Muslim Street Style: Trend Report
For centuries Islamic faith has existed in every country around the globe. The religion’s fundamental beliefs have received some of the greatest speculation of all time. Muslim women have been scorned by misinformed westerners who are unable to understand the fundamental role of the hijab in their religion. With an increasing emphasis on individuality and liberty there is more pressure than ever before for Muslim women to embrace freedom and equality. Over the past few years Muslim women all around the world have faced increasing pressures to remain faithful to their religion whilst adapting to the democratic views of the 21st century. Over the past few years a trend like no other has emerged: Muslim street fashion. Women have been able to feel stylish and modern whilst being faithful to their religion at the same time.
This report explores the emerging trend of Muslim street fashion, specifically hijabs and other forms of traditional female clothing. Although this trend is emerging worldwide, it is currently developing rapidly amongst Australian Muslim women.
After extensive research through online surveys and participant observation, it is clear that Muslim women are adapting to contemporary trends whilst still remaining faithful to the hijab. Although this trend is still in its early stages, there are two common sub-groups amongst these women: “the conservative” and “the high end”
During the research process of this study, several female Muslim trendsetters were interviewed around the world. They gave incite into the growing trend of contemporary hijabs as well as highlighting the importance of changing the world-wide stigma of the “suppressed Muslim woman”.
The hijab has been a fundamental aspect of Islam for centuries. In the Quran women and men are guided to dress modestly to retain their dignity. The passage states:
And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimār over their bosoms and not display their beauty…O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): That is most convenient, that they may be distinguished and not be harassed…
After the abolition of the White Australia Policy in 1970, hundreds of cultures around the world immigrated to Australia consequently resulting in the diversification of the nation. Dozens of religions began to surface, which ultimately contributed to Australia’s secular stance. In 2012 Muslim families have settled into Australian suburbs like to create various religious districts. Although Islam is still a controversial religion amongst most westerners, Australia is fairly tolerant towards their beliefs on female Islamic clothing. Other nations around the world have also actively supported the changing trend of hijabs
Muslim Asians from Indonesia have begun wearing brightly coloured feature headpieces with embellishments. Women in Algeria have increasingly been wearing hijabs with skinny jeans to keep up with changing trends.
Although many western cultures believe that traditional Islamic clothing is a form of oppression for women, Inge Rombouts, a fashion designer for contemporary woman fashion commented on this misinterpretation by saying:
People often assume that Muslim men force their women to wear a hijab, or that the Quran demands it, but that is simply not true. I only started wearing a hijab at the age of 24, after I got married and when I already had my first child,” Fatima tells IPS. “The decision to wear a hijab is a very personal one; every woman must decide for herself if and when to do so. My daughter Yassira (17) chooses not to wear a headscarf, and I respect that. If she decides to never wear one, I will respect that too.
By comparing both primary and secondary research, two key subcultures of Muslim Street Style exist around the world. They are:
A female Muslim aged 20-35 who prefers to wear basic hijab styles in conservative colours to feel accepted by her elders. She is still classified as trendy because she experiments with modern ideas.
A female Muslim usually in her 20s who loves pushing the boundaries. She will wear a range of hijabs styles in various ways, silk gowns with embellishments, paying particular attention to other fashionable western trends including bright colours, vintage etc. These women are usually found in secular regions where diversity is encouraged.
Businesses around the world have gained incite into this trend as more Muslim females are seeking to express themselves through their clothing (Featherstone. 2007, 20). Through various platforms, Muslim women are able to shop, chat and blog with one another on the latest hijab trends. It is through these sites that high fashion Muslim cultures are able to support brands that produce specifically tailored products for them (Norman. 2008, 70).
Whether it’s a fashion choice or identity statement, there is an obvious relationship between young Muslim women and the interest in dressing stylishly. This is particularly noticeable in high-end Muslim consumers who are driven towards cutting edge clothing. In addition to the hijab, there are several other products and accessories including the jibab, abaya and shawl. Being a relatively bold trend, few companies have incorporated these findings within the retail market. Brands including Hijab House, are among the niche market that have been producing high- end Muslim clothing for women.
Tarik Houchar is an example of successful penetration into this market. Being the founder and designer for Hijab House Houchar’s franchise is now Australia’s leading retail business for high fashion muslim clothing. The designer commented on his motivations behind the business by stating “We want to change the way this product has been sold for centuries. our vision is to cheer up the world of hijab.” By using innovative, sophisticated and modern…
Brands such as Hijabistas, Hijab House and Noor D’Izar are among the new niche that have been producing modern and innovative apparel for muslim women around the world. They produce stylish and functional items, placing emphasis on clothing and accessories that abide to their religion’s guidelines whilst blending in with contemporary fashion. For example both Hijabistas and Hijab House often utilise various silk materials in their clothing, to give hijabs a feminine soft look.
What is even more interesting is that clothing pieces by Noor D’Izar are often purchased by western women and men.
The findings from this study indicate that the trend of Muslim street fashion is becoming an increasingly popular choice amongst Islamic women globally. Retail entrepreneurs entering this market gap will be able to successfully gain profit from this increasingly popular trend. Currently in Australia, Muslim men and women have been actively collaborating to design high-end fashion for women. Results suggest that 18-25 year old females will be the most responsive to the effectiveness of this trend as they are more open minded than older ages. Findings suggest that 18- 25 year olds will be the most responsive market for this trend due to their adaptable nature. Inge Rombouts, designer for Noor D’Izarcouldn’t agree more with this concept by saying
“I would love for two women, Muslim and non-Muslim, to look at our website and think they can both wear the scarves.”
In conclusion, it is evident through this study that this trend can be divided into various subcultures to create profit for businesses.
It can be suggested that there are separate markets within each of the niche cultures amongst fashionable Muslim women we have identified.
These markets are increasingly expanding with the assistance of boutique fashion designers and education, informing females of self expression. Furthermore businesses like The Hijab House have paved the way to influence Islamic thought towards hijabs influencing traditional views.
It can therefore be suggested that Muslim street fashion has a definite niche within consumer culture. Until recently, the clusters of fashionable Muslim women around the world has not been adequately capitalized by retailers and product manufacturers. This will definitely proliferate within the next decade, and it is expected that this trend will continue to become more prominent amongst young Muslim females.
Bahiya Collections. N.d. Designer Clothing for the Modestly Chic Muslimah. Image. Accessed November 2, 2012.
Campbell, Colin. 2005. The craft consumer: Culture, craft and consumption in a postmodern society Journal of Consumer Culture, 5 (1), 23-42. Accessed October 10, 2012.
Clappaert, Sabine. 2011. “It’s just a headscarf!” Accessed November 10, 2012. http://southasia.oneworld.net/archive/globalheadlines/its-just-a-headscarf#.UKSQcs0h24I
Featherstone, Mike. 2007. “Chapter 2: Theories of Consumer Culture” in Featherstone, Mike, Consumer culture and postmodernism, Sage: London, pp.13-27. Accessed October 5, 2012.
Hijab House. 2012. SHOP. Image. Accessed November 2, 2012. http://hijabhouseonline.com.au/
The Jakarta Post. 2012. Street style hijab: personal flavours of faith. Image. Accessed November 7, 2012. http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/08/05/street-style-hijab-personal-flavors-faith.html
Noor D’Izar. 2012. Our Collection. Image. Accessed November 5, 2012. http://www.noordizar.eu/
Power House Museum. 2012. “Hijab House.” Accessec November 12, 2012.
Tarlo, Emma. 2010. Introduction. In Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith. http://www.bergfashionlibrary.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/view/VISIBLYMUSLIM/VISIBLYMUSLIM0002.xm
Wither, Emily. 2012. “Belgian designers create buzz with high-fashion hijab.” Accessed November 8, 2012 from http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/09/09/muslim.headscarf.belgium/index.html