What comes to mind when thinking of Muslim fashion? By merely typing in “Muslim fashion” on Google, it is possible to get a general idea about Muslim fashion—women wearing hijabs. Yet, what differs from ten years ago would be the fact that hijabs have become unimaginably fashionable. Colorful hijabs with decorations are what people can see today. The Muslim fashion industry is developing at a fast pace, expanding its boundaries to fashion markets around the globe, from Indonesia to California.
Recently on Instagram, Amaliah, a page that has been collection more than 4,500 followers to date, has been receiving much attention. Amaliah is a global fashion platform for Muslim women. It was launched a year ago by Nafisa Bakkar and her sister, Selina, who were frustrated to be bound by Muslim tradition when choosing what to wear. As rookie entrepreneurs who have just survived their first year, their vision is to build a platform that represents Muslim women across fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. While Amaliah started as one of the many pages on Instagram, it is now preparing to grow into a world-scale community where thousands of Muslim women seek out fashion inspirations.
Yet, it is not only Amaliah that started the trend of fashionable hijabs. Even mass-market retailers like Uniqlo, DKNY, Burberry, Mango, and Arena have taken leading roles in the boom of the Muslim fashion industry. Uniqlo launched the Tajima collection for headscarves, tunics, and flowing pants for the spring and summer. The Ramadan collection of Burberry and hijab swimsuits of Arena are also examples that reflect the fast-growing trend.
While fashion had been considered as a religiously crucial factor of the Muslim culture, in today’s world it is demanding to be more stylish than it has ever been. According to Business Insider, Muslim consumers spent around 266 billion dollars on clothing in 2013. Such a figure is expected to rise to 484 billion dollars by 2019, taking into account the fact that experts project the Muslim population to grow from today's 1.6 billion to three billion until 2050.
Another reason that the Muslim fashion industry has great potential to grow larger is that those fashion items can be worn by anyone. Even without a particular faith, Muslim fashion can be accommodated by anyone appealed to such sense of fashion. According to Professor Hazel Clark (Department of Design Studies and Fashion Studies at Parsons School of Design), Muslim fashion has not only been rising in certain parts of the world, but is sporadically spread at many different places around the globe. Such a trend explains the great possibility for the appearance of a global apparel brand targeting consumers interested in Muslim fashion.
The sudden rise of the Muslim fashion itself is an interesting topic, but the background for its popularity arouses curiosity. Why is so much light put on Muslim fashion all of a sudden? While it is impossible to assess a cultural and social phenomenon in only a few words, it is undeniable that the development of Social Networking Services (SNS) made great contribution in such new trend regarding Muslim fashion. Social media has functioned as a platform allowing individuals to contribute to fashion trends. Not only Muslim women, but mainstream brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Mango, and Zara have introduced modest collections which are frequently posted and shared online. Also, world-class celebrities including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian have been positing profiles wearing hijabs through social media platforms.
▲ Provided by amaliah.com
Nevertheless, Professor Koo Kyo Jun (Department of City and Regional Planning) asserted that more than the phenomenon and its background, the impact such a trend has in merging a somewhat minor culture with mainstream culture is what makes the development of the Muslim fashion industry an interesting topic. Thanks to the development of technology, Professor Koo demonstrated, “the dissemination of culture in the 21st century certainly has a different pattern from the past. Just like how the Korean Wave suddenly came to influence so many people around the globe, Muslim culture may also come close all of a sudden.” While conflicting views exist regarding the phenomenon, Professor Koo put forward a positive perspective towards the new trend.
What disturbs the nerves of those opposing the rapid growth of the Muslim fashion lies in the fact that the trend is led by the so-called big brands that have been dominating the market. While fashion and clothing mean more than mere style in the Muslim world, the current trend belittles such value by using Muslim fashion as nothing more than a marketing scheme. However, Professor Koo emphasized the fact that culture, once spread to a wider population, cannot hold back from being modified. From such a perspective, a mass production of Muslim style clothing and slight alterations are a natural way of understanding different cultures.
It is doubtful, though, whether Muslim fashion has a large potential to grow into a bigger market in South Korea. Even though mainstream brands have made Muslim-style clothing more wearable on a daily basis, the traditional Muslim fashion may not be a good fit with the Korean fashion trend. When asked about the probability of Muslim fashion adopting as a dominant trend in South Korea, Professor Koo demonstrated that South Koreans have a tendency of accepting of cultures of countries that are perceived as advanced than us. In order to develop Muslim fashion to make a significant impact in Korea, it seems that more time and effort would be required.