Modest Fashion Paradox, Controversy and Dilemma: a Conversation with Hafsa Lodi

 

Hafsa Lodi is an American journalist who has been covering fashion in the Middle East for the past decade. She was born in New York City. At the age of 14, she and her family were relocated to the United Arab Emirates. Hafsa holds an undergraduate degree from the Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto, and graduate degree in Islamic Law from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies.

We talk with Hafsa on Tuesday, September 8th, at 12 noon, PST (Seattle local time). Watch the interview here: https://www.facebook.com/GoltunePeaceJournalism

 

Modesty:

A Fashion Paradox

By Hafsa Lodi, from her blog

Modest fashion has been gaining momentum in the mainstream global fashion industry over the past half-decade and is now a multi-billion-dollar retail sector. Its growing and now consistent appearance on high-profile fashion runways, on celebrities and in the headlines of fashion publications and news outlets, has shown that the modest fashion movement is hugely relevant to consumers.

This is particularly true for millennial who are attracted to the feminist influences behind concealing your body, follow faith-based dress codes, or are attuned to social media, where more and more modest fashion bloggers are using imagery to inspire their followers.

While the movement can credit European high fashion houses, like Gucci, for making conservative dresses and layering “in style” and “on trend,” and subsequent Western labels like DKNY, H&M and Mango for dabbling in the realm of modest wear, it is the newly emerging group of faith-influenced fashion brands who are driving the revolution, along with a new crop of Muslim fashion bloggers. These have helped catapult demure dressing trends globally.

This book speaks to the various personalities and companies who have helped shape the modest fashion industry into such a significant retail sector, while also exploring the controversies that lie at the heart of the movement, such as one pressing question: even if it covers the skin but is flamboyant, modeled with the purpose of attracting attention, and publicly promoted on social media, can fashion truly be modest?

 

 

 

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Modesty: A Fashion Paradox:

Uncovering The Causes, Controversies And Key Players Behind The Global Trend To Conceal Rather Than Reveal 

 

By Hafsa Lodi

 


 

Interview with Hafsa Lodi for Peacemindedly Podcast

(Will be published on Sep. 10)

 

 


 

Modesty: A Fashion Paradox teaser

Sara Jamshidi, producer for Peacemindedly

 


YouTube Raw Footage of the Conversation with Hafsa Lodi for Peacemindedly Podcast

 

 


 

 

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Transcription of Peacemindedly Interview with Hafsa Lodi on Modest Fashoin Paradox.

 

 

 

Sara [00:00:05] Hello, peace lovers and peace makers. This is Sara Jamshidi with Mateen Rokhsefat. Welcome to Peacemindedly, the podcast show featuring peaceful bridge makers. Just very quickly here, mentioning that we are live streaming our show on many social media channels, including Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter. So it’s very easy to find us online.

Sara [00:00:29] So now we are just jumping into the program with our guest.

Sara [00:00:33] So today I’m talking with Halfsa Lodi, author of Modesty: A Fashion Paradox Uncovering the Causes, Controversies and Key Players Behind a Global Trend to Conceal, rather than Reveal.

Sara [00:00:50] Hafsa was born in New York. She relocated to the United Arab Emirates with her family when she was 14 years old. Hafsa earned her undergrad degree from Raynald School of Journalism in Toronto and her master’s degree in Islamic law from the University of London. I think she’s uniquely qualified to talk about modest fashion because she does practice and wears various modest clothes. A modest fashion paradox has received many favorable reviews. I think Hafsa is trying to uncover lots of information in the modest fashion industry. She tries to explain almost everything in regard to modest fashion. So I am bringing Hafsa Lodi to my screen. Hello Hafsa.

modest fashion, peacemindedly, peace journalism, sara jamshidi, hafsa lodiHafsa [00:01:37] Hello. Thank you so much for having me today.

Sara [00:01:40] Absolutely. It’s a pleasure. So in my personal view, I believe that there is just lots of information that you are trying to unfold and trying to just touch base in one book. Just setting the ground rule and running, and just so we understand exactly what we are talking about, can you tell us what is modest fashion?

Hafsa [00:02:12] Yes. So typically speaking, modest fashion refers to clothing that covers the shoulders, oftentimes up to the wrists and covers the knees, oftentimes up to the ankles. It also may or may not include a head covering such as a hijab neckline that typically high and the silhouettes are loose and unfitted without see-through fabric. So that’s kind of typically speaking generally, what modest fashion (paradox) refers to. But of course, every woman has her own kind of interpretation and her own definition of what modesty means.

Sara [00:02:44] Yes. So by reading the book and just diving into the information that you’re trying to unfold… So it looks perhaps correct me if I’m wrong…

Sara [00:02:58] But perhaps fashion is for probably well to do people who are just, you know, trying to dress the best way they can. But is it really for a well to do people or is it for all people of all budget or everyday people or whatever?

Hafsa [00:03:19] I think fashion definitely holds a place in all across all walks of life, people of all walks of life, whether or not they’re wearing designer clothing, obviously different depends on their budget and their social circles and their standing in the world.

Hafsa [00:03:32] But I think fashion itself, whether whatever kind of pay grade you’re at, holds quite a bit in meeting you dress according to what your personality is and how you want your identity to come across. You dress according to your cultural beliefs. Sometimes you dress according to your religious beliefs, your family rules.

In some cases. I definitely think fashion is not just for the elite, designer fashion and the kind of trend based fashion, that we are kind of fed by luxury fashion houses that mainstream fashion weeks across London, Milan, in Paris, in New York, then that is definitely for an elite kind of standing of society.

Sara [00:04:12] Excellent. So here is my question, Hafsa. The U.S. media is saturated by explaining, perhaps or describing Muslim women as being oppressed, as being submissive, as being backward and so forth and so on…

 

Sara [00:04:33] Now, it’s probably for the first time — that we see a positive story, perhaps circulating in the mainstream Western media news cycle. So I want to see now, what is your take about this new attitude?

So, of course, as you explain in your book there, there has been many people has contributed to this new phenomenon, bloggers, business owners and social media enthusiast and so forth. But I want you to tell me, what do you think or how do you feel that the Western media has taken this kind of new approach towards some women?

modest fashion, peacemindedly, peace journalism, sara jamshidi, hafsa lodiHafsa [00:05:22] Yeah.

Hafsa [00:05:23] I mean, if you looked at news stories in the mainstream media that described Muslim women a decade ago or right after September 11, for instance, it was always with images of the burqa and niqab, all black tents like garments, sometimes blue. I mean, it wasn’t much diversity ever when it came to the portrayal of Muslim women in the Western media. It was always linked to politics, linked to the war on terror.

There were these kind of unapproachable foreign looking images whenever Muslim women were discussed. And I think one of the big positive, side effects about the modest fashion movement that has gone global today, is that it has really changed how Muslim women are portrayed in the mainstream Western media. And the modest fashion (paradox) movement is not just a Muslim movement, it’s not a religious movement, but it has helped kind of paint this new modern, colorful, bold picture of what Muslim women can look like.

And that’s mainly thanks to these Muslim women in the spotlight now, starting with Halema, the Somali hijabi runway model that opened the Kanye West runway show back in, I think, 2017. And she kind of paved the path for all of these other young aspiring hijabi fashion models to follow. And then, of course, all of these modest fashion bloggers that we have on Instagram today who are Muslim, who are fashionable and who are kind of proving that you can have the best of both worlds. So I think that really helps kind of mainstream designers have woken up to the fact that, oh, there is this new Muslim woman who we can cater to, who we can design clothes for.

 


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And these new Muslim women are kind of becoming — I mean, they’re not new Muslim woman. They’ve been here forever, but they are kind of now being given the spotlight that they rightly deserve.

Sara [00:07:10] So you’re right. I have two questions. I’m going to ask the first question. Yes. One argument that you are making in your book is that probably in mainstream fashion houses really want to reach out to Muslim pockets and to apply Muslim purchase powers in order to just gain and attract a market towards their own business entity. On the other hand, some of the fashion houses or some of the businesses who are specifically catering towards this particular industry, like modest, just gone out of business.

Sara [00:07:52] But it was. Which one? The fashion valley. (Yeah.) Or other businesses? And they tried to shy away from anything, or having any connotation towards religion, because they also want to apply to a larger audience for the sake of sales. So in one hand, one particular business says we’re over all about Muslims and we want, you know, to cater. On the other hand, the Muslim business owners say, you know what’s good for all, all of women or all people. So how do you see this controversy?

modest fashion, peacemindedly, peace journalism, sara jamshidi, hafsa lodiHafsa [00:08:30] So it’s interesting. You mentioned the motus, which unfortunately closed down recently due to the pandemic.

Hafsa [00:08:35] But I was speaking to their founder and his line and around 30 percent of their purchases, I believe, were from the Midwest, U.S. They were based in Dubai, in the Middle East.

But many, many American, white, possibly non-Muslim women were there — a big part of their consumers. So I think it’s definitely a smart business approach for these Muslim e-commerce websites not to kind of target religion, or Islamic fashion, or a particular definition of modesty, or kind of linkage to religion in any way.

I think not only not only to appeal to all religions and people who are perhaps non-religious, but also just because within religion there are such diverse opinions about what modest fashion (paradox) is. Does it have to have a hijab? Does it have to be, you know, muted colors? Does it have to cover the ankle? So I think just by keeping it open, you keep your doors open to everybody. You do have the most.

You spread your wings as wide as you can so you can attract all the possible customers who may come your way. And then, yes, on the other hand, the luxury designers, I mean, none of them will really openly admit that we are creating modest fashion to attract these rich Arabs who we see all over social media.

None of them are really saying that. We all know it’s true. But the fashions they’re designing are not just being bought by Muslims. They’re you know, Gucci is making these really cool. Trendy, layered looks and yes, Middle Eastern women are falling for them and buying them, but also European women, American woman, Canadian women. You know, people all over the planet in this elite, whoever can afford Gucci, whoever can afford these high fashion labels are buying them.

I would say it’s a smart move not to kind of say that we are targeting a specific religion. There are just these population projections and financial projections that have come up over the past few years that have just kind of identified the Muslim millennial market as one with a lot of spending power. So brands are just naturally kind of starting to cater to these modesty guidelines that these Muslim woman may have.

 

Sara [00:10:43] How popular? I’m gonna go to the other question later, but how popular is modest fashion among Muslim women let’s say, in Dubai, let’s say in the United States and in some Gulf region? Because some of the arguments cover modest fashion as a part of our news coverage. And we hear constantly people saying that fashion and anything fashions. I mean, especially modest fashion, is not one of the areas of focus right now, especially in the Middle East, because there are so many things are going on how wars and we have starvation. We have this and we have that. And then my fashion comes just at the end of our list.

 

Hafsa [00:11:37] So I think that’s true, given all of the tragedies and the political kind of upheaval that we have in the Middle East often over the past few years. I mean, over many years, fashion is not always a priority here. But, when you look at these kind of oil rich Gulf states, Saudi, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait — fashion definitely hit plays a big role in the lives of women here and the lives of locals and ex-pats.

Hafsa [00:12:03] But modest fashion (paradox) as a retail category, may not be as popular here, surprisingly as it is in the US. And as it is in the U.K., because here, traditionally there’s a lot of segregation in Arab culture.

modest fashion, peacemindedly, peace journalism, sara jamshidi, hafsa lodiSo women often wear the abaya and underneath that, they may wear whatever they want, possibly in modest clothing, not clothing. Not that’s not necessarily modest because they have that outer garment to wear over.

So the modest fashion (paradox) movement that we’re seeing — this big boom, is actually more kind of relevant in the US than in the U.K., where women need clothing for their kind of public outings, where they might not necessarily want to wear it an abaya, it’s not part of their culture, it’s not part of the norm and in the West.

So really, it’s kind of a different market than modest fashion appeals to both in the Middle East, as opposed to in the West. Yeah, I found that very interesting as I researched that: even some of the designers I spoke to who founded their brands in Dubai, they lived here in Dubai with their families.

They founded these fashion labels, but then they found that most of their sales were actually coming from the US, 70 percent, 80 percent of their customers were ordering from the U.S. So it just made more sense for them to move their businesses there. So they actually moved across the world just because there was more of a demand for modest fashion in the West.

 

Sara [00:13:23] I was just fidgeting because I wanted to ask, I prepared this question for the second part of the interview. But since we were talking about the same subject, I’m just going to ask this question now. Here is my hypothesis and I want your help to readjust it and probably brainstorm or hash out the idea. My hypothesis is: daughters or young women of immigrant families in the United States…

Sara [00:13:53] Some of those immigrant families are a bit conservative or somewhat conservative, and they have some sort of strict rules for their family regulations or whatever is working within their own space, right. And what happened was right after 9/11, we’ve been seeing, I mean, narratives and story after story about these kind of Muslim communities.

Sara [00:14:21] It’s that Muslims are those Muslims are this. And then perhaps, there is space created for some of these young girls, and some of these young women who say, you know what? What we see in the media or what the media is telling about us is not us. It’s a different story. And then therefore, we are going to tell our own story and shape our own narrative. And what helped was social media because against media and they just bypass the Western traditional media platform to create this new narrative.

Sara [00:15:05] So so I’m just wondering, is it fair to say that after 9/11, some of these immigrant families got loose of their own regulations to give space to this and women use this new breathing space. And probably within this democracy to just create this space that we’re talking about, modest fashion?

Sara [00:15:30] Definitely. I mean, you said it exactly correctly. I completely agree with you.

 


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Hafsa [00:15:35] This new wave of Muslim feminism by young millennial Muslims has really emerged as a response to the post 9/11 Islamophobia. And there’s this clash of civilizations narrative that you always are fed is as a immigrant living in the US, or even just a third or, you know, second or third culture, generational person living in the U.S. or your family or your parents may have been born and bred in the US, but your grandparents are from somewhere in the east that there’s, you know, the Western ideals that may conflict with your cultural heritage.

And social media has become this kind of medium for these Muslim women to showcase what their identity is as this new kind of hybrid of these of these different worlds. And I think author Shelina Janmohamed does a really great job of explaining this. She wrote a book called Generation M and she refers to Generation M as this group of millennial Muslims who are kind of showing that you can have both faith and modernity.

And they’re kind of using this to launch their own businesses that merge kind of Islamic values with maybe a modern lifestyle. And I think these faith-based Muslim fashion labels that we’re seeing emerge over the past few years that are modest fashion labels are a big example of Generation M designers, and entrepreneurs. So I think her book is a really good one for anybody interested in this kind of this idea of how young Muslims in the West are, you know, are reconciling their faith and their current culture, their Western culture.

 

Sara [00:17:15] Yes, it’s indeed it’s a very, very good book. I really recommend it. I’m just going to get the exact title very soon. But here’s the catch, Hafsa. The catch is, let’s say, you know, I’m from Iran and then in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Her job is mandatory. And then a young girl, a young woman in Iran says: what the heck? You’re talking about, fashion and a modest fashion (paradox). Something that I do not choose because it’s been imposed on me, against me. And they very much dislike your book. I know that you tried to be objective, you are not taking sides. I know. I know all of this. But what is your response to that?

 

modest fashion, peacemindedly, peace journalism, sara jamshidi, hafsa lodiHafsa [00:18:01] Definitely. There are areas, not only countries like Iran and Saudi, but there are also families in every part of the world, in America, in Canada, in the UAE, in the UK. There are families and these pockets of cultural communities where there are these patriarchal families and the father dictates what the women in his family wear, what they do, what they say, who they marry, what they eat, what time they sleep, when they have to come home.

And they have modest fashion imposed on them often as well. I mean, it’s a very unfortunate kind of reality of our life. But this book that I wrote, Modesty: a fashion paradox, is not about those communities and those examples. I tried to focus this book on the modest Fasching movement that’s really inspiring women to make their own choice to cover up, whether that’s for religious, political, cultural or other reasons. So, yeah, I would say that definitely is a reality of life and it’s very unfortunate.

And there’s some NGOs and there’s a feminist organizations trying to help these women. But at the same time, women who have dress modestly, who choose to dress modestly, have been ostracized from mainstream society because of their choices, to dress modestly and to identify with modest fashion. And people kind of often can’t believe that they would choose to cover up.

And they’ve had to kind of fight these Western values of individualism and societal standards that kind of pressure you to bare your skin in order to look attractive. They’ve kind of really had to fight against those all their life. So this book was more about these kind of women, who are finally having a spotlight — a positive spotlight on their choices to dress modestly.

 

Sara [00:19:44] Yes, speaking of which I really need to mention, my editor and assistant producer: Mateen covers and she’s modern and she’s educated. She has PhD and she’s all of those and she chooses to cover.

Sara [00:20:02] And that’s exactly the point that you are making for the book. But if you want to be frank about the points that you’ve been mentioning in the book, what is your critique about your own book?

 

Hafsa [00:20:15] Like, I think about my book. You know, one critique. So this book came out right when the whole Black Lives movement was, you know, being unearthed in the US and kind of spread across the world. And I’m a journalist full-time.

This book, which was my only book so far. So I spend my time freelancing for a bunch of publications and I write about modest fashion often. And one story that kind of came to me in June – July was a story about how black women are kind of at the forefront of the modest fashion movement. How there’s so many very talented black Muslim fashion designers, models, entrepreneurs in the industry.

Yet, that when you think of modest fashion, when you see the campaigns, when you see look books that the designers are using, they’re often white. And often in this Middle Eastern region, they’re often very light-skinned. White Arab passing models that are being used. So this is something that I woke up to over the summer. But, oh, there’s a big diversity problem.

And in the modest fashion movement, the modest fashion movement is supposed to celebrate diversity. But there’s still a big diversity problem within the movement when it comes to skin tone, when it comes to inclusivity. So I think if I had to critique my own; that’s one point that there’s a big diversity angle that I can further explore if we come to a second edition.

So we have a half black model on the cover. Maria, she’s a Moroccan Pakistani living in the U.K. But I think there’s really more space to explore the fabulous black Muslim women who have really been contributing to this movement for years.

 

Sara [00:21:51] Absolutely. Absolutely. So stay put Hafsa, I’m going to come back. You are watching Peacemindedly, a podcast show featuring peaceful bridge makers. So we are live streaming our conversation on eight social media channels. This is our 21st program on Peacemindedly.

We are on our second season for the podcast show. We are coming back every Tuesday. Mateen and I come back every Tuesday at 12:00 noon to talk about peace, kindness, compassion, and to feature our peaceful bridge makers. They are people who are bridging gaps between cultures, between nations, between attitudes, and they are just offering their body of work to bridge that gap.

 


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For next week, I am talking with Elizabeth Lesser, author of many bestselling books, including her recent book, Cassandre Speaks When New Women Are Storytellers, The Human Story Changes. Elizabeth is the co-founder of Omega Institute, a nonprofit, mission driven organization on wellness, spirituality and creativity.

After that, on September 29, we are talking with Massimo Pigliucci. He will tell us about a Field Guide to a Happy Life. Fifty three brief lessons for living. Massimo is a professor of philosophy at this City College of New York. He will tell us how ancient philosophers, philosophers like Plato, like Aristotle and how many others kept themselves amused, entertained and exuberant with life. And what we can learn from those philosophers today.

I think this book is especially practical for our use these days because of the uncertainty that we are swimming within. For this hour, and then I wanted to mention the book that perhaps our guest mentioned by Shelina Janmohamed Generation M, young Muslims changing the word “generation”, and it’s the new phrase that I’ve been seeing, young, exuberant, modern cosmopolitan girls and women are using as a form of empowerment. So it’s it’s a very good read. It’s a good read.

For this hour, although, we are talking with Hafsa Lodi, American journalist based in Dubai, Hafsa is the author of Modesty: A Fashion Paradox, Uncovering the Causes, Controversies and Key Players Behind a Global Trend to conceal rather than reveal. Hafsa’s book is available on goltune.com.

We have affiliation program with the Amazon. And if you purchased it through goltune.com, you are going to help our peace journalist initiative. Hafsa studied journalism and Islamic law and she practices modest fashion herself.

Her relationship with religion, culture and modernity has always been very tight. She writes about this same topic for the national newspaper, Luxure magazine, Mawji magazine and other publications. She started the book when she was having a creator in her tummy. And then and then she dedicated the book to her daughter. How old is your daughter, Hafsa?

 

Hafsa [00:26:28] She’s almost two. She’s 21 months now.

 

Sara [00:26:31] Oh, mashallah, today is my daughter’s birthday. Oh, happy birthday. Yes.

Sara [00:26:37] Yes, thank you. And then she turned 10. And here’s the thing. So here’s the thing. Any time that I hear people say, oh, she — it’s going go pass by, time is gonna fly. It’s gonna go so quickly. And just, you know, look at them like ya, really? And honestly, I don’t think so. Yesterday, one of my friends, Johan Keansburg, she’s a rabbi, and she shared a code on Facebook that they really wanted to mention here in our program for us working mothers.

It said, why is it that we expect a woman to work like she doesn’t have kids and the same time, expect her to raise her kids like she doesn’t work? Exactly. Shout out to all hard working moms out there being measured by impossible, impossible standards. Honestly, honestly.

So what has been the experience for you as a working mom? I know that in Dubai at least women have had some help, or especially if you’re around your family members, you have your mom, your sister. It’s very different in the United States. We just do everything ourselves. Yeah, but again, I mean, working moms. So how has been the experience for you?

 

modest fashion, peacemindedly, peace journalism, sara jamshidi, hafsa lodi

 

Hafsa [00:28:02] It’s been — so I haven’t gone back to office full time since having a baby and I live close by to my mother, so that helps.

Hafsa [00:28:08] I personally don’t have a nanny or help her like that. I haven’t given into that little part of the Dubai life just yet.

I was raised in the States and I never had a nanny. So it’s not something that I’m really used to in my own family or culture. But it’s definitely tough, you definitely have to time manage and nighttime is the only time you can work basically.

After they go to sleep, that’s the only time you’re gonna be productive. The day is just running around and entertaining her and making her food, trying to feed her, cleaning up her food. That’s basically all day.

 

Sara [00:28:40] I know, Mateen is also a working mom. So we know what you’re talking about.

Sara [00:28:46] So in your book, you write about bloggers, designers, business owners, photographers and all of those people. And then, somehow it feels or there is a fear that I felt. So what you’re talking about concealment. So what these people are trying to conceal rather than reveal within their workspace.

 

Hafsa [00:29:12] Yes. So within basically, I think one of the main features of modest fashion (paradox), how we’re seeing it on social media is that modesty is about concealing your skin and covering your skin. So we see a lot of these designs and these trends on social media that maybe skin covering may not be typically modest.

If you look at modesty from a traditional perspective, for instance, I’ll give a personal story. There’s this hijab trend that’s going around social media that I wanted to try myself today. So it’s when women wear a button-down white shirt, kind of like this, but in white, with a tank top, kind of like a corset top on top of it.

So of course, that’s not typically modest fashion clothing, but a kind of a hallmark of the modest fashion (paradox) movement, is that women are taking these items and layering them to make an overall modest look.

So I tried doing that this morning after seeing it on Instagram everywhere. And I looked in the mirror and I didn’t feel modest at all. I felt like I’m accentuating part of my body that I don’t want to. I felt that was kind of counteractive to the whole modest modesty ideal. So it’s really interesting. That’s one of it’s kind of conflicts and the paradoxes of the modest fashion movement. Is fashion modest just if it covers your skin?

If it’s still skin tight is it modest? If it’s still kind of drawing attention to particular areas of a woman’s body that maybe traditionally aren’t supposed to be accentuated, is it still modest? So this is one of the kind of contradictions of the movement that I found. And I kind of experienced myself today for the first time.

 

Sara [00:30:54] Thanks for sharing. Yes. Yes, exactly. Is it fair to say that it’s really personal interpretation?

 

Hafsa [00:31:01] Definitely. Definitely. And I feel like it also depends on your body type, perhaps. And when I see all these pictures of these hijabi women on Instagram, these modest fashion bloggers using layering in this really smart, clever way. I still think they look modest oftentimes, they still look modest on me. For some reason, it doesn’t look modest, but maybe it’s just a personal thing as well.

But definitely, modesty is not only personal, it often changes your personal definition of modesty, changes throughout your life. Mine has personally, from whether it’s from wearing short sleeves to long sleeves, to covering elbows, to wearing bikinis one day, and then wearing a normal one-piece, swimsuits, the other, you know, like it really — I think life circumstances kind of shape how you view fashion, how you view modesty and how you kind of view the merging of both as well.

 

Sara [00:31:56] So tell me, why changed for you? What happened? Why you decided?

 

Hafsa [00:32:03] It’s a good question. I think I wouldn’t say anything big, really. I think throughout researching this book, my definition of modest fashion also changed. I think if you even just look at the hijab, we all have like this mainstream of the hijab, that hijab means that only the face, hands and feet can be shown.

But if you see all of these modest fashion bloggers on Instagram, they all have very varying approaches to modesty. And there is this term called Haram Ankles that they kind of joke about that, oh, if they’re wearing a mini skirt that maybe covers their calves but not their ankles, they’ll get all these comments on Instagram from all these modest fashion police or they call the Haram police, to say this isn’t hijab.

Your ankles are showing or your neck is showing because you’re wearing a turban, hijab. And I think just seeing all this negativity and seeing all this these kind of criticisms, even when these women are covering and they’re looking stylish and modest, they’re looking very modest, but because of flash of ankle, because of neck, because ears are showing, you know, they get all of this criticism. And it made me kind of maybe realize that it’s not always about the inches that are on display.

Modesty is not just about, you know, if a little bit of skin is showing here and there. It’s very much about kind of the intention and how you portray yourself and how you are. Modesty is also an inner virtue in how you display that, how you embody that, and how your character kind of comes across through your clothing. So, yeah, I think there are many, many different ways for modesty to be expressed, clothing is only one of them.

 

Sara [00:33:42] Yes, very well put. So in your book, you write modest fashion bloggers are the ambassadors of Islam. What do you mean?

 

Hafsa [00:33:51] So I think I posed it as a question: are modest fashion bloggers, ambassadors of Islam? Because oftentimes and we’re seeing this recently that.

modest fashion, peacemindedly, peace journalism, sara jamshidi, hafsa lodiHafsa [00:34:00] Well, so first of all, when these modest fashion bloggers kind of became this big, big phenomenon, big movement on social media, they were kind of the poster, the poster children for Islam on this vehicle, on this kind of medium of social media.

So people who may not have been familiar with Muslim women suddenly had Dina, Takia or Isaiah, these big hijab fashion bloggers, as kind of their example of what a Muslim woman looks like.

So these women who are modest fashion bloggers who wear the hijab, who are visibly Muslim on social media and, you know, hashtag their outfits with modest fashion blogger and Muslim fashion blogger — they never ask to be role models of the religion. But oftentimes, we as followers, portray that pressure. We kind of put it on to them as followers, as viewers.

So I kind of question that. Is this fair? Is this why our modest fashion bloggers kind of the ambassadors of the faith and some of the women I interviewed said that any you know, if you wear the hijab as a woman, you are visibly Muslim. That is a marker of your identity as a Muslim woman. Automatically, you are an ambassador of Islam.

You’re supposed to be representing what the religion looks like to, you know, to the world when you leave your house wearing a hijab, you’re supposed to act like an exemplary Muslim, exemplary Muslim woman. Well, you know, that’s a lot of pressure. Not every hijabi woman, not every practicing Muslim woman, not even every woman who wears modest fashion wants that kind of pressure or responsibility. And so it’s really interesting to see the difference in opinion.

Some Muslim fashion designers see that as their duty. And some modest fashion bloggers say, God, that doesn’t mean I’m promoting Islam or preaching any sort of religion. It’s just part of me. I’m a fashion blogger and I’m here to show my outfits and the hijab just happens to be part of that. So it’s very different to see the difference. There’s a really big spectrum of different women, different Muslim women, different hijabi women, how they all kind of see their role and duty in this wider movement.

 

Sara [00:36:07] so, do you believe that if we didn’t have Instagram, we could have had this kind of rise in modest fashion?

 

Hafsa [00:36:19] I’m a millennial Muslim woman and an Instagram addict, and I can’t imagine a modest fashion (paradox) movement at this scale without Instagram and TikTok and Facebook, especially Instagram. Honestly, I think we might have seen a runway trend. And yes, there may have been some references to Muslim women, but it’s really this idea of this modest fashion blogger, whether or not she wears hijab, whether or not she’s Muslim.

There’s amazing Jewish and Christian inspiring fashion bloggers out there as well on Instagram. And I think together, they all really are one of the main reasons why we’re seeing this movement today become so big. I mean, it surfaced maybe five, 4-5 years ago, and it’s still a huge booming movement. So I think we really have to give Instagram a lot of credit.

 

Hafsa [00:37:10] I don’t think modest fashion is going to go away anytime soon, because if anything, we’ve proven that there’s this demand, this really strong demand for modest fashion.

Hafsa [00:37:19] But at the same time, if we’re seeing how these modest fashion bloggers are dressing, a lot of them are showcasing that you don’t really need to buy clothing from a brand that labels itself as a modest fashion label.

You can buy any clothing, you can buy any — you can wear. I mean, a bralette top on top of a turtleneck and call it modest fashion. So a lot of these women are being very creative with how they term, how they kind of dress to the term “modest fashion.” How they kind of see modesty as part of their wardrobes. And a lot of them say that they never shop from dedicated, modest wear platforms or stores.

They shop at H&M, Zara, New Look, Stradivarius, the Gap. You know, they shop at all of these normal stores, that are the mainstream stores to shop at. So I think the future we might see is kind of a phasing out of the buzz word, modesty and modest fashion. It might just become more integrated into the fashion offerings in these mainstream stores that we see. But that being said, it’s been five, six years.

And modesty is still a buzz word and it’s still trending. So it may keep — stay on this pedestal that it’s on. But whether or not the word is there, the clothes will definitely reflect the demand for modesty.

 

Sara [00:38:41] Yeah. Of one of the critiques I have for me using this modest fashion industry as reaching out to the customers is aimed towards the modest fashion houses.

Sara [00:38:54] So the big fashion houses, I really want them to use modest fashion designers, Muslim designers. In your book, you talk about Christian Orthodox, modest fashion designers, Jewish Orthodox, modest fashion designers.

But not only those, but also Muslim modest fashion designers integrate within their project to reach out to Muslim customers. I mean, the thing that you included with Hannah Tajima. Yeah, I really love to see more of those because one of the frustrations by talking with modest fashion designers is that we really do not want to lose the market to giant businesses.

And I think that probably millennials need to do their own work and probably homework, too, just, you know, demand this big fashion houses to incorporate modest fashion designers.

 

Hafsa [00:39:53] That’s one of the main criticisms of a Muslim woman’s

Hafsa [00:39:58] Portrayal in fashion as well, that you can’t just use the picture of Muslim women on your marketing campaigns and your promotional images without actually recruiting them and consulting with them and hiring them. So, yeah, definitely we should see a lot more collaboration.

 

Sara [00:40:15] What should they do, you think? Well, I mean, let’s say I’m Gucci and I am having a new collection. So what do you think as a writer and researcher? What do I need to do to reach out to a Muslim?

 

Hafsa [00:40:31] I think the easiest thing that these big brands can do, which many are actually doing, is to just have Muslims and these kind of style edits featuring these Muslim modest fashion influencers for various regions. So you just hire one of these. Not hire, you collaborate and work together with one of these stylists or bloggers. And they will kind of style the collection in their own way to showcase a modest look. And I know Burberry and Fendi and Gucci, they do this and it’s like, yeah, that’s already…

 

Sara [00:41:02] They are not using modest fashion (paradox) designers, you know, fashion. Yeah — modest fashion designers. So one of my critics is really — and from their modest fashion designers themselves, I mean, some of them are very serious. They are up and running. They have everything that the business needs to just, you know, move forward with their business entity.

 

Hafsa [00:41:30] I think we’re more likely to see on that front, maybe in the fast fashion retailers like H&M and Zara. I think there’s more maybe room for opportunity there with hiring Muslim modest fashion designers. It’s very hard to get into that Italian prim and proper hoity-toity fashion world.

So I think definitely retailers like H&M and just fast fashion retailers who already have this kind of appetite for modest fashion, who have recognized that there is this need, that they’re also already in tune with these needs for sustainability and diversity and its passivity. So I think it’ll definitely be easier to go that route through these more mass market firms.

 

Sara [00:42:11] Exactly. And one thing that I really recommend from my own point of view is for the buyers — just demand.

Sara [00:42:18] I mean, the millennials or buyers demand of seeing a corporation. So then they happily buy and reach out and they can just you know, the fashion houses can sell their clothes.

 


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Sara [00:42:34] Stay put, please. OK. So you are watching Peacemindedly, a podcast show featuring peaceful bridge makers. For this hour, we are talking with Hafsa Lodi, American journalist based in Dubai and author of Modest: A Fashion Paradox. You can find Hafsa’s book on goltune.com. We have the lead program with Amazon Books. If you buy the book through our website (Goltune), we get a small promotion, but still helps us with our peace journalism.

Sara [00:43:05] And at the end of the program, I ask my guests to close the program by sharing something meaningful about peace, about compassion, kindness, and whatever they want to share… A statement, prayer or something that they really want us to know. So here is Hafsa. Okay. Yes, go ahead Hafsa.

 

Hafsa [00:43:29] There’s just one message I’d like to um…

Hafsa [00:43:32] I mean, that’s really shown how important it is to me throughout researching this book and writing this book, and focusing so much on the fashion aspect, and the outer kind of portrayal of modesty is that as women, we are so quick to judge one another on what we’re wearing and fashion and how somebody looks. And we’re so quick to judge a book by its cover, especially when it comes to modest fashion.

Hafsa [00:43:57] And I think it’s so important for us to kind of have that insight and that maturity to not do that. To not kind of judge other women, and measure other women’s worth, and kind of dismiss or vilify women depending on their choice of clothing. Whether that conforms to your own definition of modesty or not, I think it’s so important that we, as women stop judging one another by how they look.

 

Sara [00:44:23] Excellent. Very good. Thank you so much, Hafsa. I have Mateen, my assistant producer and one of the editors for Goltune, I have Hafsa —

Sara [00:44:33] So thank you so much. Thank you. I think that was a great book and a great discussion, really. Thank you so much. Thank you.

 

Khodahafez

 

 

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