Although Muslim women are often portrayed in the media as wearing nothing but black abbayas, black hijabs and, often times, burkas and niqabs, Muslim women are claiming a place within the fashion industry. On one hand, some Muslim women have become visible as models; on the other, some are working to change things for those looking for stylish clothes that meet their standards for modesty. Nonetheless, this does not come without challenges.
In the aftermath of 9/11 and the after-effects of Islamophobia around the Western world, we tend to see particular ideas on what Muslim women “look like” or what they should be doing (which usually has nothing to do with fashion).
However, Muslim women have become an important fashion market. A number of well-known fashion houses have attempted to appeal to them through the commercialization of “modest” pieces of clothing and head scarves, but to what degree this has been successful is questionable. Yet, Muslim women soon transcended their role as pure consumers to become the leading figures of the industry.
Much of the Western media was first shocked when Rima Fakih won the Miss USA title. Then, Hindi Sahli and Hanaa Ben Abdesslem came along to challenge Western stereotypes about Arab and Muslim women. Having Muslim and Arab models in the West is often described as a Western initiative that has allowed for the “globalization” of the industry with personalities like Kyle Hagler expressing that “We have a responsibility in the fashion community to reflect global beauty, to reflect the new economies and reflect their financial strengths,” and “I think we all became socially aware.”