How the hijab has grown into a fashion industry

Interesting analysis by , University of Texas at Austin, on the Islamic fashion industry:

This growth has had its share of controversies: Many designers use the term “Islamic” for their clothing. Religious conservatives and Muslim scholars have raised questions about what types of apparel would fit that category and whether defining clothing as “Islamic” was even permitted or lawful by Islamic principles – a concept known as “halal.”

In particular, critics have objected to the fashion catwalk presentations, which actually draw the gaze and attention of spectators to the bodies of models, while the purpose of a hijab is to distract and move the gaze away from the body. In Iran, for example, Islamic fashion is viewed by the ulama (religious scholars) as another Western influence and referred to as “Western Hijab.”

Defining clothing as Islamic has been controversial. karmakazesal, CC BY

Nonetheless, the Islamic fashion industry has managed to initiate marketing campaigns that capitalize on the very core of Islamic precepts: Sharia, or the Islamic religious law. A Malaysian apparel company, Kivitz, for example, uses the phrase “Syar’i and Stylish.” In Malay, Syar’i is the same as Sharia.

In establishing a nominally Islamic brand, marketers make every effort to align their products with the core value of Islam. So, even when following the trendy fashionable seasonal colors and materials, clothing styles would include some sort of head covering.

Who are the consumers?

The question still remains: What led to such a rapid growth over a span of just three years?

My research has demonstrated that Muslims are more brand aware than the general population. However, in the past they were largely ignored by the fashion industry, perhaps, due to misconceptions that being a Muslim restricted people’s lifestyle.

And now, with a growing Muslim population, there is an increased demand for modest but also fashionable clothing for the youth, who have significant spending power. At the same time, traditional elite and wealthy Middle Eastern consumers who used to shop for fashionable clothing from European nations now prefer to shop from homegrown Muslim fashion designers.

Indeed, the halal logo on food and other products in addition to modesty in clothing has proved to be an effective strategy in creating a global Islamic identity.

As I have seen in my research, consumerism is changing what is means to be modern and Muslim today. As Vali Nasr, a Middle Eastern scholar, explains,

“The great battle for the soul of the Muslim world will be fought not over religion but over market capitalism.”

Source: How the hijab has grown into a fashion industry

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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