Reconciling pop culture and Islam: Interview with Melih Kesmen

Melih Kesmen, the creator of fashion label Styleislam, recounts the success story of this small company. The German designer of Turkish background made his first t-shirt, bearing the slogan “I love my Prophet”, during the cartoon controversy in Europe. He received a lot of positive feedback from Muslims and non-Muslims, which caused him to open a fashion label for street wear with Islamic slogans. Reconciling the two cultures he grew up with, Turkish-Islamic and German street art, his label has become very popular and the most successful in this niche market.

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.”

Humorous designs by young Muslim geared to break prejudice

A graphic designer living in Germany launched an initiative to break rising prejudice against Muslims. Melih Kesmen says the idea to start with “styleislam” came up when insulting cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad was published in Denmark.

Kesmen says Muslims and Non-Muslims had to talk each other, adding “My intention was to make people curious with eye-catching messages on t-shirts.”

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