When Dolce and Gabbana released the images to its forthcoming luxury hijab and abaya collection, the elite fashion world seemed elated. Finally, Muslim women were represented in an industry known for being notoriously vanilla. But, according to the group of Muslim women I spoke with about D&G’s new line, the brand didn’t really do anything particularly new by catering to rich Muslim women. In populous Middle East cities like Dubai, where luxury brands must cater to a Muslim audience, there’s plenty of high-end hijabs similar to (if not more interesting than) D&G’s forthcoming line.
But here in the US, where Muslims make up only around 1% of the population, so few are educated on the Muslim demographic that reactions to D&G’s new line vacillated between outrage, “Isn’t the whole point of the religion to hide beauty and personality?” asked one commenter and inclusionary pride, “Thank you for showing the world that fashion is for all women no matter their religion.” After speaking with multiple young Muslim women, however, it seems that both sides have an outdated, monolithic understanding of what this demographic really looks like, and how they express themselves – in the U.S. anyway – via their style.
The average American doesn’t realize that many Muslim women in the States re-fashion Zara scarves into the hijabs they wear proudly around their heads. They’re not shopping at specifically Muslim-fashion spots. Amera-Rime Lulu , a 23 year-old New York student told me, “It’s not this big or special religious scarf, it’s just an accessory.”
Brands that do attempt to carry these collections often do so with limited-edition Ramadan themed lines, ignoring the modest style needs (and bank accounts) of young Muslim millennials. Sixteen year-old blogger Amina Daugherty told me that most of these traditional lines are “too elaborate for everyday.”
And so D&G’s forthcoming line, heralded as revolutionary by American fashion media, made tiny ripples among the young, Muslim community. After all, Lulu is not going to walk around in a lace gown to hang out with friends.”I’m American TOO,” she pointed out. “Our identity is open for interpretation, colors and patterns are not forbidden.”
Swagger spoke to a range of Muslim women on their identity in fashion, their thoughts on D+G’s range and more. Below are quotes from these conversations.
On Dolce & Gabbana’s luxury collection:
“I LOVE IT! The garments are so stylish and fashion forward without compromising the modest fits that Muslim women look for in their clothing. I appreciate that the clothes are not old looking or frumpy, but rather something I could see myself wearing with confidence.” – Amira Daugherty, student
“It’s just a publicity stunt. Obviously the brand knows nothing about Muslims except that there is quite a bit of wealth in the upper classes of the gulf Arab countries in particular. The hijab and abaya are worn for several reasons: for modesty, against the overly sexualization and objectification of women, etc–none of which are relevant in ridiculously expensive ‘designer’ fabric.” – Hoda Katebi, blogger/founder of JooJoo Azad
“It’s not something really new. In Dubai they have designer abayas and scarves. But now that it’s launching in the west, it’s like OMG a new thing.”- Amera-Rime Lulu, 23, student
“On one hand, it’s awesome that an internationally known brand is touching on that. But on the other hand, it’s too little too late – almost not enough. Arab and Muslim designers have been creating trendy abayas for YEARS now.” – Asma P., blogger/founder of Haute Muslimah
“A big company name like Dolce & Gabbana launching that campaign [in the West] is amazing, but on the other side I’ve been to Dubai and Jordan and that is not something new at all. Chanel and Dior’s windows are full of women in hijabs and abayas. It’s something new for everyone who doesn’t know about the middle eastern market.” Wiwid Howat, blogger/founder of The Girl Beneath the Headscarf
“The new Dolce & Gabbana collection is extremely fashionable and I am hoping I will be able to wear one.” – Amina Daugherty, blogger/founder of Faboriginal
Is it fair to say that Muslim women are ignored by fast-fashion retail and luxury?
“Muslim women and plus size women are still ignored in fashion. [Designers] take inspiration from the Middle East when it works in their favor. The women in the Middle East are wealthy – so what is that saying about the average normal Muslim woman here in the West? We don’t matter? ” – Asma P.
“We absolutely are excluded in the fashion world. I constantly find myself getting oversized clothing or having to add layers to conventional clothes to make them work for me.”-Amira Daugherty
“There are certain brands such as INAYAH where you can exclusively buy clothing already cut to fit modestly. I think it is fair to say we are ignored. Not many think about what would happen to their stores if they open it up to a whole new audience by creating more modest clothing.” – Amina Daugherty
“It’s because we are a minority, not many people have knowledge about Muslim women. [And] the ignorance surrounding the Muslim community. ” – Wiwid Howat
“I think a lot of women are “ignored” by haute couture and fast fashion retail–the fashion industry, coupled with the media, define beauty in very narrow terms. “- Hoda Katebi
“Of course. H&M featured Mariah Idrissi and it was a big controversy. Brands are finally acknowledging us as fashion forward people.” – Amera-Rime Lulu
Where are you buying hijabs and abayas now?
“People forget that we can also wear jeans, t-shirts from Zara, Urban Outfitters, H&M etc. The misconception that Muslim women always go to the “Muslim store” is kind of funny, but it bothers me. ” – Wiwid Howat
“I typically purchase my abayas at a couple of of local shops, and I get scarves from Walmart to wrap as hijabs.” –Amira Daugherty
“I don’t wear abayas but I buy most of my hijabs from Iran whenever I go back. But really, it’s just a scarf so they can be bought anywhere.” – Hoda Katebi
“Right now I buy my abayas at a local shop named Almuhajaba and another named U.S. Arabia” – Amina Daugherty
“It’s not this big or special religious scarf its just an accessory. I buy scarves at Forever 21, H&M, Macys, Barney’s etc. Second generation millennials dress totally different. We incorporate modesty differently – like I wear leggings under skirts.” –Amera-Rime Lulu
“H&M, Marshalls. [The misconception of where Muslim women buy their hijabs] doesn’t bother me. Ignorance bothers me. D&G’s collection didn’t really open much of a dialogue outside Muslim and fashion platforms. The average American still doesn’t have a clue.” – Asma P
On the inclusion of more modest wear and hijab collections in Uniqlo and other fast-fashion retailers.
“It’s too few and and far in between. Most of the collections geared toward Muslim women are not accessible for the average women. I kickbox, spin etc and it would be cool to have scarves made out of actual work out fabric. The inclusion is positive, but there’s so much more designers and big box stores can do.” – Asma P
“I am hoping that fashion companies don’t try to tighten abayas, add splits, cinch them etc. It is important to keep the clothes modest, because that is the purpose of Islamic dress. Abayas and hijabs are not just a fashion statement, they have meaning.”=Amira Daugherty
“I’ve noticed a change in different retailers, loose-fitting stuff, long-sleeved, and longer [dress/skirt] options. It’s exciting that brands are finally tapping into millennial Muslims.” – Amera-Rime Lulu
“I’m very proud that people are finally taking notice. But it’s uneccessary to make a seperate section [in a retail store] for hijabs and modest wear as if it’s “special and different” – Wiwid Howat
“Usually when you purchase an Abaya from a Muslim store it is either extremely plain or too dressed up for casual use. I would really like for these stores to find the middle ground.” – Amina Daugherty