BBC News – Malaysia enters Islamic fashion market

Jennifer Pack of the BBC in Kuala Lumpur said fashion that follows Islamic rules is a largely untapped market and Malaysia is trying to position itself as the fashion capital of the Islamic world.

Malaysia’s moderate form of Islam allows for flexibility in design

That modesty can be beautiful is the message organizers of the Islamic Fashion Festival in Kuala Lumpur want to send to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Malaysian designer Tom Abang Saufi says many non-Muslims equate Islamic clothing with wearing black.

But one can be religious and fashionable at the same time, she says.

Islamic clothing, by definition, must cover everything except the face and palms. Clothes should not show off your figure so as not to attract unnecessary attention.

However, how this is interpreted in the Islamic world varies from designer to designer and country to country.

Tom’s designs include many brightly colored tunics made from silk chiffon.

“I don’t just dress them in black,” she says.

Islamic clothing can be “beautiful, not outrageous,” Tom says.

mainstream impulse

The Islamic Fashion Festival is part of Malaysia’s International Fashion Week.

Chairman and founder Raja Reza Shah said it will show Muslim women different ways to cover up.

Islam is not just about calling for holy war

Abdul Kareem Said Qadeid
Representative of fashion label “Kadani”

The 48-year-old said he founded the event in 2006 as a way to make Islamic fashion more mainstream.

Since then, more than 200 designers from around the world have participated, half of whom are non-Muslims, Reza said.

“I am proud to at least demonstrate that Islam, or Islamic activism, is not a platform to scare non-Muslims away.

For the past three years, Mr. Reza has performed shows in Jakarta and Dubai. They hope to hold it in Monte Carlo next August.

Mr. Reza sees a lot of potential in the Islamic fashion market centered on Kuala Lumpur.

That’s because Muslims make up more than 50% of Malaysians. It also borders Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population.

“Room for creativity”

Leading European fashion brands such as Christian Dior are tapping into that market this year by revamping Islamic costumes such as the abaya, a floor-length black overcoat.

Women in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf usually wear an abaya with a scarf or face veil that covers everything except the eyes.

Reza said Malaysia, with its mixed Malay, Chinese and Indian communities, is well-suited to become a fashion hub for Islamic clothing because religious rules are less strict than in the Middle East.

“I feel like we have more room for creativity.”

Malaysian designer Tom Aban Saufi

Designer Tom Abban Saufi says Islamic clothing doesn’t need to be restrictive.

Reza said the fashion event will feature dresses of various lengths.

Reza says this open interpretation of what constitutes Islamic fashion has led to criticism from many people. Most of them are fellow Muslims and wonder why some models are not completely covered up.

Reza says she wants to reflect what Muslim women actually wear in different regions, so she isn’t particular about how Islamic the clothes actually are.

He says his goal is to get attention first.

Reza said he is glad that since he started the show, there have been more boutiques selling Islamic fashion in Kuala Lumpur.

Over time, he says he hopes covering up is no longer automatically associated with being extremist or outdated.

islamic swimwear

Malaysia is proud to be a moderate Islamic nation.

In Kuala Lumpur, Muslim women have a wide range of styles. Some wear colorful headscarves and tunics.

Some people wear headscarves paired with revealing tops over long-sleeved shirts to cover the chest and arms.

Trying to follow Islamic rules while wearing Western clothes is difficult.

Nuraini Mohamed Arifin said she was unable to go to public pools because traditional swimwear was too revealing.

Islamic swimwear by designer Nuraini Mohamed Arifin

This swimsuit allows Muslim women to use public pools

At her husband’s urging, the 37-year-old designed a four-piece Islamic swimsuit consisting of a shoulder-length headscarf, a swimming cap, a sleeveless surfing wetsuit-like garment, and a zip-up. A tunic to wear on top.

Nuraini founded a company called Active Attire five years ago.

Since then, she has found increased competition in the market from designers from Spain, Indonesia and Australia.

But Nuraini says she doesn’t mind because it means Islamic swimwear is accepted internationally.

That’s the whole point of the Islamic Fashion Festival, says Abdul Kareem Said Kadaid, president of Kadani Fashion Label.

He says fashion is a good way to express the softer, gentler side of Islam.

“Islam is not all about calling for holy war,” he says.

Abdul Kareem says the purpose of the fashion event is to show Muslims and non-Muslims that Islamic clothing is attractive.

“I don’t want others to see me as a sexual object, but I can be beautiful.”

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