Islamic Fashion Fair: lovely idea, but I think a different name would be nice

I came across articles on Indonesia’s Islamic Fashion Fair (IIFF) 2013 which was held from 29th May to 2nd June in their capital Jakarta. That was interesting to me, that there is such a thing. An article about it as well here, a Huffington Post piece with lots of photos of the gorgeous outfits featured.

The first thing that struck my mind was, ‘Islamic Fashion Fair? What does Islam or any other religion have to do with fashion? It just seems strange to me to have those two words together: Islam and fashion. Inappropriate is the word I’m thinking of. To use the name of Islam to sell stuff like fashion.

I guess it refers to the ‘modest clothing’ worn by Muslim women, mostly the hijab I think. explains hijab as:

a word sometimes used to generally describe a Muslim woman’s modest dress. More specifically, it refers to a square or rectangular piece of fabric which is folded, placed over the head, and fastened under the chin as a head scarf.

The IIFF 2013 is the fourth one for the Jakarta organisers, and apparently it is not the only such fashion festival in the world. It’s been going on for years in many cities around the world. I don’t know if they all feature the word Islamic in their name, but I came across a few that do including a 2010 one featured in this video below, that was held in Monte Carlo and put together by Malaysian organisers, I think.

So, modest clothing worn by modest Muslim women = Islamic? Err, okay. But what if it’s not so modest anymore? As in, the outfit covers up the lady but it’s so striking and fabulous and attracts attention and admiration. I mean, hey, that’s a good thing, but modest?

Here in the streets of Singapore, and in Malaysia, I have seen so many different styles of the tudung headscarf worn by Muslim women, and creatively put-together outfits. I think it’s great that these women are so stylish. Modesty doesn’t have to be a sombre or boring affair. It’s great that these women have turned what they believe is an obligation into something as fun and delightful as fashion.

I mean the primary purpose is for religious obligation, right? I think. I don’t know if this is the case for all of these women, because I’ve come across some outfits that are really bright and eye-catching, not just in colour and prints but also in its embellishments. Including that bling-bling-looking thing, what is it called? Labucci? Haha.

Then there are the girls I come across sometimes who wear the tudung but also wear tight jeans (like the still trendy skinny jeans thing), with the curves of their butt exposed, instead of, say, have a long loose blouse to cover that area. Or with faces caked with lots of make-up. Now, I love looking at these girls and appreciate their style and effort and I am actually pleased for them that they look great. But to be honest I also become curious and wonder at the same time: so what’s your point of wearing the tudung? If your outfit is meant to indicate modesty but it’s kinda flashy, isn’t it?  Of course I never say that out loud. Nobody wants to risk getting a tight slap on the face, especially in public.

I think that’s the crux of my issue. Having the word ‘Islamic’ in something so flashy, so ‘out there’. Hence I don’t think having ‘Islamic’ with ‘Fashion Festival’ is appropriate. But that’s just my opinion, of course. *shrugs*

Why not just call it, and here are just two suggestions:

1. ‘Modesty Fashion Fair/Festival’. Sounds awkward or boring? Eye-roll inducing? Or,

2. ‘Hijab Fashion Fair/Festival’. Something like that

Also consider: if you don’t use the word Islamic in it, the fashion fair might perhaps reach out and interest more non-Muslim women as well. Just as there are markets for different non-mainstream fashion, for example the plus-size segment, there is a market for non-Muslim women who choose to dress conservatively, so why not explore the option of including them. Sure, they’re not as covered-up as Muslim women in general perhaps, but they might still appreciate the ideas, minus the head scarf, of the dresses and accessories from the Islamic Fashion Fair designers. My Herculean effort of a few seconds worth of typing ‘modest fashion‘ into Google search, garnered a lot of blogs and other sites specialising in that, and not just from Muslim and Christian girls.

And now writing this it just occured to me that wouldn’t it be great if, for starters, a group of Muslim and Christian girls who are into modest clothing, get together to organise a fashion fair together. Like in a uni campus, for starters. In Singapore, hopefully? Or maybe this sort of thing is already happening?

Anyway, I’d like to end this post by writing that I don’t mean any offense or disrespect to any woman observing the hijab, whether those involved in the Islamic Fashion Fair in Jakarta, or in general. I am aware and understand that as it is they may already have to put up with crap from other people who may insist on thinking or saying that they are oppressed or forced or whatever into covering up. I’m happy for all these women who don’t give a shit what other people think, and just go about their own lives wearing the hijab, whether plain conservative ones, or more fashionable and dazzling ones.

And oh here are some stuff I came across on  Tumblr. Not related to the topic in the title of this post, but I just find them interesting and want to include them here. Click any of the images to go to the sites where I got them from.


Image from:


Image from:


Image via:


Image from:


Update 3rd July 2013: Illustration by Yaz Raja. Click image to go to the fascinating blog of this talented artist.
Click here to go directly to her post where this illustration was featured.
(Image formerly credited to:, via, where I first saw it.)


Image from:

Update 4th July 2013: Added the following links.

Update 7th August 2013: Added the following link.


8 thoughts on “Islamic Fashion Fair: lovely idea, but I think a different name would be nice

    • Thank you, Cindy, for reading and leaving the lovely compliment. You’re always very kind and supportive! Much appreciated! Cheers.

  1. Yeah, I get what you are saying about the principle of modesty being at conflict with fashion. On another note, I’m not personally for hiding the female form. If someone has a problem with the female form, that’s their problem. Not every body experience has to be sexualized. It’s degrading to think that we can’t as humans control ourselves, although I suppose there are some who can’t, or aren’t expected to? I understand my viewpoints are at odds with most religions and the masses. That’s OK. Having said all that, there are days when I really would love to hide under a full niqab and just not face anybody. I know that’s not what it’s about, but the desire is still there.

    • Thanks for reading and for sharing your interesting views, Laura. As a guy (and a gay one at that so no girlfriend or wife or daughters) the issue is a casual interest to me so I’ve never discussed it, and this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of someone sharing their opinion with me.

    • Hi Yaz Raja, it’s a pleasure to know who is the real artist and an honour to properly credit you here. It’s a gorgeous illustration and I am amazed at what I’ve seen of your work on your blog. Thanks for getting in touch. And for not asking me to remove it :-)

      Warm regards,

    • Thank you sir, for your compliment and for taking the time to share the link with me! That is thoughtful and kind of you.I have read the interview and it is interesting indeed. The site Halal Monk also looks like a gem, from what little I’ve glanced through. I would love to return next time to check it out further.

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