Fashion forward?

See bold looks from Turkey’s controversial Modest Fashion Week

Who said modest fashion can’t be glam? Seventy designers and a largely Muslim audience gathered at a railway station in Istanbul from May 13 to May 14 for the first International Modest Fashion Week, hosted by Muslim fashion retailer Modanisa. Turkey, a country where an estimated two-thirds of women wear headscarves, was a fitting place to hold the event. Models glided down the runway covered in floral, floor-length dresses, high necklines, and flowing hijabs, proving that at this spring show, skin wasn’t in. “[We want] to create mainstream fashion out of modest fashion and to energize Islamic communities to produce [clothing] for Muslim women,” said Modanisa CEO Kerim Türe. “They want to have their rules but they also want to look chic.”

With worldwide spending on Muslim clothing projected to grow to $327 billion by 2020, modest fashion is about to become a booming market. In the past several months, Uniqlo launched a line of hijabs with designer Hana Tajima, and Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana released a collection of hijabs and abayas. Outside of haute couture, Danish sportswear company Hummel designed new soccer uniforms with built-in hijabs for the Afghan women’s soccer, and Barbie recently received a hijabi makeover.

Despite the popularity of Modest Fashion Week, many were skeptical or disapproving. “In a society that said public space is neutral, religiously neutral, you now have conservative fashion week,” said Mary Lou O’Neil, director of the Gender and Women’s Studies Research Center at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. “[It’s] a visually stunning development for a lot of people and it certainly bothers a lot of people.”

Protesters from the Free Thought and Education Rights Association (Özgür-Der) convened outside the event to voice their concerns and chant “God is great” in Arabic.

“It is worth noting that the reference point of the headscarf, which is seen as a simple commodity or advertisement good by some people, is in fact chastity and identity,” said Emine Nur Çakır, a spokesperson for the group. “The headscarf, which symbolizes a stand, a lifestyle, an Islamic identity, is being sacrificed in the name of fashion — a product of capitalism, a system equivalent to the jahiliyyah [pre-Islamic age of ignorance] lifestyle.”

Such an eye-catching event, directed towards a conservative crowd in what is supposed to be a religiously neutral space, was bound to ruffle some feathers.

Read the full story at Hurriyet Daily News.

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