Modest Fashion on the Runway

When traditionally speaking of fashion, our elders may denounce it, our favourite stores may only cater for the non-Muslim masses, our place as Muslims in the fashion industry may be next to none. This perception is now being challenged, with designers and models integrating modest fashion onto mainstream runways.

Hijab has now become a commonly understood and accepted garment in the fashion industry, signifying a remarkable shift in beauty ideals, the acceptance and celebration of Muslim lifestyle and fashion. This shift is visible on social media platforms through the success of many Muslim women’s fashion and beauty pages. The fashion and beauty industry is crucial to the identity struggle many Muslim millennials face. An initial step toward a more inclusive fashion industry that celebrates diversity, promotes cohesion will allow for the self-esteem and confidence necessary to express individuality through aesthetic means.

NEW YORK, NY – A model walks the runway wearing Dian Pelangi SS18 fashion show during New York Fashion Week. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Indonesian Diversity)

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) marked the start an onset of fashion weeks globally, and did so with a modest undertone. A vast array of western news outlets and social media platforms are praising the undeniable beauty and grace of the hijab and abaya, as this duo makes its debut on centre stages at New York Fashion Week. The first day of NYFW hosted a formation of Indonesian designers, with Zubedi and Pelangi showcasing the elegant yet striking beauty of both the hijab and the abaya. The ingenuity and innovative outlook of their work has been embraced by fellow designers, the press, critics and the general population. Their designs embody the intersection of modesty and fashion, a phenomenon that is transforming the once exclusive, European dominated, fashion industry into a platform that showcases the breadth of talent from all walks of life, celebrating the diverse and intersectional qualities of human existence.

NEW YORK, NY – A model walks the runway wearing Dian Pelangi SS18 during New York Fashion Week. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Indonesian Diversity)

These normally exclusive events present both the established and up and coming talent recognised by the up-scale fashion community. The fashion industry has historically never encouraged space for overtly Muslim models, designers and even event staff. Kanye West’s Yeezy season 5 changed this, with model Halima Aden at the forefront of this new wave in contemporary fashion culture.

Photo: Courtesy of Yeezy

Halima is a young Somali-American Muslim model who has, single handedly, changed the game. She is a hijab donning, deeper toned beauty and refugee activist. Not only does she embody the intersectionality of Muslims on a global level, she actively challenges stereotypes and redefines what it means to be a Muslim millennial in the West. With no compromise to her integrity, modesty and beliefs, Halima Aden is now the face of major international campaigns such as Nike, Max Mara, Yeezy and Fenty Beauty, as well as gracing the cover of Vogue Arabia, Allure and Grazia UK. Halima continues to defy social norms and provide a platform for the voices of Muslim women within the fashion industry. Her influence has normalised the hijab and the concept of modest fashion in mainstream western culture.

Photo: Courtesy of Allure US 2017

As London Fashion Week (LFW) is upon us, the presence of hijab donning models and modest fashion continues to impact this new inclusive narrative engulfing the fashion industry. The embracing of Muslim presence and influence in fashion does not end with solely Muslim designers or models. Canadian designer Edeline Lee showcased models wearing the hijab at her LFW exhibition, displaying how modest fashion is increasingly shaping global trends. A space for mainstream modest fashion manifests the conception that Muslims are progressively perceived as innovators, influencers and consumers.

LONDON, ENGLAND: A model showcases designs at the Edeline Lee presentation during London Fashion Week September 2017. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/BFC/Getty Images for The British Fashion Council)

The fashion and beauty industry greatly impacts mainstream culture, shaping what is considered as beautiful. As Muslims are increasingly included in this normative rhetoric, the influence this has on popular culture is paramount. Our voice in western society is finally being recognised through the global fashion industry, impacting not only the perception of Muslim women, but the acceptance and celebration of Islam in the West.

By Munibah Qureshi
Policy and Social Impact Researcher

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