Last May 13-14, Modanisa and Islamic Fashion Design Council hosted the very first Istanbul Modest Fashion Week. Women – fashion designers, bloggers and entrepreneurs came all the way from the Asia-Pacific, Europe, America, Africa and Middle East. Set at the ruins of the Haydarapasa Gadi train station, it couldn’t have been more surreal for over a thousand of today’s talents celebrate tradition, at such an urbane, yet historic city. Which global city could be more fitting than Istanbul? Where East meets West, so do their values that do not conventionally go together: fashion, modesty, feminism, business, politics, religion, development. I had a meet and greet with some of my favorite women entrepreneurs in the world. There was fashion blogger Dinatokio from the UK, whose YouTube tutorials first taught me how to wear the hijab. Rabia Z, modest fashion legend from Dubai, inspired us with her talks. Noting that one threat to modest fashion today is over-commercialization, there is a need to set the bar high for the quality of the industry. What does it mean to be a modest entrepreneur? There is more to modesty that meets the eye. To quote Rabia:
“I also would like large brands to not see this market as a mere money making opportunity…. It’s a way to empower Muslim women and give them choice, help them express themselves and it should remain this way.”
One designer commended for the exceptional identity of her creations was Australian Amalina Aman. Tracing her Muslim roots from a rare Malayo-Polynesian mix, Amalina’s runway collection had a rustic vision of nude colors on cotton and silk, just as her unique heritage reflects its own brand of modesty. All the way from home, ASEAN fashion was represented by designers from Malaysia and Indonesia. My personal favorite is Anniesa Hasibuan. A young, Indonesian, woman – her contributions to hijab couture never fails to transform the catwalk and stir imagination! Host country Turkey did set the bar, as local designers displayed inspiringly elegant designs from swimwear to formal wear that all fit a minimum modest criteria. I fell in love with this Galliano-inspired dress by Femilena the minute I saw it. It’s just prototype so it’s not out in the online market yet, and I’m saving it for my special occasion! Not to mention, Hijarbie creator Adam also made a guest appearance. All the way from Nigeria, the Barbie stylist hopes to sell online soon through Modanisa.com. Despite mixed views on how compatible the worlds that merge for this multi-billion dollar industry, there is no denying how this global community has opened doors for modest women on a mission – from redefining feminism, to challenging political connotations and religious interpretations, to responding to the call of the times and the growing need for social businesses.
Local Women Going Global
While hijab is conventionally known as the headscarf, linguistically, it means a “screen” or covering. Modest fashion, at that, is a world full of meanings. Unorthodox as it is, it was amusing to see how IMFW showcased a whole range of modest interpretations from the more commonly known ways of wearing the full hijab covering, to turbanistas, and even free hairs, who were nevertheless wearing long, loose clothing. I interviewed the chief editor of COVER magazine, and this year’s IMFW lead organizer, Franka Semin. Her message to Muslims sisters is quite relevant:
“If I were to send 1 message, it is really simple. We should stop judging each other. The world is already tough. If we support each other, it will be much easier.”
Another pleasant surprise is Silvia Bortolotto, IFDC Representative from Italy, who is not a Muslim but an advocate of the modest fashion movement.
“There are Jews and Christians who also have to cover… I think it’s a beautiful thing that makes a woman look very feminine and elegant.”
Needless to say, modest fashion is a global community not just of different religions, but literally every culture in the world. A door to creative adaptations of what being a modest woman is all about, one can go with Minazification in Bangladesh, where accessorizing with cultural accents like the “tika” is still in trend, to Atiya in Malaysia, the land of colorful “baju kurung” and “baju melayu.”
Women on Top of Business
According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2015-2016, $230 B is spent by Muslim women on clothing, and is even projected to increase to $ 327 B by 2019. This is larger than the combined clothing markets of the UK ($107 B), Germany ($99 B) and India ($96 B). This brings us to no surprise that even mainstream fashion has jumped into the modest scene, with the likes of H&M, Dolce and Gabana, Tommy Hilfiger and DKNY. At the same time, as Turkey hosts what could be the biggest modest fashion gathering ever, it is also this year’s host for the World Humanitarian Summit a week after. WHS saw world leaders and humanitarian workers around the world tackle the humanitarian crises, especially that of the refugees in the region. Must we forget that a big population of the people affected by crises comes from the Muslim world as well, and among the most vulnerable of them are women. I was fortunate to speak with Islamic Fashion Design Council founder Alia Khan about how this growing modest fashion industry can also take a bigger role in social issues. She briefly spoke about IFDC’s efforts on corporate social responsibility. So, we will explore more integrated social business models, as I do believe this community has so much potential in becoming socially relevant, whilst it is not simply a business venture, but a religious/ spiritual community as well. One good example is Al Karimet, which trains Syrian women in Turkey to sew. I was reminded of Rags2Riches, a social enterprise in the Philippines, which does the same thing but upscales the market by partnering with mainstream fashion designers. Imagine — if our Syrian women can capitalize on the uniqueness of their culture, i.e. Arabian abaya, and supply the global modest market, we will be providing livelihood while addressing issues of employment. Much as we have refugees here and there, there are modest fashion brands in every corner of the world, and bloggers with huge followings globally! Modest fashion is growing, and it can still grow so much more… As for everyone else still curious about modest fashion, Franka’s piece of advice is simple: hard work. From being a commercial producer at the age of 5, to a digital producer, to a fashion producer, this wife and mother of 1 has produced so many works of art in her young age. How does she do it?
“I learned hard work at a young age. If you want to do something, never be afraid to start from a blank page. Never be afraid to learn. Start from zero, and work professionally!”
Dil Saphina, IFDC country manager from Russia, reminds us to go deeper and reflect within.
“Don’t follow anybody. Don’t follow models, bloggers, fashion shows. Just try to find yourself. Try to find special inside you. I don’t really think modesty is just about covering about your hair, it’s part of it. But the most important thing is how you treat people, while being modest.”
Personally, what I find truly beautiful about this community is how it speaks of 2 simple things that don’t change with women through time: an eye for beauty, and a sense of modesty. No matter how conservative a woman is, she wakes up and thinks of what to wear – the very color of her hijab and how to pin it to the head are some of the most basic things a hijabi goes through every day. No matter how liberal she is, she would have some inclination to cover something up too. Somehow, somewhere, at some point in time, one always finds a modest fashion woman. The only question is, what do you do about it? Source of Article: zilzarlife.com