Monday, May 25, 2009

Muslims find Islamic ways to be fashionable

Muslims find Islamic ways to be fashionable

Models strutted down runways in winter in wide-leg pants, bulky jackets, long cardigans and the ever-so controversial keffiyah-like scarves, sometimes wrapped around their heads or trailing off their shoulders. Months later, spring and summer fashions have held on to stylized neck scarves and looser clothing, fitting into the lifestyle of modest women looking for a fashionably-refined appearance.

Muslim women vary in how they dress, depending on liberal or conservative mindsets, geographic location, family, age – the list goes on.

But there’s no holding back or even altering looks to fit into a more modest outfit when you can walk into a mosque or wedding wearing a long, flowing Marciano maxi dress under a Marc Jacobs knee-length coat topped with a Chloe head scarf.

If your budget permits, of course. If not, trends always hit more affordable stores even before models can step off the runway.

Moniza Bhaghani, owner of Hidaaya Books and Clothing in Diamond Bar, Calif., sells the Rebirth of Chic brand of inexpensive Western clothing with a Muslim twist. She offers long skirts and tops, scarves of different materials from cotton to shiny metallics, and tunics that younger people like to wear with jeans. Bhaghani said she noticed the latest blouses have shorter, puffy sleeves, so she took the style and made it more Muslim-friendly by adding long sleeves and a higher collar.

“Sometimes it’s hard to find the right Islamic-type blouse in North America to sell in the store, so it has to be ordered overseas,” Bhaghani, a Muslim convert who is half Latina, said. She also tries to incorporate local fabrics and designs, though, to keep it Western-themed.

“I talk to customers about what they would like and keep in mind that things have to be a length in which women can pray.”

Bhaghani added that she likes to provide traditional Arab embroidery and bead styles because they are so similar to Latin styles, bringing the cultures together.

When she has items in her store shipped from overseas, Bhaghani will tell manufacturers beforehand about American trends to fit with the changes.

“Sometimes colors used overseas are not in fashion here, so I send them a palette using magazines and tell them to find the closest match,” she said.

She added that she keeps prices reasonably low, with scarves starting under $7 but that still have the same material and quality of high-end department stores selling the same items for double because of a designer name.

“With the economy the way it is, I have to keep it affordable,” she said, adding that many college-aged women come to her store and she wants to make sure they can shop there easily.

For a little more money, one can find Muslim-friendly clothes in department stores and boutiques as well. A noteworthy southern California blog called Hijabulous by blogger Aellaboudy holds hundreds of posted pictures from stores, boutiques and designers offering Islamic-friendly fashions. The blogger posts her favorites, which this season include long-sleeve thermal and cotton tees from Jaloux in Victoria Gardens Mall, scarves and sweaters from H&M, tops from Express and Zara, and even an Ed Hardy scarf that could be used as a silky hijab.

For college students Narmeen and Abeer Minhas of Binghamton, New York, who both wear hijab, staying fashion forward while maintaining their Muslim appearance in society is not only important but also fun.

“I kind of think it adds to the fun when you are more limited in your options,” 20-year-old Abeer Minhas said. “For example, if I see a top that I absolutely love but is a little too revealing for me, its fun to see how you can add layers to make your own personal fashion statement even more effective.”

The two sisters recently traveled to the Middle East and found the clothing trends there very influential.

“Anyone from the Middle East has a distinct style in which they take western fashions and adapt them toward their Islamic interests,” Abeer Minhas said. “I absolutely love how you can be modest and fashionable at the same time. When we traveled to Turkey, my sister and I were just awestruck at how beautiful the clothes were and how they covered every inch of your body.”

Dental student Narmeen Minhas, 22, pointed out that western companies in Muslim countries make more “modest” clothing to coincide with their local customers’ needs. In Dubai, for example, the summer wear at trendy retailer Mango, though usually tiny tanks and short shorts, included long shirts, dresses and skirts in summer-friendly materials.

Narmeen Minhas added that she loves dresses, so she uses them in layering.

“I bought some really cute dresses - knee length, sleeveless - that I’m going to wear under jeans and a white long shirt and boots,” she said. “I think that you can adapt any style to be modest and trendy.”

Muslims have noticed the need for providing people like the Minhas sisters with hijab-friendly choices, some opening stores like Bhaghani’s to accommodate the growing fashion market.

Terry Cormier opened Al-Farah two years ago in Anaheim, Calif., after running a high-volume Muslim wear Web site of the same name.

“We had a Web site before then, and people kept showing up at our house thinking it was the store, so we just decided to open a store,” Cormier said.

Al-Farah manufactures its own clothing, getting it shipped from overseas, from countries like Egypt, Syria, Turkey and Jordan, Cormier said. She added that what is ordered depends on what the customers are looking for. In winter, for example, she said young women asked for pant suits and button-up dress shirts.

“Modern stuff for younger sisters is in good demand,” she said, pointing out that she receives a lot of business from the 30 and under crowd. “They want an American style with an Islamic identity.”

American and western looks in general have also adopted Middle Eastern traditional wear recently, from the keffiyahs sold at stores like Urban Outfitters to dresses and shoes using beading and large stones as accents, often found on Egyptian and South Asian clothing.

Screen print T-shirts at trendy boutiques have lately used images of Asian and Middle Eastern women, and brands have started using recent political turmoil and messages of peace in their clothing.

Young fashionistas, Muslim and non-Muslim, have incorporated such styles into their wardrobes, but fashion for some more conservative Muslim women takes on a completely different meaning.

An article in The New York Post last year reported on Muslim women wearing fashionable clothing underneath their long, flowing robes, with sometimes the only thing the public eye could see would be flashy stilettos, a wink of bright jewelry or a brightly-colored headscarf on top, often embossed with designer names.

The Minhas sisters do not wear the jilbab over their clothing, but they do appreciate how women in Muslim countries and here who bide by such coverage choices still manage to add their own flair.

“My basic point is I aspire to dress like Arab and Turkish hijabis,” Abeer Minhas said.

Videos of Dubai street style show young women in cute tops with matching head scarves, blinged out with jewelry, designer shades, high heels and big bags. The men look right out of New York, in distressed jeans, v-neck shirts and wool pea coats.

Muslim American men don’t look or dress any different from others, according to Las Vegas resident Zeeshan Malik.

“Those with a fashion sense dress like any other common person with style,” Malik, 22, said. “My cousins and I look at GQ and we wear whatever we like in the new trends.”

Malik said some subtle differences for more conservative men would be looser clothing, not really latching on to the recent tight, skinny-jean fad or extra tight muscle shirts.

He also said Muslim men often personalize their style with their facial hair, growing thin beards or goatees. “We like our beards – that’s one of our styles, and then we have our receding hairlines which we hate,” he joked.

For Narmeen Minhas, being Muslim adds another important dimension to how she dresses.

“I also think that hijabis should look nice, i.e., I coordinate matching scarves with my clothes, because we stand out as “Muslim,” and I think it’s important to defeat the rumors that Muslim women are suppressed and unhappy.”

It may be a simplified way of fixing a much more serious image problem in society today, but if Muslims can acclimate themselves into any society and show this physically, maybe they will be more approachable and open up communication to educate the masses on the real Islam. That’s all the Minhas sisters ask for, especially when wearing their religion on their sleeves, or in some cases, on their heads.

1 comment:

FAPORT International said...

That's really true. love it! keep it up