Sun, Oct 02, 2016 - Page 15 News List

Islamic fashion booms in Turkey

By Fulya Ozerkan  /  AFP, ISTANBUL

A model poses during a fashion photoshoot on Sept. 6 in Istanbul.

Photo: AFP

The model adjusts her clothing, stares at the camera with a hint of a smile, holds her head high and the photographer starts snapping.

However, at this photoshoot on the Asian side of Istanbul, the models, impeccably made up, sport no body-hugging Western styles.

All wear headscarves and loose fitting outfits in a shoot for one of the industry’s fast growing sectors — modest, but trendy Islamic fashion.

Istanbul is positioning itself to be a hub in this nascent industry, which according to the Dubai-based Islamic Fashion and Design Council could be worth almost US$500 billion within decades.

Modanisa, a Turkish online Muslim clothing retailer, started small in 2011 and today is one of the biggest names in the market. It offers more than 30,000 products — from casual tunics to shiny evening wear to sports gear, shoes and accessories — from 300 brands and ships to 75 countries.

The firm calls itself the “first online fashion and shopping Web site for women who embrace a modest dressing style.” Modanisa chief executive Kerim Ture said that in years past there was so little choice that a religiously conservative young woman had no option but to wear the same clothes as her mother.

“If that was happening in a country [Turkey] where 99 percent of its population is Muslim, we wondered how the situation was around the world,” he added. “That’s how we’ve started our worldwide Web business.”


Ture was surprised by this summer’s furor in strictly secular France over whether Muslim women had the right to wear the Burqini swimsuit, which covers all but the hands, feet and face.

French courts ultimately ruled that a Burqini ban by about 30 towns was “clearly illegal” and a violation of fundamental rights.

For Ture, the Burqini is not a symbol, but a choice.

“I barely understand how a country, one of whose main pillars is freedom, can oppose the Muslim swimsuit,” he said.

His firm’s catalogue offers a range of “fully closed swimsuits” starting at 40 euros (US$45), and, ironically, its Burqini sales jumped during the debate by 15 to 20 percent to France and 30 percent to the Netherlands.

In May, Istanbul hosted its first conservative fashion week at the historic Haydarpasa train station to showcase this rapidly growing market. It was organized by Franka Soeria from Indonesia, another center for Islamic clothing.

As a global consultant on modest fashion trends, Soeria decided three-and-a-half years ago to move to Istanbul — whose position straddling Europe and Asia, some say, gives it an edge.

The point of offering stylish modest clothing was not to tell people to cover up, but to show that “we are also the same as you ... we don’t want to be excluded, we don’t want to look different,” she said.

“We are showing that, hey, I am modest, I like to cover. I also like fashion. This is just my style. Just accept,” she said.

Osman Ozdemir, a Turkish designer of modest fashion, is the inhouse designer for Modanisa, but is now also working for several other firms.

“I believe Istanbul will be trend-setting on Islamic fashion,” he said. “Even high-profile and luxury brands are getting into the act.”

At the start of the year, legendary Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana launched its first line of hijab and abaya — some extravagantly patterned — for Muslim customers in the Middle East.

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