Among the aspiring Asian designers competing for the limelight at Tokyo Fashion Week, one of the most striking was an Indonesian label’s bid to blend a traditional Muslim headscarf with haute couture.
The twice-yearly show, which wrapped up on Saturday, saw NurZahra roll out its autumn and winter collection: “Layers of Fidelity,” which turned the modest hijab into sophisticated fashion.
The label — whose name means “the luminous light” in Arabic and borrows from Prophet Mohammed’s daughter, Fatimah Zahra — wanted to prove that the female hair-and-neck wrap could still take on playful elements.
“The modest hijab is not actually a restriction” in fashion, designer Windri Widiesta Dhari told reporters after her designs hit the catwalk. “It’s how you cover yourself and look more elegant in a way that has a loose fit.”
The wearing of the Islamic veil, limited historically to conservative Gulf monarchies, gained ground, including in sports, after Iran’s 1979 revolution and the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The use of the veil has spread quickly as Islamist movements have grown in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.
France has outraged many Muslims with a law against full, face-covering veils, while the use of the hijab in sport, including soccer, has sometimes stirred cultural clashes.
However, Dhari sees the scarf as not just a modesty covering, but a stylish, comfortable accessory.
“We want to inspire people to think that wearing hijab is not something difficult and could be worn by anyone,” she said.
Her collection also bucks a contemporary design trend for simplicity and minimalism.
Blending cotton or silk into her hijab, she includes natural dye prints that rely on the traditional Japanese tie-dye technique shibori and the Indonesian batik method.
With patterns ranging from mini mandalas to Turkish geometrics, Dhari plays with multiple layers of fabric to shape her silhouettes.
Another eye-catching element of the collection was a hat that spreads wide in the back, a throwback to the 1960s with elements resembling a royal head piece.
Tokyo has long been the center of cool, renowned the world over for far-out fashions that see young women donning gothic-inspired “Lolita” outfits and chiseled young men with highly coiffed haircuts.
However, at this year’s Tokyo Fashion Week, it was newcomer brands from Asian fashion houses outside Japan, such as NurZahra, that breathed fresh air into the show.
Another Indonesian brand, Major Minor, hit the runway for the first time, showcasing styles incorporating mainly monochrome tones and simple silhouettes.