Islamic fashion: A modern makeover for mum's abaya

Thu Feb 3, 2011 12:05pm EST
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By Shaheen Pasha

DUBAI (Reuters Life!) - Statuesque models clad in black robes with strategically placed slits and headscarves boasting vibrant flashes of color sashay down a Dubai runway to the theme song for a James Bond movie.

For the Dubai-based designers of the Rouge Couture line on display, the Western music combined with the unusual twists on the traditional abaya worn by observant Muslim women is the perfect contrast which sums up Islamic fashion.

"Our designs are there, in part, to empower women and show that traditional Arab women are strong," said Rouge Couture founder Sarah Madani at the show in October. "Our line is both traditional and religious and no matter how far we go with it, our clothes are still modest."

Modesty and religion are the cornerstones behind the fast-growing Islamic fashion industry, which is making a mark on runways from Indonesia and Dubai to Monte Carlo. Islamic fashion is part of a growing appetite for sharia-related industries and assets, ranging from finance to halal food.

Some of the biggest names in couture, such as Christian Dior, are racing to produce Islamic-inspired attire that will tap into the spending power of Muslim women globally.

Muslim designers are also eager to find their place in a fashion industry that is conservatively estimated to be worth more than $96 billion globally.

But the industry has its detractors, who say Islamic fashion misses the spirit of Islam and exploits the faithful by producing attire that is labeled Islamic, but whose aesthetic appeal owes much more to Western ideals of beauty.

A fashion show in Monte Carlo last August -- where the Malaysian prime minister's wife was a patron -- sparked protests from student groups and politicians in Malaysia as well as widespread criticism on the Internet.   Continued...

<p>A model presents a creation by designer Amber Feroz during Dubai Fashion Week October 28, 2010. REUTERS/Ahmad Hassan</p>