Reina Lewis: "If we had been planning a set of programs on Muslim America 15 years ago, it’s highly likely that fashion would not have been one of their themes. Not only with Muslims, but in general, the idea of putting faith and fashion together would have seemed antithetical to many. At the turn of the century, if anyone had thought about Muslims and clothes in America, they would have probably focused on so-called 'ethnic' clothing or perhaps on the distinctive dress codes developed by the nation of Islam.
On the fact that Muslims have £250 billion-plus spending potential:
RL: "Part of our discussion is about what Muslim consumers might want from the fashion industry and to celebrate the ways Muslims are contributing to fashion as designers, creative entrepreneurs, retailers, journalists, and bloggers. And, it’s important to note that the significance of designers and entrepreneurs in modest fashion exceeds [their] often small product [ranges]... Eva Khurshid’s images of strong, modestly dressed women zinged across five continents, despite that the product wasn’t available in all those markets. Winnie Detwa, the 'turban queen,' has spawned a gazillion wrapping frenzies in bedrooms around the world.
It can feel obliterating if your faith isn’t reflected on the shelves.
Asma Uddin: “I started the online magazine called AltMuslimah [that is] wholly dedicated to stories and commentary on gender in Islam from the male and female, Muslim and non-Muslim perspectives. We cover a wide scope of issues, such as dating, marriage, divorce, sexuality, parenthood, work-life balance, women’s leadership and space in the mosque (and the broader community), women’s Islamic scholarship, gender roles, co-ed power dynamics, and much more. Just basically anything that falls under the umbrella of gender in Islam. And, of course, that includes beauty and fashion.
Many women in my community, and even some in my family, were treated as second-class citizens.
Fatima Monkush: "We started Eva Khurshid in 2009...but our families met at the local mosque and we grew up together as Muslims [in Connecticut], and we realised that, in the ‘90s, there were things that we could not wear if we just bought them off the rack. So we were constantly complaining to our mothers, and they, being the hippies that they were…"
You can be fully Muslim and fully modest and also have the absolute beauty and confidence as well.
Nadia Azmy (Winnie Detwa): "I began blogging in 2011 about my personal fashion. It was updated daily and used to share photos of my outfits and tutorials for my turbans. I then eventually started using Instagram, and after my first turban tutorial [when I had] 1,000 followers (which consisted of friends and family), it hit 16,000 followers in merely two months. Winnie became an adventurous and eclectic inspiration for a lot of people that wore the scarf. I was known for turbans and polka dots and bows... I did many styling sessions (my favourite one was with K-Mart). I attended Fashion Week and was recognised by the Arab-American Heritage Council for a diversity arts award. I then decided to stop wearing the hijab in 2012, and I received a lot of criticism from my followers online, as well as some love and support from people that understood what I was going through. It slightly affected my branding, and that helped me rebirth a more personal brand, which is NadiaAzmy.com."
RL: “I don’t think shopping is gonna bring world peace, but I do think that paying attention to how young Muslims are using fashion as a form of expression and communication can tell us a lot about individual and collective aspirations, and forms of social integration. And if we start with products, I know that like many brands, Eva Khurshid had women from many other faith groups. Could you say a little bit more about how you communicated the values of your brand? Because, I know you didn’t use the 'M-word' when you were talking to buyers.”
NA: "When it came to things like taking off my hijab, I still feel like the conversation’s the same. It’s a very taboo subject. Nobody really discusses it. So many people have adapted to more modest clothing — when I go into J. Crew or Anthropologie, I see their mannequins are dressed more modestly. Even the caftan is what’s in right now."
RL: "When you decided in 2012 to stop wearing hijab and you put an image up on Tumblr — and the criticism was hideous and virulent — but there was a lot of support that came through, as well. Also, when you made your YouTube commentary about the sort of attacks that the women in the Mipsterz video were getting (a music video of women skateboarding and dancing) it got such a lot of criticism, and a lot of it was in terms of 'they shouldn’t be representing the Muslim community,' as if there can be one image. For me, that’s what a lot of the anxiety was about, because when there aren’t that many images, the few images there are have to do all the work for everything, and that’s what feeds that anxiety."
On Muslims in the arts:
FM: "[Nyla and I] were in a unique position because we’re both mixed — our fathers are from South Asia and our mothers are white, American converts — and so a lot of people assume that, ‘Well, you’re white, so that’s why you were able to go into art and it wasn’t a big deal,’ but our moms were very like, ‘How are you gonna make a living?’ They had the same questions anybody else’s moms would have."
We need more Muslims in the arts to really represent us, because who else will?
Connie Wang: "The fashion industry hasn’t always been very careful or thoughtful when it comes to cultural appropriation. Oftentimes, it has turned to Orientalism as a trend whether it’s pan-Asian trends in the ‘90s or pan-African trends a few years ago. Modest clothing is definitely a trend right now. My question is, as Muslims in a predominantly non-Muslim country, how does that make you feel?"
NH: "I can speak to being in America, specifically, because the struggle we faced growing up was there was no option. So now, seeing that there’s options is great; it’s refreshing to see kind of a wide spectrum of styles out there. I’m not totally a fan of how they appropriate that, but I at least appreciate the fact that they are kind of branching out in the range of how to interpret modesty."
FM: "I think a lot of it is about taking ownership. We’re all dressed sort of similarly with our tunics and pants (a very common Muslim fashion trend). But I know for us, when we were younger and in school, a lot of it started with wearing our South Asian tops, you know, the salwar kameez, it comes with the long flowy tunic that has the baggy pants — it was en vogue to start wearing that with jeans. It was so not a thing 20 years ago. But now, it’s such a common trend."
When the white kids are wearing them — then it’s fashion. And then two years later, it's not on-trend anymore.
RL: “I was talking to a Muslim lifestyle magazine in 2005, and they suffered because of the politics of scarcity. If you’re the one magazine everyone’s gonna read it, if you’re a 16-year old or a 60-year old. And the 60-year old is saying 'Well, there’s nothing in it for me,' and the teenager’s saying, 'Yeah, but I don’t wanna wear those clothes.' Your average punter can go out and say, 'Am I an Elle reader? Or have I grown out of Elle and I’ve gone onto Marie Claire?' or 'Do I like Vogue? Or do I like Vogue America? Or do I like Vogue Italia?' If you’ve got a variety of media opportunities, if the offering is big, then for any community, that gives you more choice. So it may also be that this explosion is gonna mean that people become more discriminating in which blogs or social media they follow. Like, ‘Well, I’m not doing cutesy-girly, I want professional wear for a thirtysomething.’ So it might be niches within niches now that’s gonna happen.”
The millennial Muslim is so different than the generation before.
NA: "So many people can hide behind a picture, and so many people feel like they can connect and have conversations and dialogues because you don’t know who you’re talking to, you don’t even have to have a face to know who you’re talking to, so I feel like social media and the Internet has helped a lot in this conversation."