ISTANBUL / AP
Spring colours, breezy fabrics, high necklines and long hemlines: The International Modest Fashion Week opened in Istanbul as Turkey sought to be seen as a creative hotspot for a unique blend of tradition with style around the world.
Seventy designers are taking part in the two-day event hosted by Modanisa, an online retailer of Muslim fashion, at a historic railway station flooded with spotlights for the
“(We want) to create mainstream fashion out of modest fashion and to energize Islamic communities to produce (clothing) for Muslim women,” Modanisa CEO Kerim Ture said. “They want to have their rules but they also want to look chic.”
In Turkey, an estimated two-thirds of women wear a headscarf, according to
Modest fashion represents a growing
market in the world and Turkey, with its
Muslim traditions and booming textile industry, is uniquely placed to cash in on both creatively and commercially. Worldwide spending on Muslim clothing is projected to grow to $327 billion by 2020, according to the latest Global Islamic Economy report.
Designers say it’s a budding industry in which Turkey serves as a natural bridge between European and Asian markets.
“In fashion, we have the mainstream fashion line and the modest fashion line,” says Malaysian designer Hazizul Abd Aziz of Aidijuma who favors cool satins and cottons. “The modest fashion line is actually very new.”
The models paraded styles ranging from earthy tunics and floral dresses to grandiose gowns in shimmering pear palettes and dark abayas — all connected by shape-concealing cuts. The looks were set off by dashing turbans, decorative headscarves and prim chignons for the unveiled.
The fashion shows come amid a revived debate over the role of secularism in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim nation where the constitution enshrines secular principles.
Since the Islamist-leaning party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power in 2002, restrictions on the displays of religious symbols in public have been relaxed, allowing conservative women to get a university education and enter the workforce.
But it wasn’t until 2013 that the ruling party succeeded in lifting a decades-old ban on the wearing of headscarves by public servants and legislators.
Franka Soeria, a representative of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council, says the divide between religiously conservative and secular environments remains palpable in Turkish society.
Soeria, who sports a black hijab — an
Islamic-style headscarf — and an ankle-length abaya, said that some secular friends had discouraged her from going to certain Istanbul neighborhoods because her attire is too modest.
“It’s just a hijab. I’m still the same person. You wear a bikini, I wear hijab,” she said.