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SOCIAL MEDIA + THE RISE OF
MODEST FASHION

28/03/2017  |  BY EMMA GOBLE

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Last September, London Fashion Week attracted 105,000 visitors to the capital as 51 designers showcased their SS17 collections. In February this year London hosted the first ever modest fashion week, where 40 designers presented collections that had culture and religious identity at their heart. This brought in an audience of 3,000 people.

In the UK alone, the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2013 report estimates the Muslim fashion market to be worth £100m and is expected to double by 2018.

SMACK Designer, Soumbul Qureshi tells us about the rise of modest fashion and the role social media has played in making it more accessible.

For those who may not be aware, what specific rules do you have to adhere to by Islamic dress code?

Whilst the ins and outs of what is considered modest is very much subjective to the individual, the general consensus is that we choose not to show our bodies, our legs, upper arms, shoulders, chest etc. in front of men whom we have no relation to. We avoid tight, see through clothing and cover our hair with a hijab. In front of other women and male relatives, we can be more lenient in our dress.
 

As a young Muslim girl growing up, did you ever feel alienated by the media due to lack of representation of Muslim women?

Yes, I saw very little representation in the media of muslim women. Movies, television, books and music were all lacking any sign of people like me. The media is an integral part of society, and not having the muslim narrative portrayed effectively and authentically in those outlets was and can be very alienating. The fashion world in particular didn’t show much interest in catering to muslim women at all. It seems only recently, now that Islam is very much the hot topic of today, companies are beginning to tap into the muslim market.
 

When did you start noticing a change?

Instagram was the platform that really opened my eyes to the modest fashion scene, run predominantly by muslim women. I was thrilled. Since then i’ve kept an eye on it, noticing it slowly but surely being embraced by big brands such as H&M, Nike, Dolce & Gabbana etc. It seems the fashion scene is ahead of the game, but when it comes to television, movies and magazines, there’s still work to do. I’ve always been interested in exploring fashion but I’ve also always struggled to figure out a style that looks good whilst also adheres to the requirements of my faith. I started wearing a hijab when I began university in 2010, a time when I really started to grow into myself, embrace my faith, individuality and culture. I didn’t have many muslim friends to share my experiences with so I actively started searching for other muslims on my social media channels.
 

Do you think society is ignorant to modest dressing as ‘fashion’ or even ‘cool’?

Modest dress has always been around, whilst it may not have been considered ‘cool’ or ‘fashionable’ it’s a choice that women make regardless of these labels. It’s great that it’s now being embraced in the fashion world allowing muslim women to express and explore their style more comfortably without the word ‘oppressed’ being constantly flung at them. It’s a great thing for non muslim women too, who feel more comfortable covering up for their own personal reasons. Believe it or not, we are just like other women, with an interest in brands, shopping, beauty, fashion etc. We just explore it within the bounds of our faith. The two aren’t incompatible.
 

Which modest fashion bloggers do you seek inspiration from?

Summer All Barcha, Dina Torkia, Saufeeya Goodson to name a few. I follow general Instagram accounts that post a compilation of styles and looks from various bloggers. I follow non muslim fashion bloggers too and draw inspiration from their looks, adjusting them to compliment my modest dress code.
 

What are your favourite brands to shop from that cater for Islamic dress code?

I feel like generally, brands don’t necessarily cater to the Islamic dress code, they just supply clothes that muslim women can wear. Unless outwardly expressed like Nike’s sports hijab and Dolce and Gabbana's Abayas. I shop anywhere and everywhere, the only difference is that I have to do a lot more searching and sometimes end up having to eliminate half the items in a shop in order to find clothes compatible with my modesty! Muslim women would probably make the best personal stylists as we have to get pretty creative when it comes to picking our clothes. But H&M is definitely my go to, along with Zara and recently Muji (minimal clean crisp - love it!).  
 

Whilst social media has been a great source of inspiration for Muslim women - there is also a dark side to social which brings criticism to these women and their lifestyles. How important is it for you to have representation online where you and many other women spend a lot of time browsing?

In this day and age, where social media has very much integrated into our societal culture, it’s extremely important that the voices of minorities are heard in all forms of media. I love how muslim women are taking this into their own hands by creating their own platforms, making sure their voices are heard amongst the constant barrage of negative portrayals of us. Too often the media has failed in representing muslim women effectively, watch us fight back! Putting yourself online does however open you up to all sorts of criticism from anyone and everyone, we all know the internet can be ruthless. However, in the long run, it’s worth it, as it allows young girls who perhaps feel isolated and misunderstood, to be inspired by and gain confidence from seeing strong, confident women being unapologetically muslim. I know I could have done with role models like these growing up.
 

Nike recently launched a high-performance hijab for Muslim athletes. Can you explain what barriers Muslim women face when it comes to keeping fit?

When I think of ladies fitness clothing, what comes to mind is perfectly toned, tall, slim, conventionally pretty women in tight leggings, short shorts, sports bras, skimpy t-shirts, crop tops, you get the idea. But with the rise of campaigns like ‘This Girl Can’ showing REAL women from all areas of life enjoying staying fit and healthy, I feel a lot more inspired. I’ve now seen hijabi women taking part in professional ice-skating, boxing, running, basketball and more. This is something I was never exposed to growing up so I never considered it. There was a time when I’d feel uncomfortable and far too self conscious to contemplate going into a gym in my headscarf but with fitness brands showing muslim women in their campaigns, i’m feeling a lot more confident to ‘just do it!’ I do understand the criticism thrown at companies that use muslim women in their campaigns, the idea that they are merely monopolising on muslim women for the economic benefit of their commercial empire. However, it depends on the intentions of the brand, I feel like there’s an air of ‘greater good’ to it all. Nike, being one of the most prominent sports brands in the world, has opened up the barriers and brought this issue into to light, encouraging other brands to watch and learn.
 

How do you see modest fashion changing and evolving over the next 3 years? What would you like to see?

I hope modest clothing designed with muslim women in mind will become more common in high street shops. I’d like to see muslim women in campaigns and advertisements, represented authentically with the intention to make our lives easier, not just as an asset to get more sales. I’d like muslim women to be involved in the creation of these campaigns and advertisements. I’d like to see non muslim women getting involved, and being allies in the modest fashion movement. I’d like our voices to be heard and listened to.
 

6 Influencers to Follow for Modest Fashion Inspiration: