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Showcasing Muslim culture on the runway

Accepting and showcasing modest clothing empowers Muslim women.

Designers are beginning to introduce Muslim-influenced attire to the runway, fostering acceptance and understanding of the culture.

Designers are beginning to introduce Muslim-influenced attire to the runway, fostering acceptance and understanding of the culture.

Designers are beginning to introduce Muslim-influenced attire to the runway, fostering acceptance and understanding of the culture.

Hannah Getahun, Staff Writer

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In September, during New York Fashion Week, fashion designer and Muslim activist Anniesa Hasibuan debuted her newest line with a cast of immigrants donning Muslim-inspired fashion. Last season, Hasibuan made headlines as she became the first designer to have an all-hijab fashion line, donning designs that were reserved yet fashionable.

This isn’t the only example of Muslim fashion entering the mainstream. Dolce and Gabanna, a prominent figure in the world of designer labels, released a line of abayas and hijabs last year, to which the move was well-received. There are also many smaller designers working to integrate modest fashion into their styles.

Finally, it seems that the hijab, and consequently modest fashion, is becoming increasingly normalized. Designers are beginning to stand in solidarity with one of their highest-paying customers — Muslim women.

This “normalization” gives the greater public an improved understanding of what it means to be part of this group. Like all religious groups, these followers have certain traditions they adhere to, yet they desire to be a part of mainstream fashion.

After years of being ignored, they are being considered by the world of high fashion. They are, at last, being acknowledged by the world as a whole, offering a chance for people to understand the culture and remove its criminalized status in nations such as the United States.

Designers have the ability to reflect pertinent political issues, as their influence reaches millions of consumers each year.  

For example, in Hasibuan’s 2017 fashion line, she protested the discrimination of Muslims in Trump’s travel ban through her showcasing of women in hijabs. Because of the platform she was given during New York Fashion Week, she attracted both attention to and support. Clothing has been an integral definition of one’s culture, and through this implementation of more modest fashion, we also become aware of the issues this culture has faced around the world.

In a post 9/11, fear-mongering world, Muslims are continually demonized for their religion. They are indirectly accused for the rampant terrorism that plagues today’s society. Those who are suspicious of their beliefs translates to hostility, resulting in hate crimes, such as the destruction of mosques and an onslaught of anti-Muslim slurs.

The showcasing and acceptance of their traditions, aesthetics and rules of modesty brings an acceptance of Islam as a religion. Rumors about the “evils” of Islam are dispelled, and in their place is the shared appreciation of clothing and fashion —  something that can be translated between cultures and beliefs.

Fashion designers have the ability to use high fashion as a way to protest issues like anti-Islamic rhetoric, or discrimination toward practicing Muslims. The enormous platform that the world of culture and high fashion offer to these women is empowering and allows them to have a voice in a setting that garners attention.

Integrating traditional fashions and conservatisms to the world of couture is just as advantageous to Muslim women as they are to businesses. Don’t believe me? Look at the statistics. According to the Pew Research Center, there are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, and a good portion of them are women. Arabs are some of, if not the, biggest buyers of couture. There is an estimate that Muslims spend approximately $230 billion annually on fashion, and that amount could rise, especially since Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion.

These numbers make it apparent that this group of women are spending. Making that push toward more modest and religion-influenced styles allows accessibility for these women while supporting designers such as Hasibuan.

Before, it seemed that big labels and designers in the world of high fashion gave Muslim women little to nothing that appealed to them; they just weren’t a demographic that clothing creators put an effort in to reach out to. This can probably be attributed to the fact that Islam has always been seen as something controversial, and designers did not feel like dealing with it. Instead, designers favored to showcase more ethnocentric styles that focused on mainstream fashion.

Now, after realizing the need of modest fashion for Muslim women, more designers and labels are expanding toward conservative fashion that these women can embrace.

Fashion markets are continually growing and adapting to demographics and their demands. They see that the world is becoming more accepting, and they can build a better business from acknowledging the modern Muslim woman, who holds to her traditional religious beliefs while still wanting to be a part of this world of high fashion.

This shift towards catering toward Muslim women allows these women liberation. They will encounter less limitations in their fashion choices and be given an opportunity to have their voices heard.

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