The Capitalisation of Modest Fashion

This is something which has been playing on my mind for a little while – as modest fashion gains more and more exposure, there has been a big impact on the industry. I love that there are more and more Muslimah fashionistas and designers being represented out there, that retailers and brands are starting to take notice of modest fashion and the hijab (whether it’s stocking the clothes or featuring hijab models). Just recently an Indonesian Muslim designer garnered applause for having an all-hijab collection on the runway, and catwalk model Halima Aden also recently made news for wearing her hijab. I recently attended London’s first London Modest Fashion week (with another one happening this Bank Holiday weekend) and I’m pretty sure this is just the start. Vogue Arabia featured Gigi Hadid in a head-scarf, Uniqlo has made news for collaborating with a British-Japanese Muslim designer, and several mainstream companies have began to stock hijab-friendly pieces. In the midst of negativity about hijab, the French niqab-ban, the recent legislation about employers being able to ask employers to remove religious symbols, these are much-needed positivities in the modesty movement.

Modest fashion has been making waves for a while now – from Nigella donning that burqini to bloggers such as Dina Tokio and Nabiilabee who have now grown into becoming pioneers for the fashion industry, influencing the market, including designing their own ranges and even having pieces in mainstream stores – over the last decade it has really exploded and changed from the way it used to be (and I remember when we all used to wear a stretchy hijab when going to Quran lessons as kids which we used to just pull over our heads like little frumps!)

It all sounds so amazing, right? I love that there’s been so much growth in this industry, I do. But there’s also a lot of things which make me concerned about the rise of this multi-billion-dollar market. As a fashion blogger, and a young Muslimah who loves her fashion, and even as just an ordinary consumer, regardless of whether I blog about modest fashion or not, I certainly understand the struggle or getting decent modest clothes. My sisters and I all have memories of looking for suitable clothes as teenagers (and even now, sometimes) – outfits which cover our arms and chest, and look flattering without being fitted, modest without being frumpy, and stylish as well. Sounds like a tall order, and in our earlier years, it felt like it was. So it’s amazing to see the strides that have been taken in the fashion industry, that it’s easier to find pretty, girly maxi dresses which aren’t backless, long tops in pretty colours, or even scarves that are made from a decent material. It certainly makes sense that the reason for this growth is that there are so many others out there who has also had this need, whether it’s Muslim consumers, modest fashion bloggers, or just anyone looking for something which covers up a little more, and that this gap in the market is being filled. It also makes sense that there is a rise of modest fashion designers, online outlets which sell couture designs, and hundreds upon hundreds of companies which sell hijabs, abayas, modest dresses and so on.

So what’s my gripe? My issue is that it feels like a lot of companies are starting to recognise the amount of money being made from modest fashion, and taking their chance to capitalise on it. Now I understand that a business is a business – it needs to make profits and these companies are well within their rights to do so. However I feel that the result of a lot of these companies pushing the prices up means that the market gets inflated – suddenly it feels like a lot of the things which we want and need are expensive – ironic right? The outfits we want are there, but we can’t always afford them.

I’ve noticed, over the years, that some of the bigger designer companies have started to jump on the bandwagon too – D&G released an abaya and hijab collection last summer, and Tommy Hilfiger, Mango and DKNY among a few brands have all released capsule wardrobes for Ramadan in the Middle East in the past. The question in these cases are not why modest fashion is reaching these brands – these changes definitely show that customers fashion choices are being reflected – but more why these are aimed at an Arabian market which already have access to similar things like this, and also the fact that the price tags are only aimed at the richer classes who can afford these. Doesn’t it negate the whole gesture, surely, if the ordinary girls who want to wear this stuff can’t afford it, and don’t have access to the ‘designer’ things?

I’ve seen lots of modest fashion bloggers who collaborate with and promote modest clothing companies to help them become more popular. I’m not in disagreement with this, particularly when it helps a smaller brand, or a business whose ethics I genuinely agree with. I recently met a retailer for a modest clothes company whose outfits were very reasonably priced – the owner and designer of the collection explained to me he knew he could charge more, and chose not to. He said he would rather help more women be modest, do his good work in the name of religion, and sleep well at night – his children were in good university, his wife and himself were well-educated and had enough money, and they were happy with what they have. I was really pleased to hear something like this – as someone who has struggled with money issues in the past (as has everyone), I know it’s easy to get greedy and chase after more money. I loved that this company recognised that it would rather promote modesty in a workable way and still operate a business.

However I have also come across a lot of modest clothing brand who don’t take this stance – whether they like to cultivate an ‘elitist’ stance so that only certain people can wear their brands, whether they charge more because of their unique, customised pieces or even whether they charge these prices because they are ‘normal’. It’s made me pretty upset in the past when brands have cherry-picked who they want to work with – understandably they will pick those who will promote their brand, but it also makes fashion bloggers compete with each other, and creates a circle with excludes a lot of customers who want access to these outfits, and have to pay out of the nose to get them. One of my biggest concerns when I attended the London Modest Fashion week event was that there were plenty of brands and exhibitions to shop from, but I thought some of the things available were too pricey – I had a discussion with a friend who also went to the event a day later who said she would prefer to buy things from a normal high street store because the value for money was better.

So how can we address this issue? Over the years, as fashion has evolved, my attitudes has too. In the past I use to splurge on makeup and clothes (and had the money too!) so could afford to spend more to get what I wanted. These days, it’s not so much the money but the principle of getting quality for my money which has made me more picky. Can’t find a reasonably priced maxi dress? Buy some loose fabric and get it tailored (although we all know the struggle of finding a decent tailor who won’t charge the earth and also gives us our outfits on time!). Support a smaller brand who will appreciate feedback and pay attention to the products. Look at fair-trade companies who work ethically – it’s one thing supporting a Muslim company, but what about one who works in a green, ethical way?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this – have you noticed the difference in the rise of modest fashion too? For those of you who wear modest clothes, what have you opted to do?

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The Beautiful Colours of Istanbul

Hubby and I have been reminiscing over the beautiful things we saw in Istanbul (a sign that we need a new holiday), and it made me think that there’s so much of the countries and cities I have been to which have so many hidden, beautiful parts. There’s a lot of iconic landmarks like the Haga Sofia and Blue Mosque, the Basicilica Cisterns and Topkapi Palace which are of course, a must-visit. But there’s hundreds of other things you can find when you take yourself off the beaten tourist track. One of my favourite memories is walking through winding alleys, past blocks of flats with clothes-lines stretched across the street above us, and bridges and stairs until we found some beautiful rainbow stairs. It was the fact that along the way we saw a lot of beautiful places, which felt so much more real than the tourist spots – grafitti supporting Palestine, the ordinary public on their way to the markets, street-sellers selling cheap handbag replicas and lots of beautiful flowers, buildings and decor.

So here are my top 9 favourite, most colourful photos, each with an accompanying colourful memory. There’s a story behind each photo so make sure you hover over each square to read it!

 

Beautiful Bergen – Part 2

While staying in Bergen we managed to see quite a lot of sites in the few days that we stayed there, and tried to make the most of the long days and various attractions. One of the things which really struck my husband and myself was how well-spoken the Norwegian citizens are, and also how healthy and fit they seem – we spoke to several inhabitants who told us about regular walks up and down the mountain, the beautiful fresh air and various fresh fish they had for meals which was caught by the wharf.

There’s quite a few things which stood out for me in Bergen, so I’ll list some of my favourite below – let me know what you think of these!

Bergenhus Fortress, Rosenkrantz Tower & Haakon’s Hall
One of the things I was looking forward to seeing in Bergen was the historical sites, which were medieval buildings which go back as far as the 13th century. Begenhus Fortress is mainly the hall (Haakon’s Hall) and the Rosenkrant Tower (which is an old keep which used to have dungeons), which ares apparently a throwback to the Viking days, although the Hall was properly used for weddings and feasts from the 13th century. We didn’t get to see inside the Hall because we arrived too late, but we did get to wander around the grounds which we loved (and you can see the inside of the Hall here), where there were plenty of old structures, statues and large walkways to explore.

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Statues
There are several statues around the city of Bergen, which can be found in various spots, some of which are a commentary on society, with a certain message from the artist. The most memorable one was this hidden away, nameless statue of a homeless person below, which is apparently the most photographed statue in the city – it is meant to make the viewer think about why it is there and what it means. There are also several statue tributes to Norwegian historical figures – generals, presidents and well-loved figures whose images are around the city with plaques and scripts. There was one which always made me jump every time I saw it, because I kept thinking it was a real person – it was a statue of a young girl (below) at the corner of a doorway to a McDonalds restaurant – it catches your attention from the corner of your eye and makes you think there is someone standing there waiting for a friend!

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The Bookcafe
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I love quirky libraries and bookshops – I make it a point to look out for beautiful bookstores while abroad and haven’t been disappointed yet! It took me a while to find a pretty bookstore like this one, as I saw a few scattered in different areas but some were shut, and the others were not very memorable. I found this one the day before we left Bergen, with beautiful decoration, hanging books, scripts on walls and seating inside which showed it was a cafe for people to read and relax.

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Town square
I’ve already written about the town square, which is surrounded by colourful hotels and restaurants, and further along the high street you come to the more modern part of the street, which is a street lined with designer shops, and has a giant water-feature with a sort of stone obelisk in the middle, with carvings and statues on it. I loved the carvings along the stone faces of this landmark, it seems to show the story of settlers and Viking boats travelling to new places, as well as various religious pictures which seem to be a big feature with Norwegian history. Similarly, the statues were all dressed in different eras to reflect the different centuries, which looked great.

Anne Madam
One of the biggest problems my husband and I found was the expense of the food – a lot of the normal restaurants ended up costing around £30-40 per person for a normal meal, and even the usual burger-chains like Burger King and McDonalds were pricier than we expected – more than they cost in the UK! Luckily, we managed to find a new restaurant which had opened a few days after our arrival, and which was offering traditional Norwegian food at a discounted price. The traditional food in Bergen is mainly various types of fish, since it is a fishing town, so naturally we wanted to try some, and managed to get some at Anne Madame, which is in the heart of the city opposite the wharf. This plate is a traditional hake and potato pieces which were given with a light tartar sauce and coleslaw, and which was delicious – we loved it enough to come back here again before we left!

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Things to look out for
We went to Bergen in the first week of May, which is  one of the warmest months to visit, and the start of the tourist season – so there is plenty of things happening for tourists to see. We were lucky enough to see a drummer’s parade going through the town (I love the sound of loud drums, it always makes me want to dance!), and found plenty of quirky shops like a moose shop (below), a troll shop (the trolls are not the cute 90s kind but uglier ones!) and shops with beautiful hand-crafted goods and clothes. We also saw a lot of beautiful buildings, mixed against a backdrop of green mountains and beautiful lakes, which made it a really peaceful place to spend the day.

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All in all, my husband and I loved the beauty of Bergen – it is one of those places where you feel like there is every natural beautiful landscape to be found. A friend of mine visited Oslo recently, and complained that it was less beautiful than Bergen – there are most commercial buildings, more lights and less colour, and I certainly agree – there is a lot of beautiful colour and nature to be found in this city.

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Writing on the Wall: Classical Colours

One of my biggest issues with my attempts with art is that I never feel that it’s as good as other people’s masterpieces, or that it’s not quite right, so it needs to be a little better. When I was younger I was convinced that I’d be better as I drew more and learned more about art – used different techniques and mediums and just find my niche. Sadly enough, over the years, even though my enthusiasm still sparks into life when I’m in the arts and craft section and when I read about different styles of drawing, it fizzles out a little when I pick up a pencil (or drawing tablet!) to draw something myself.

I saw this a few days ago and loved the riot of colour in all this – even though it’s framed and placed against other frames, they don’t act as boundaries, there’s patterns within patterns, and beautiful details which overlap and pulls the eye.

I’d love to paint something like this, and it’s when I see beautiful things like this that I feel inspired, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. I’m not sure I’m skilled enough to paint with oil paints just yet, but I’d love to try mixing colours and media to see what beautiful colours and patterns I get. So here’s a little colour to brighten up the weekend.

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A Ladybird and Chillies

Spotted this today while buying chillies in housewife mode – is it just me who just delicately picks up every and each piece of vegetable to examine before putting it in my bag? Meanwhile a woman in front of me strode up, dove her hand into the pile and grabbed a huge bunch without looking and stuffed them all into her bag (all while looking at me suspiciously, and probably wondering why I’m looking at each individual chilli pepper).

Luckily she didn’t pick up this ladybird (which was still tottering out oblivious to the earthquare happening three inches away) – after I whipped out my camera to take a snap, I left it in peace in the big green jungle : )

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Journal Your Ramadan – Day #15: O is for Out and About

Now that it’s getting warmer, I’ve been finding myself wandering around more, partly for work and also partly because of the long hours of daylight in the afternoon and evenings. Its interesting what I find around London – a floral decorated doorway, a food market, street art – there’s something interesting to be seen most days.

So here’s a snapshot of the various things I’ve seen recently, in parks, markets, shops and generally out and about. What have you been doing recently?

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Honeymoon Travels: The Grand Bazaar

I have always loved going to markets of all types, and I always seek them out when I’m in new places – so naturally I wanted to visit the famous (and biggest) market in Istanbul, which was the Grand Bazaar.

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It was certainly nothing like I expected, which was something like an open bazaar with people flogging their wares on stalls. The Grand Bazaar is just that, grand and diverse. Most of the market is inside an old building with several winding hallways and corridors, each one packed on both sides with sellers and shops. Below are just a few of the things which caught my eye, lanterns, carpets, scarves, lamps, spices and sweets, but there’s so much more. I caught sight of fake Louboutins, gold jewellery, ice creams, jewellery, paintings and hundreds more things which are available on display.

We ended up spending a few hours here looking for souvenirs, haggling and comparing, and came away a little dazed and overwhelmed, not to mention the fact that we had entered from one of the Market and exited half a mile in another direction!

 

Weekend Pretty : Rainbow Roses

I saw these beauties yesterday and loved the surreal, vivid colours that these rainbows were in. Most likely they have been dyed by the florists, but the colours were pretty well blended and looked quite intense – they reminded me of a beautiful, surreal painting. I would have liked to buy some but they were pretty expensive (and being sold at individual price!) so I thought I might give it a shot to dye one of my own. I’ll be sure to post if that doesn’t turn out to be a shambles.

Happy weekendings, all!

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