Jan 30 2013
CALIFORNIA: Home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the nation, the Southland has become fertile ground for a new generation of designers crafting clothes for women who are limited by faith and conviction from flashing too much skin. Although Muslim women have been dressing fashionably for years (they have?), many in the U.S. say they still face tricky challenges when getting dressed — and especially dressed up.
LA TIMES “We are Muslim and we can still express ourselves, be fashionable, as long as we do it in a halal way” or in keeping with Islamic law, said LaTanya Maassarani, 30, a postal carrier from Long Beach. (That’s right, throw your religion in the faces of the few people who don’t know that Muslim so-called “modest” clothing represents centuries-old oppression of women by Muslim men)
Filling that void now are designers such as Afra Said-Ahmed and her sister Eiman Ahmed, both Muslims, who launched Irvine clothing company Mohajababes. The name is a mash up of the words “babe” and “Muhajiba,” or one who wears a hijab scarf. (Sounds more like it comes from Mujahideen – Islamic jihadists, Holy Warriors) “Trying to conform to Muslim dress codes, you get stuck in a rut of black, black, black all the time,” said Ahmed, 26. “It’s definitely very difficult, especially in the U.S. You want to fit in, but still be appropriately dressed.” So she and her sister scraped together $2,000 and began selling caftans and rhinestone accessories for head scarves at the end of 2011. The line is modest — caftans sweep the floor and hang loosely on the body. Yet the jewel-colored clothing comes with feminine frills such as silky fabrics and metallic embroidery.
Said-Ahmed said their goal was to dress fashion-conscious shoppers who are faithful to Islamic mandates but want nothing to do with traditional black coverings such asabayas and burkas, which are too hot for the California sun. Southern California has a ready pool of more than half a million Muslims concentrated in areas such as Anaheim, Irvine and West Los Angeles, said Munira Syeda, spokeswoman at Hamas-linked CAIR (Council on Anti-American Islamic Relations)
“If a non-Muslim looks at you, it obviously makes them more comfortable if they don’t see the standard black that they see in the news all the time.” (That’s right, non-Muslims are too stupid to understand that a Muslim in a colorful garbage bag would never have a bomb under her clothing, while A Muslim in a traditional black garbage bag just might)
Mohajababes carefully tailored the marketing to the audience: Models show very little skin. Its website has links to tutorials on stylish ways to wrap head scarves. And the company’s tag line delivers the message: “We’ve got it covered.”
Even so, Ahmed penned a long blog post on the firm’s site in response to “violent” online diatribes from Muslims against popular Muslim fashion bloggers and designers. But the company has made some concessions, shelving plans for a shorter, knee-length caftan and embroidered trousers.
“If we sold pants, people would say, ‘These trousers — you can see the legs, that is totally inappropriate,'” she said, adding that their vibrantly colored clothing has already drawn harsh critics. “We have heard people say ‘It’s too bright, the caftans are too pretty, and they attract too much attention.'”
“Our ultimate goal is to sell in a department store like Bloomingdales and Nordstrom,” she said. “Right now we are marketing toward our Muslim community because we know there’s a void, but many non-Muslim women would want a long-sleeved dress every now and then.”