A Makeover for the Hijab, via Instagram: Muslim Women Add Personal Style to a Traditional Garment

August 17, 2014

A few years ago, Ascia Sarrha tracked the fashion blogosphere with frustration. As a Muslim woman who wears a head scarf, known as a hijab, she rarely saw someone who looked like her. A fashion enthusiast from a conservative culture, she decided one answer was to create a blog of her own.

Today Ms. Sarrha, now 24, has close to 900,000 followers on her Instagram feed, ascia_akf, who watch her model a kaleidoscope of stylish, but modest, outfits from brands such as Diesel and BCBG. (Some of her posts are sponsored by businesses in Kuwait, where she is based.) Not so long ago, it was considered radical for a Muslim woman to put a picture of her face online, Ms. Sarrha said in a phone interview. “I was one of the first personal style bloggers to show my face.”

Muslim women in their 20s and 30s are making their own mark on hijab culture, while propagating it in a way particular to the “selfie generation”: by posting pictures and videos of themselves on various social media sites.

“A lot of Muslim girls who wore the hijab got tired of being told that they couldn’t be stylish or that they had to be frumpy or dowdy,” said Melanie Elturk, 29, the founder of Haute Hijab, a Chicago-based company that sells head scarves and modest clothing. Haute Hijab’s Instagram page, which has more than 29,000 followers, is filled with smiling women in an array of bright and floral head scarves looking anything but dowdy.

In the not so distant past, the hijab had a very different image in the West, one that stoked controversy in countries like France and led to stereotypes of oppressed Muslim women.

The style tipping point may have been the release last year of the music video “Mipsterz,” shorthand for Muslim Hipsters, mixed to Jay Z’s “Somewhere in America” that featured urban women dressed in head scarves skateboarding, juggling and doing handstands. Their clothes were more evocative of hipster Williamsburg than a mosque. The video instantly went viral and has been viewed more than a half-million times since December.

Canadian Convert Opens Hijab Fashion Business

OnIslam: December 1, 2012

 

Finding Islam three years ago, Amanda Redmond, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, has launched a new business for hijab fashion to help her fellow Muslim women find appropriate clothes according to her faith.

 

Aspiring to offer her fellow Muslim women a modest fashion, Redmond started her small business on a Facebook profile. Titled Al-Qamar, or The Moon, her new business was named after the 54th sura of the Qur’an. Last September, she launched its official online store and has now garnered more than 1,200 Facebook fans and a growing reputation as a go-to shop for Muslim women. The shop offers an assortment of contemporary clothing and accessories for veiled Muslim women.

World’s first Muslim model agency opens in New York

The launch of the world’s first Muslim model agency, in New York’s fashionable Tribeca district, offered an interesting alternative to the options presented at New York Fashion Week a few blocks uptown. A coming-together of a particularly stylish segment of the Islamic community in this cosmopolitan city, the event on Saturday night played host to everyone from a fully veiled woman in black abaya to dramatically coiffed fashionistas (and fashionistos) curious about a groundbreaking project.

The founder of the Underwraps agency, Nailah Lymus, is a born-and-bred New York Muslim with a love of fashion and a mission to prove Islam’s worth and tolerance to a city whose inhabitants remain, in many cases, emotionally fragile and somewhat suspicious of Islam more than a decade after the tragic September 11 terrorist attacks.

Muslim schoolgirls show that faith and fashion are not incompatible

In a first floor classroom in the Hackney campus of the London School of Fashion a small group of young schoolgirls are wrapping clothes on to tailor’s dummies. They are using conventional clothes in unconventional ways – turning ties into belts and baggy T-shirts into neckwear. The idea is to challenge traditional notions of normality in fashion.

The approach is a common one for aspiring designers but it feels especially appropriate for the 20 assembled schoolgirls, all of whom are British and Muslim and all of whom are in traditional Islamic dress.

The girls are taking part in an initiative called Faith and Fashion that is using the widespread fixation of Muslim women’s dress as a starting point for a discussion on how to create fashion that reflects a British Muslim sensibility. Sophia Tillie, the 28-year-old white, British woman who runs the scheme, converted to Islam while at university. She is now engaged in trying to examine how the concept of modesty – so essential to Islamic thinking – can be interpreted differently depending on the context of time and place.

German designer makes edgy urban fashion for young Muslims

It all started with a T-shirt bearing the slogan “I Love My Prophet.” That’s when a designer in Germany discovered a booming market for modern, urban clothes and accessories with a Muslim message. People from many different cultures are likely to agree: slippers are rather uncool. But in Styleislam’s fashion design office, everyone walks around in them.

Here, in the small German town of Witten in the middle of the industrial Ruhr region, chic clothes and accessories are designed for fashion-conscious but devout young Muslims. Styleislam was the brainchild of Melih Kesmen, a stocky man with a ponytail and goatee. “Here are a few examples of our designs, like one about the hijab – the headscarf,” he said, pulling a black handbag out of a cupboard in the company’s small stockroom. “Hijab, My Right, My Choice, My Life,” is written on the bag in big white letters. “If a woman wants to wear a headscarf, then she should be allowed to,” said Kesmen.

The motto on the bag could provoke hours of discussion, and so could plenty of other motifs on the entrepreneur’s shelves, such as baby bibs printed with the word “Minimuslim” or a call to prayer: “Salah, Always Get Connected.”

The Muslim Girl

A magazine for American Muslim teenage girls, The Muslim Girl features include “Muslim Girl of the Month,” fashion tips such as “cool hijabs” and “long dresses for the long days of the summer,” expert advise on issues such as health, relationships, and ethics, profiles of young female athletes, and celebrity interviews. Readers can view partial articles online or subscribe by mail.

Ukraine: Introducing Muslim Fashion to Ukraine

Olga Kokalits, a 25-year old Ukrainian Muslim convert, won a fashion contest as the best fashion designer contest last week in the Ukraine. Kokalits said that she felt that “it was a duty” to take part in a fashion show sponsored by the state, presenting a selection of 10 different Islamic attires varying from wedding gowns, sports outfits, and evening dresses. “I was concerned that Muslim clothes, which cover the whole body except for face and hands, will look odd and funny to an audience who are not familiar with such wearing,” said Olga. Her designs, on the contrary, received a warm welcome from audience members and judges alike. “I was surprised to see the audience showing great interest in my creations,” she said.

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Italian Woman’s Veil Stirs More Than Fashion Feud

By Ian Fisher REZZO, Italy – The immediate issue is how one woman in one tiny town in northern Italy dresses, so it made a certain kind of sense for Giorgio Armani to weigh in. His opinion? A woman should wear what she likes, even if what she likes is a veil that hides her face completely. “It’s a question of respect for the convictions and culture of others,” Mr. Armani, the fashion designer, said in a statement released late last month. “We need to live with these ideas.” He was speaking out in defense of Sabrina Varroni, a Muslim woman from this town near the Swiss border who has been fined 80 euros, about $100, for appearing twice in public wearing a veil that completely covered her face. Her punishment has won cheers from some Italians and has horrified others.

Hijab and Fashion Statements in Paris

Kenza Refsi, 18, furtively breaks away from a cluster of friends near her high school and with a shy smile that exposes her braces, she agrees to discuss why her teachers won’t let her dress the way she wants. It’s not that she wants to wear a thong with low-riding pants, or a nose ring, or a halter top that exposes her midriff. Those fashion statements are considered acceptable for teenage girls at Lycee Jean Jaures in Montreuil, a Paris suburb. What Refsi’s teachers forbid is a scarf that she seeks to wear to cover her head in modesty, which she believes is an obligation of her Muslim faith.