When hijab met sari

When hijab met sari

By Sujata Assomull

Published: Thu 22 Mar 2018, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Wed 4 Apr 2018, 4:54 PM

There is no doubt that modest fashion, over the last few years, has grown from being a micro trend to a macro one. Two years ago, when Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana announced its first abaya and hijab collection not only in the Middle East but also in their flagships in international fashion cities like London and Paris, it was considered groundbreaking. It was a sign that the West had realised the impact the Middle East was having on fashion - both economically and culturally. (According to Thomson Reuters, spend on fashion by Muslims worldwide will be in excess of US $500 billion by 2019.)
Fashion influencer Mariah Idrissi has become an international spokesperson for modest fashion; the UK-based model appeared in a campaign for high street giant H&M, and has been spending a lot of time in Dubai lately. Then, there is the supermodel Halima Aden, the first "hijabista" on runways, who has walked at both the Milan and New York Fashion Week. Both these women prove that fashion has to do with much more than money; it is about acceptance and also about freedom. Fashion is about embracing diversity as much as it is about a woman's right to choose how she dresses. And modest dressing, in its own way, stands for all of this.
Which is why I was so happy to read leading Indian fashion writer Shweta Shiware's piece in Mumbai-based newspaper Mid-Day on the "hijab sari" just a few days ago. The article was titled "Freedom's Cover-Up", and talked about how "two radically liberal design minds chose a symbol of conservatism to say, 'dress as you like'." Shweta had noticed that Mumbai-based Masaba Gupta and Kolkata-based Kallol Datta - two designers known for their love of experimenting with traditional silhouettes - had embraced the hijab.
For Masaba, it was part of her Tiger Lily Spring/Summer 2018 collection that was recently unveiled over Instagram, and Shweta observed how this was pushing forward Kallol's take on the hijab - which he launched in 2015. At that time, not many took note of the statement he was making. (Kallol had spent his childhood years in the Middle East, and has even lived in Dubai - so his reference to this region has always been strong.)
It has always surprised me that Indian fashion had not really caught on to this trend, considering the country is home to well over 180 million Muslims. But, now, as Shweta said to me, "An established designer doing the same on a model does spark a conversation around the message that this carries. And that, we must welcome."
Masaba may have just started a very important dialogue in India: on how fashion needs to be more accepting of the diversity that exists in its own country. And now, perhaps finally, the catwalks of Mumbai will follow the trend that has been set by Milan, London and New York - where the hijab has been given the fashion status it deserves.

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