Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and the majority of its population reside in Indonesia. However, in Indonesia, it is merely more than just a religion. Islam has transformed into a popular brand for media, cultural and commercial products (Gur, 2016).
Over time, the significance of Islamic culture has increased, becoming a widespread influence amongst women in Indonesia, who have chosen to adopt the religious headscarf, otherwise known as the hijab. This propagation of Islamic dress, is the result of a connection of political, economic, and cultural changes among the women of Indonesia (Jones, 2007). Currently, about 10 percent of the female population wear the hijab, which some in the West view as an act of oppression. However, women around the world, view the hijab as a tool of empowerment, defining a woman’s presence with power and style (The Jakarta Globe, 2013).
Indonesians feature a more dynamic and colourful response to the hijab, while at the same representing its unassertive values. “We interpret modesty in more moderate terms without compromising the head-to-toe coverage” says fashion designer Dian Pelangi, who is known as the pioneer of Muslim fashion in Indonesia. Where the media often overlooks or misinterprets Islam, frequently portraying it alongside acts of terrorism and fundamentalism, fashion designers like Dian Pelangi, travel around the world in hope to promote Islam and Muslim fashion to a broader perspective. Similarly, fashion photographer, Langston Hues, has compiled a book titled Modest Street Fashion, which explores the views and opinions on Muslim fashion trends and their evolution, through a diversity of Muslim women worldwide. “People dress on the basis of their environment and the values they uphold,” he says, “the breed of modest fashion bloggers is fairly new but ever evolving.” (Langston, 2014).
These growing population of women, have in turn carved a way into the fashion industry which now sees this platform as a global trend. High end brands see this as a market opportunity. Dolce & Gabbana launched their first ever collection of abayas and hijabs earlier this year as they seek to cater for the growing demand for Muslim fashion. Uniqlo launched a special collection with Muslim fashion designer Hana Tajima last year, and H&M followed this step by featuring a hijab-wearing model in a recent campaign (The Jakarta Globe, 2016).
With the help of Indonesia’s annual Jakarta Fashion Week and Indonesia’s Islamic Fashion Fair, together with the developing style of hijab-wearers, Indonesia has set its goal to be the global leader in the Muslim fashion industry by 2020 that is worth nearly $100 billion by some estimates (Our Indonesia, 2015).
Being of both Indonesian and Islamic background, I see the rise of the Muslim Fashion industry being a positive one. However, this rise also sets a fine line between the hijab being a religious symbol representing Islam and its contradictions of being purely a fashion accessory.
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H&M, 2016, Behind the Scenes H&M Close the Loop, Facebook, viewed 9 April 2016, available at: https://www.facebook.com/hm/photos/a.10153061686315913.1073742619.21415640912/10153061688655913/?type=3&theater
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