Not all Muslim women are happy with the current depiction of hijab fashion by mainstream society, especially with regards to fashion and media. As far as this group is concerned, the motives behind the portrayal of the hijab as fashionable by multinational brands has more to do with falsely promoting the brands’ images as progressive and inclusive, than the cultural group they appear to represent.
According to Muslim women such as journalists Tasbeeh Harwees and Khadija Ahmed, these companies are simply taking advantage of the marketing space created by hijabi fashion and make-up bloggers. Therefore, the present visibility of the hijab in mainstream media is cloaked with ‘political correctness’ that still enforce negative stereotypes concerning the relationship between Muslim women and the headscarf, as well as is a reduction of the religious and cultural symbolism of it.
Harwees and Ahmed certainly have a point about the hijab – a historic symbol of modesty for Muslim women – becoming an addition to the superficial/shallow world of international commerce today. In 2014, famous fashion house DKNY launched a Ramadan line for Muslim women, and soon other notable brands toed the same line. The sports industry followed suit. Speedo recently launched a swimwear line for Muslim women, and Nike is set to begin sales its Nike Pro Hijab for female Muslim athletes next year.
These events, coupled with other efforts in the clothing and advertising spaces saw the hijab gain significant mainstreamed prominence, and also helped shift the perception of it as an oppressive form of dressing. But, according to Ahmed, these brands aren’t doing Muslim women any favours, as neither their mode of dressing nor their identity need mainstream approval or commercialisation.
However, while the concerns of a trivialisation of the hijab as another mere ‘for-profit’ venture certainly possesses validity, it is not at all an encompassing argument. The purpose and usage of the hijab will continue to be a hot topic for discourse within and outside the Muslim community, but the reality is that the current “commercialisation” of the hijab did not occur in a vacuum. There was a demand.
Regardless of personal or social convictions, head-covering is an integral part of Islamic beliefs, and a lot of Muslim women around the world incorporate it into their everyday dressing. Yet, besides obviously having their own unique style of dressing, Muslim women were not part of the target market when it came to mainstream fashion and lifestyle designs.
In what appears to be a deliberate response to debates of whether or not the dress code is enforced, a matter of choice, or just plain monotonous, a group of Muslim women – now popularly known as Hijabi – used the various kinds of media to show that wearing a hijab could be both a modest and fashionable affair. This development created the market for stylish and fashionable hijabi, and even dolls were not left out of the ‘revolution’.
Also, female Muslim athletes had to deal with a lack of adequate provision of sportswear to match their physically active lifestyles, because they could not compromise on their cultural beliefs. Amna Al Haddad, a weightlifter from the United Arab Emirates, is one of the athletes who helped sports brands realise the massive gap in their productions.
The point is this, even as part of a purely culturally lifestyle, Muslim women spend money on their hijabs. Therefore, the hijab can be included in mainstream lifestyle without necessarily undermining its sacredness, since there are those who don’t mind going the extra mile to reflect their personal tastes and lifestyle choices, whilst abiding by the provisions of their faith.