Islamic fashion set to be the Next Big Thing

Getty Images Entertainment Picture “women’s Islamic dress.” If you imagined a plain, black burqa, or even a black abaya accompanied by a niqab, you may be envisaging an outfit that could soon be a relic of the past. That’s because the Islamic women’s fashion industry around the world is taking off—in a big way. Aside ...

599288_070919_islam_05.jpg
599288_070919_islam_05.jpg

Getty Images Entertainment

Picture "women's Islamic dress." If you imagined a plain, black burqa, or even a black abaya accompanied by a niqab, you may be envisaging an outfit that could soon be a relic of the past. That's because the Islamic women's fashion industry around the world is taking off—in a big way. Aside from introducing abayas decorated with crystal beads, pearls, embroidery, satin flowers and other colorful adornments, designers are introducing dramatic new styles, fabrics, and colors to Islamic dress. For instance, British designer Sophia Kara offers an outfit composed of a "hooded abaya with a matching niqab, or face veil, in shocking pink over a salwar, or loose pants, printed with an ornate English floral motif" as part of her Imaan Collections. High-end designers including Hermés and Gucci are also trying to break into the Muslim market with scarves and other products.

What's the attraction? Perhaps it's about encouraging women to "experiment ... with ways to feel happy about themselves while holding on proudly to their faith," as Raja Rezza Shah, entrepreneur and director of the Islamic Fashion Festival, says. Perhaps even more than that, it's about the bottom line: The global Muslim fashion industry is estimated to be worth at least $96 billion, assuming that half the world's 1.6 billion Muslims dress modestly, and that they spend $120 a year (a conservative estimate) on this type of clothing. Some outfits even sell for $10,000—which is not all that surprising considering that several of the key markets for Islamic fashion include oil-rich states like the United Arab Emirates—and Muslim fashion shows have have been held in places from Tehran to Jakarta to the United States.

Getty Images Entertainment

Picture “women’s Islamic dress.” If you imagined a plain, black burqa, or even a black abaya accompanied by a niqab, you may be envisaging an outfit that could soon be a relic of the past. That’s because the Islamic women’s fashion industry around the world is taking off—in a big way. Aside from introducing abayas decorated with crystal beads, pearls, embroidery, satin flowers and other colorful adornments, designers are introducing dramatic new styles, fabrics, and colors to Islamic dress. For instance, British designer Sophia Kara offers an outfit composed of a “hooded abaya with a matching niqab, or face veil, in shocking pink over a salwar, or loose pants, printed with an ornate English floral motif” as part of her Imaan Collections. High-end designers including Hermés and Gucci are also trying to break into the Muslim market with scarves and other products.

What’s the attraction? Perhaps it’s about encouraging women to “experiment … with ways to feel happy about themselves while holding on proudly to their faith,” as Raja Rezza Shah, entrepreneur and director of the Islamic Fashion Festival, says. Perhaps even more than that, it’s about the bottom line: The global Muslim fashion industry is estimated to be worth at least $96 billion, assuming that half the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims dress modestly, and that they spend $120 a year (a conservative estimate) on this type of clothing. Some outfits even sell for $10,000—which is not all that surprising considering that several of the key markets for Islamic fashion include oil-rich states like the United Arab Emirates—and Muslim fashion shows have have been held in places from Tehran to Jakarta to the United States.

Islamic fashion is also not just restricted to Muslims. As with the burqini, which has gained popularity amongst non-Muslims, Muslim styles have begun to influence European street fashion. I’m willing to bet that this is an industry that’s got a pretty bright future.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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