Writers: Sara Jamshidi, and Amjad Parkar
The prestigious Museum of the City of New York held the glitzy Maarkah fashion event that showcased brand new trends from the world of haute couture and modest fashion. Featuring talented designers from North America, Maarkah also provided a platform to discuss the impact of modest fashion on the industry as a whole through its Modesty in Fashion Influencers Panel, featuring instantly recognizable personalities such as Mariah Idrissi, the first model to wear a hijab during a major international fashion campaign, and Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder of the social media platform MuslimGirl.com. Other panelists included renowned fashion writer Eila Mell and award-winning Saudi designer Arwa Al Ammari.
According to Rabab Abdalla of event organizer for Runway Prestige, A parent production company for Maarkah, the ultimate aim was to establish Maarkah as an international forum of modest fashion wear.
“I am of Middle Eastern and African descent, so I wanted to see people from the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region to be represented here in New York; this is why I created this platform,” she told Goltune.
Runway Prestige wanted to focus on modesty in order to empower designers working within this particular fashion segment and convey the message that modest fashion could be trendy in any modern society. The organizers also wanted to help raise awareness about the concept of modesty, especially in terms of fashion.
“Modesty is not exclusive to any particular religion or cultural identity, but can be enjoyed by everyone. That is what we try to portray; we try to dispel any preconceived notion of the modest dress and, instead, recognize and celebrate its achievements,” said Rabab.
Maarkah’s runway show featured collections from the likes of Jacques La Grange, Annie Couture, Louella, Fllumae and Afflauts Hijab. Notably, not all of the designers were Muslim, reflecting Rabab’s message that modesty was not confined to any particular religion of culture. A case in point was Annie Couture’s collection of modest dresses and denim clothing – the brainchild of Russian-American Annie Garbuzova, who is also Jewish. She said her target market was women of any religion who also wanted to dress modestly.
“We do long dresses, under-the-knee dresses, and you never see in our collection any breast showing. We also have head cover items. I found that all the time women around me were trying to find beautiful clothes; they had also tried to cover their hair with wigs. But during the summertime and in rainy weather, the wig is not comfortable. I thought about this and I believe my line is so helpful for religious women,” she told Goltune.
She added that her collections aim to dispel notions that religious people cannot be beautiful or fashionable.
“I think we women are like diamonds in a safe. You do not show your body, because your body is just for your husband. This is the mindset for religious women. You wanna show that you are married, and you have a husband, and your husband is the only man in the world for you. I thought that I need to change the mindset and change the market,” she said.
For fellow designer Jacques La Grange of South Africa, one of the main aims of displaying his eponymous collection at Maarkah was to meet growing demand for modest fashion wear, especially from the Arab market.
“The Jacques La Grange line is all about providing simple, elegant, wearable clothes that clients can wear two or three times on different occasions. I think creating a garment is like creating a lifestyle. I design my clothes with my client in mind. If I was designing for a Parisian woman, they would be more tailored. For Arab clients, they like elegant, simple and sophisticated designs with simple silhouettes and uncluttered colors,” he told Goltune.
For Canadian designer Wedad Amiri, raising awareness about women’s empowerment went beyond simply providing a fashion statement. Her collection of designs under the Afflauts Hijab banner aimed to remove stigmas associated with mental illness in women.
“Women dealing with mental illnesses are all strong women. They are Muslim and non-Muslim. I wanted to show [through my collection] that how these women may have PTSD or other mental illnesses and show how they have mastered these illnesses in the community so that no one would really know they were suffering.”
On her Instagram page, Wedad writes in detail about each woman she captures who is wearing her designs. In one post, a young woman who wears a white drape top with a long blue blazer skirt is introduced as Melek Bayraktar who deals with anxiety.
“Anxiety has always acted as a barrier for her. She has blown off gatherings with friends, felt too anxious to go to places alone…Advice you would give someone dealing with anxiety:
You are not alone. You are not abnormal. There is not something seriously wrong with you. Opening up about your mental illness(es) will allow you to figure out what exactly is causing it…” says Wedad in the post.
Other themes Wedad has focused on through her designs include strong Muslim women and strong indigenous women.
Maarkah plans to organize its next show very soon, this time with international modest fashion designers from the Middle East and North Africa.
Stay tuned as Goltune News brings you further coverage from modest fashion industry.