. These are often topped off with headscarves stamped by Louis Vuitton and Chanel, held in place by diamond studded hijab-pins.
In fact, fashion shows across the Arab world have become a popular way for regionally based designers to sell some of their best works. Unlike western fashion shows, where very few regular women can pull off runway looks, Muslim fashion highlights designs which are far more accessible, and worn on a day-to-day basis.
American pundits such as Bill Maher have made it a point to criticize Muslim fashion shows, parodying them in his ‘Fall Fundamentalist Fashion Show’ which paraded white models around in high-cut abayas and bare feet. Apparently Maher forgot that if satire lacks a subversive nature, it can easily resemble bullying. It would have been far more appropriate to mock the leaders who impose Islamic dress, rather than the women who are making the best out of strict government control, but maybe he was just having an ‘off’ day.
Yet regardless of pseudo-liberal criticisms, deriding how millions of women choose to dress and express themselves, it’s impossible to deny Muslim women have a distinct and important role in modern fashion.
As Wiwid Howat, a Sydney fashion blogger puts it, “I don’t think Islam and fashion are mutually exclusive, it just comes down to how you define fashion. Wearing hijab and still being able to style it is very liberating. I love to mix and match different types of clothing as long as it’s still modest and stylish at the same time.”
DKNY has caught on, and is using comprehensive fashion designs to suit the needs of a widely distributed, international fashion line. Its likely more fashion houses will soon follow suit, bringing a distinctively modern, but modest brand of clothing to Muslimah’s around the globe.
Photo Credit: DKNY