Muslim Clothing Exhibited At Malaysian International Fashion Week

New Islamic Clothing Makes Headlines In Malaysia

In the world of fashion, there is a large and relatively untapped market for modest clothing that complies with Islamic guidelines. The notion that modesty and beauty can coexist is a central message of the Islamic Fashion Festival in Kuala Lumpur, which has been a part of Malaysian International Fashion Week since 2006. Malaysian designers like Tom Abang Saufi hope to show the non-Muslim world that Islamic clothing amounts to more than just wrapping yourself in black. Strictly speaking, Muslim clothing should cover everything but the face and palms, and should not accentuate or draw attention to the figure. While Islamic dress code may seem restrictive to non-Muslim westerners, the organizers of the Islamic Fashion Festival hope to show Muslims and non-Muslims alike that people can be religious and fashionable at the same time.

Islamic dress code varies significantly from country to country, and different designers offer very different interpretations of the rules. Tom Abang Saufi abandons the traditional black, creating brightly colored silk chiffon tunic tops. In a recent interview with the BBC, Ms Tom expresses the opinion that Muslim clothing can be "a thing of beauty rather than something that is prohibitive."  

Since it first became part of the Malaysian International Fashion Week in 2006, the Islamic Fashion Festival has traveled to Jakarta and Dubai, and plans are in motion for another in Monte Carlo in August 2010. Kerrie Simon, Editor of Dubai fashion magazine Grazia, spoke to CNN about the Dubai festival, which took place in October of 2009.

"What we are seeing now is a generation of local women who are aware of western fashion, educated overseas," said Simon. "They are seeing a lot more outside the smaller communities they live in."

Simon says that the influence of expats has created an increasing demand for Islamic clothing that allows women to look fashionable, and to express themselves. "We are seeing a move to accessorizing the abaya," added Simon. "Anything from crystallizing to embroidery." While there has been some criticism of this trend of fashion-forward Muslim clothing, Simon believes that eastern modesty and western flair can live in harmony. "It's not so much a conflict," she says, "but an amalgamation of east and west that works quite nicely here."

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