Muslim fashion designers reflect on a rapidly growing industry.
An Indonesian designer has drawn global attention with a collection featuring Muslim headscarves combined with glittering gowns and flowing tunics, defying conservative critics in her homeland who say the outfits are not modest enough.
When Anniesa Hasibuan showcased her collection at last month’s New York Fashion Week, it was the first time the prestigious annual event saw all the models on the catwalk sporting headscarves, also known as hijabs.
The 30-year-old, who was the first Indonesian to have her own show at the event, won praise from fashion critics around the world, which she said was “totally unexpected”.
“Everyone appreciated my designs, praise be to God,” she said on Friday at Jakarta Fashion Week, as she brought her collection back to the city where she lives.
Hasibuan‘s works have previously featured at shows in London, Istanbul, and Cannes but New York Fashion Week cemented her status as a rising star.
Her current collection features colourful tunics, a modern take on the Japanese kimono and sparkly evening gowns with lacey trains, all combined with the hijab – the traditional covering for the head and neck worn by many Muslim women.
The elaborate outfits are decorated with sequins and embroidery, and combine warm, earthy colours with more vibrant ones such as pink, gold, peach and green.
Called “D’Jakarta”, the collection – which was also showcased on Friday – is inspired by Hasibuan‘s love for the Indonesian capital Jakarta where she lives, a metropolis of 10 million people that is a melting pot of different cultures and traditions.
But for Hasibuan, the reception of her work abroad has sometimes been better than in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population, and where some critics say her clothing is not modest enough.
The designer said when she was in New York, people focused more on the artistic side of her designs rather than the religious aspects.
“I felt very comfortable because they didn’t care whether I was a Muslim designer or not – I was just a designer to them,” she told AFP news agency.
She is not the first designer from the country to experiment with mixing the hijab with glamourous gowns. Islamic fashion in Indonesia, where most practise a moderate form of Islam, is often more daring and experimental than in other Muslim countries.
Hijabs can be elaborate and expensive in Indonesia, and wealthy women can be seen wandering Jakarta’s fancy malls wearing hand-stitched headscarves decorated with precious gems.
Nevertheless, rising conservatism across society has targeted designers who try to push the boundaries.
While she has received a great deal of praise at home, photos of Hasibuan‘s designs on her social media accounts have received criticism.
“The hijab is not worn correctly because it still shows the neck and chest,” Facebook user Ummie Salamah wrote on Hasibuan‘s account. “Covering your chest is a must – it is God’s order, please do not negotiate.”
Some Muslims argue the true aim of wearing the hijab is for women to remain modest and not draw any attention to themselves, and the head coverings should not be elaborately decorated or colourful.
Nevertheless, Hasibuan is determined to stick to designing Islamic clothing with a modern, glamorous twist.
“Controversy is everywhere – I faced it here [in Indonesia] and all over the world,” she said. “But I try to stay positive.”