MODEST FASHION BLOGGING: PART I

by - October 09, 2020


 With 500 Posts, this is my first one ever including the word's 'Modest Fashion' in the title. That's because I have not immediately embraced the term nor fully associated myself with it at first. I literally just turned 21 when I started blogging in July 2010. The term modest fashion, Muslim bloggers or anything relating to Muslim women & fashion in the West was not widely circulated, everyone started around the times of 2008-10 and it was a fairly new field for most of us.

The first two I heard off and inspired me to get started (besides this film) were Jana Kossaibati from Hijabstyle.co.uk and Hana Tajima from Stylecovered.com. I loved Jana's blog for the writing and style guide, and loved Hana's blog for the creativity and style visuals. With further exploration, I discovered more and more blogs, including international blog HijabScarf.com by Hanna Faridl and Fifi Alvianto from Jakarta! I loved the community we have managed to form, doing small events, coming together, meeting one another and really having this democratic way of celebrating what it’s like to be a Muslim woman with keen fashion interests. We were navigating our ways and learning as we go. Most of us had fun with it, others had their plans set out and some did it as they’re full time work. All supportive of each other. Some did it as a hobby, whilst pursuing their career in other fields such as medicine, law, education, engineering, politics and other creative fields. 



It was an exploratory stage for many. We went from blogging, to designing/making clothes to joining every new social media platform that was coming out. Slowly, there's been a shift...With large following came the illusion of ‘celebrity status’, it became all about ‘who’s sitting front row’ in lousy university Islamic society held fashion shows, who’s pictures were being taken and who was being recognised. All that within our own community, it felt like a serious circus, with plenty of clowns but missing acrobats. The initial democratic space created, was to avoid THIS exact issue. The same issues the fashion industry faces on daily bases and yet, instead of cultivating a space where everyone felt equal and supported, the Muslim modest fashion community turned into the cheap replica of the fashion industry. Emphasis on the word cheap. If I was about to be pushed into a competitive environment, I did rather do so where the real deal was happening, work in the fashion industry. Going from the devil wears nada to the devil wears Prada. 

Besides showcasing my love for style, exploring my creativity, I mainly wanted to celebrate Muslim women and amplify their work, whilst I was exploring ways to do that. I started with the blog, ventured into making modest clothes (short lived venture, as I HATE making clothes, despite spending 5 years doing fashion design in school & college) then into making luxurious silk scarves, and then into attempting to do a magazine to finally just shut it all down and pursue a path outside of this modest fashion setting. I no longer could deal with and accept condescending statements such as ‘you don’t know who I am?’ or ‘you’ve never watched my Youtube videos?’ or ‘I am so and so and have so and so followers’. I simply no longer cared, because as an individual I was never into celebrity culture, so I could definitely not comprehend the celebrity wannabe culture either. Or even public figures. There's a difference between admiring others for the work they do or resonate with the stories they tell, but to idolise individuals for being known and existing (note, around the same time as the rise of reality TV stars)? Just not for me. 


I would not get starstruck assisting Naomi Campbell with her shopping or having coffee next to Lara Stone, why would I be expected to get starstruck meeting influencers? This toxic culture started around the same time the Western media started picking up on the modest fashion bloggers and somehow the competitiveness gotten a little bit more intense. Of course, not everyone was like that and there were many wonderful Muslim women who did their work without the spiel. But also, understandably, most were still young and learning how to cope with being finally visible, trying to comprehend what was going on and navigating the social media age, as the first guineapigs. Naturally, everyone was experimenting with everything, as the term social media influencer did not exist yet, and many of us were not acute to taking on serious business ventures (as fashion brands, publications, media channels or design studios).   

However, this is not to give those with attitudes an excuse, it is more so to give perspectives of what was happening during that time (and probably happening now too, but I have tuned out). Naturally, when minorities are starved for space for so long, some go on a power trip once given space. It all seemed like seeking approval and validation from white people. Some started claiming to be the first hijabi to be on here, to be on that, to do this and to do that. These claims often erase the work of others in the community and such language is taking away from the same underrepresented communities. Just because of the digital age, things are far more visible, but that does not mean there weren’t Muslim women before us who have been doing the same work. Additionally, such claims allow white people to present us as stereotype breakers, because both they and we don’t know any better. We’re meant to be multipliers and not reduce the hard work of others just because it is not known to us at a given time. Anyhow, these poisonousness thoughts seemed to have been magnified during the ‘development’ of Muslim modest fashion. 



I've always thought it’s better to see one’s work having a ripple effect and embolden others with their own work. It’s never straightforward or easy to be one of the few to open certain doors of opportunities, but do not close it behind you once you are in. Under what condition is that considered plausible or admirable? Isn’t the intention of breaking barriers to let everyone else in as well, instead of burning the bridge behind you after you’ve crossed it? 

As I've mentioned before, in 2014, I shut it all down and pursued a career in luxury fashion within the business sector, behind the scene of all the glamour. I’ve learned a lot and worked for brands I really admired and pursued a master’s in strategic fashion marketing. All this whilst being completely absent from social media and modest fashion scene. Yes, I deleted my first Instagram account and Facebook page, deleted my twitter & snapchat. I created a private account on Instagram to stay in touch with friends and family, but also because I enjoy photography & creative expression. I even privatised this website/blog (no one could view it for 3 years) and I went off the grid. Not merely for the above reasons, but because of my own insecurities, uncertainty and also I was not in the mindset to be warped into a culture I particularly did not enjoy. 

The pictures are a depiction of my presence in the modest fashion scene, present but concealed. These images were taken by Ty Faruki! Talented photographer! 

I'll share my personal journey in the second part soon! 

Love and Peace

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