America, Can We Join The Club?: The Muslim Fashion Scene

The pressure is on! Since my 2011 entry to the American Muslim fashion scene and my sincere dedication to learning about it, I have come to see the lack of many things and unfortunately the very little or no support at all for the Muslimwear industry in America from the mainstream fashion world and its media followers. I have also come to learn that the same problems that mainstream fashion is facing such as replicas and copyright infringements are also being faced in the Muslimwear industry community. Their neglectful ways proves how tight the mainstream fashion club scene is here in America or maybe how different we are. But, most importantly I have witnessed the rapid growth of American Muslim designers and the increasing interest of international Muslim and non-Muslim designers meeting the demand of specific dress needs for Muslim woman in America in various forms such as in fashion shows.

image credit: ecouterre 

How new is the Muslim fashion scene in America? This is confirmed by the long standing fashion show that goes back 27 years.  It is the“27th Annual Celebration Fashion Show” that takes place in Atlanta, Georgia. Of course this is not counting smaller scale shows that have been taking place within communities. So, we could be dating a bit more back. I have compiled a resource guide to the American Muslim fashion shows here. On the overall, fashion shows are relatively new in America. The earliest show dates back to the very early 1900’s given by Ehrich Brothers to attract customers to their store. Others stores at that time followed suit by holding their own shows. American fashion has also come a long way. It was not always seen as likeable and the catwalk hasn’t always been fun. Can you imagine designing something and saying it is from ‘Unknown’? Exactly! That is how it was for the earlier American fashion designers and this is where America can sympathize with the Muslimwear industry because they know much sweat has been put by earlier American designers to get respect for their work and the demand they met at that period of time.

There are several things simultaneously happening in respects to Muslimwear in America. There is a growing number of American Muslim designers, Muslim designers from abroad making their way into America and non-Muslim designers catering to the specific needs and demand of the American Muslim woman. The participation of American designer Seema S. Sahin from Modern Mary, a brand established in 2008 catered to modest needs, in DC Fashion Week is one example of an American Muslim designer participating in a non-Muslim based show and a contribution to the growth of Muslim designers in America. Muslim-owned Label Ann Nahari who caters modestwear to the plus-size women has been in business for 21 years. They recently debuted during the week of New York Fashion Week this past February. This leads us to another American fashion designer Nailah Lymus who recently has been more in work with her model agency, UNDERWRAPS. Two examples of emerging designers in America are designer Frankee Samad from California whose collection “Haute Hijabi” was a success during non-Muslim PRÊT-À-PORTER SF fashion show in 2011 and Canadian born and New York based Zeba Ramos, whose is a FIT graduate and who has made her first fashion show presentation this past April 13th in Miami at a Muslim based fashion show hosted by American Muslim fashionista YazTheSpaz and Youth Coalition of South Florida. Established designer scarves label SixteenR and its designer Nancy Hoque who is a California native is not be missed. They take pride in their designs by empowering the scarf. Another recently California launched label is RAYAN who also caters to the modest needs of the Muslim woman through eveningwear. The list continues and adds to the growing number of designer and shop owners that catered to the modest needs of Muslim woman but are also enjoyed by women from all backgrounds. Some of the most commonly U.S. based and known are Simply Zeena,Vela, Mohajababes and CoveredGirl who also add their own designs to their shops. This is by far a couple of names of the numerous designers and muslim based shop owners throughout America.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are international designers such as Rabia Z who has been breaking through stereotypes and creating a balance between style and modesty since early 2007. Two of the appearances she has made have been in Kansas City for an exclusive show during the “Out Of The Box Foundation” and on November 2011 in New York for her Spring/Summer 2012 collection presentation. Noon by Noor, a Bahrain based label, made it latest appearance during the proclaim New York Fashion Week this year debuting their Fall/Winter 2013 collection. On a most recent appearance is UAE label SEEN and its designer Summayyah Alsuwaidi during Miami Fashion Week this past March 2013. 

This leads us to the growing number of international interest of Muslim and non-Muslim designers and shops participating in Muslim based fashion shows here in America such Abaya Addict(Dubai), INAYAH(UK), Hijab House(Australia), Madamme BK(France) Bella Luna Abayas based(Mexico) and Nisaa Boutique(UK) to name a few.  A more recent one is the coming of Indonesian designer Amalina Aman who will be flying in from Australia to showcase her collection in the upcoming fashion show Fashion For Compassion that will take place in Dallas, Texas this June 1st.  So, are the fashion shows for show only? The above proves that there is a demand that needs to be met here in America and it can’t wait any longer. Major retailers in America like Macy’s, H&M, Target, Sears and the like are snoozing and that is to the benefit of the growing number of Muslim designers in America and the mom and pop shops.

Personalities have also played a big role in the development of the Muslim fashion scene. This brings up  U.S. biggest Muslim woman fashion blog Hijabtrendz who has been in the Muslim fashion scene since 2007 catering to the dressing and lifestyle needs of the Muslim women. Another popular personality is American Muslim fashionista YazTheSpaz. She has been supporting the dresss of the Muslim woman and playing a big developtment role to over 46,000 followers from around the world.To add to the pressure of the tight circle of mainstream fashion in America are events like the American Hijab Design Contest that has had a very successful international media response and who will be currently holding their finale event on April 28, 2013 in Chicago with high-profile judges such as Grammy Award winning Rhymefest. And to even add more to the pressure is Muslim owned model agency UNDERWRAPS by clothing designer Nailah Lymus and the recently on-line launched Muslim woman fashion magazine HAYATI by Fatima Togbe from Maryland. The pressure does not stop there, well-recognized international fashion bloggers such as Confashions From Kuwait have taken note and have blogged about events such as the upcoming fashion show Fashion For Compassion in Texas. Wait! one last pressure, Malaysia based TV program, Hijab Stailista will be flying to Dallas, Texas to cover fashion show Fashion For Compassion.

So, what is the hold-up here in America and why is it that recognized American designer such as Calvin Klein has been making overgarments such as the abaya in Dubai, but yet in America where there is high need for it,  but they are not available? I understand that we are somewhat in a growing ground, but the numbers have been speaking for themselves before recognized designers started catering to the East. If fashion is consider art, then fashion should be the kind with the less judgments. Right?  In my own attempt, I have brought projects to both the CFDA and Publisher Conde Nast, but the response has been none.

Dear America, in an article recently published by Haute Arabia called “Part II: The Muslim Fashion Industry, Muslims Make-Up The Largest Consumer Market Globally, the market is estimated to be valued at $96 billion. Although, I think this number needs a bit of updating because it has been in used for the last couple of years and the market has grown since then.  They also state that 30%(2.1billion) of the world population is Muslim and according to the PEW Research Center America has 2.75 Million Muslims living in America. If you ask me, that is quite a lot of people to dress.

 The care for the specific dressing needs for American Muslim woman is quickly evolving with the help of its community members through the growth of American Muslim designers and the international interest across the world but it would be nice if American mainstream fashion, media and all its counterparts, would share in more in this independent and fashion forward thinking right here at home and less on our differences.

As a Muslim woman consumer, fashion designer and/or shop owner, what are your thoughts?

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