Growth & Change
With the growing population of Muslims around the world, it makes sense that there is a higher demand for fashionable modest clothing. From humble beginnings, (aka wearing winter clothing in the summer just because it has sleeves, or resorting to imported eastern pieces) to the present day $2.9 billion dollar global market, the Muslim fashion industry is present and lucrative. Hallelujah.
Whether your turban-hijab’n it up or wearing a diamond-encrusted abaya, it cannot be denied that Islamic fashion has glowed up. Long gone are the days where Muslim women are ignored by every fashion industry in the west. While we’ve seen some inclusivity, (DKNY, Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, D&G, etc. have modest collections) it’s still not an easy feat to go out to any store and find modest clothing. This void opens a variety of niches for Western Muslim designers to fill.
We’re not all the same
Muslim women vary when it comes to modesty. Each woman does not conform to the same standards, and we don’t all cover our heads. So, when a western brand’s attempt at a modest fashion line is a little bit less modest than we would like, and an eastern brand is a little too much, it’s hard to find a middle ground—especially in the United States. We’re just trying to be cute out here. It’s from this void new brands are being born, and are branching out from traditional Muslim styling we see in the east. While there are huge successes from brands like Moslema (Indonesia), Modanisa (Turkey), and Inayah (UAE), many of these brands do not fit the current trends of the common western Muslim millennial, nor are they accessible. This opens up even more of a market void, and new brands like Seek Refuge and 5ive Pillars have stepped up to the plate.
Seek Refuge branches out from the typical Muslim fashion discourse concerning long, flowing silhouettes in exchange for a streetwear platform. It’s tough, it’s grainy, and it’s effortless. Structured, oversized, American city vibes with a touch of influence from the diaspora makes Seek Refuge unique in this design respect. Coupled together with its mission to aid refugees, the consumer helps the community on two parts: Putting Muslim women on the streetwear map and helping our refugee brothers and sisters.
Seek Refuge is the first Muslim woman streetwear brand designed for women, and is paving the way for the future of Muslim fashion.
There are some HUGE brands making strides for Muslim women these days. But it’s not all well received. Example A: Nike. Last year, Nike released their Pro Hijab, an athletic hijab for Muslim women athletes. While this is indeed a step into reaching inclusivity in the fashion world, the reaction was divisive—some women stating that Nike is a little late, while others claimed that Nike was playing into subjugating Muslim women. Whatever your personal opinions are—this is growth for the international Muslim women’s community and a huge plus for Muslim women athletes. They will no longer feel restricted or unaccounted for in the athletic world.
Worldwide, social media has been pushing a more inclusive narrative that has proved its capability for going viral again and again. Suddenly, being ethnic is trendy, and #MelaninPoppin is a thing. Our hijabs, bindis, and cultural clothing are finally fashionable and accepted. While this is a confidence boost and helps us feel more accommodated for, some brands like to dance around the fact that they like it too. Example B: Marc Jacobs. During his latest show at NYFW, he donned his models in hijabs, some topped with wide-brimmed hats, but he had nearly no mention of hijab in any of the rhetoric describing his pieces. However, they used phrases like "hidden under a unique sculptural look." While it is true that the veil/hijab is not exclusive to Muslim women, the fashion in which it was wrapped most commonly resonated to the typical standard of Muslim women today. The reason why we’re annoyed? We are consistently painted as oppressed by the west, but then a western designer uses hijab on white models in two of his shows as recurring pieces, and he’s praised for it. #huh.
Not saying we don’t like it, but give credit for your inspiration where it is due. If designers truly claim they strive to be inclusive, then they wouldn’t be shy or evade shedding light on Muslim pieces of clothing, simple.
“The Global Islamic Economy report for 2014-2015 indicated Muslim consumer spending on clothing and footwear had increased to $266 billion in 2013. This represents a growth of 11.9 percent of the global spending in a period of three years. The report predicted this market to reach $488 billion by 2019.” (Shirazi, Faegheh, 2017)
Clearly, we Muslim women are willing to spend the money for clothing that suits our lifestyle codes. The disposable Muslim woman’s income has been on a steady rise, adding to this fact. According to Saadia Zahidi, Head of Social and Economic Agendas, the combined disposable earnings of working Muslim women would create the world’s 16th largest country. “Working women and their disposable income represent a huge new market, with earnings that amount to nearly $1 trillion. The new generation of working women are worldly and digitally connected. They are tapping into and creating new demand in a wide variety of fields, from education, health and food, to finance, fashion and IT.” (World Economic Forum)
I hope you read that right. Working Muslim women are a $1 trillion dollar market. That begs the question, are designers truly trying to serve this marginalized population? Or simply trying to capture the market while we're on trend? Only time will tell.
Written by Zara Safiullah
Graphics by Ayesha Erkin