The Mecca of Muslim Fashion

Posted on June 29th, 2010 at 12:44 pm by Akhyari


Melbourne. On pilgrimages to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Indonesian Muslims are not only carrying out haj rituals, says a chief editor of a woman’s magazine.

They have also unintentionally become real life models of Indonesian Islamic fashion, she says.

Jetti R. Hadi, the editor in chief of NooR, a magazine specializing in Muslim fashion, said that during the haj a lot of people complemented Indonesians’ attire. “People would say, ‘Oh, you have such beautiful clothes’. The women always look attractive,” she said recently.

As the most-populous Muslim country, with a growing number of women opting to wear the jilbab or headscarves, Muslim fashion has emerged as a promising industry in Indonesia, with many designers focusing on clothes and accessories that adheres to Islamic principles of covering the skin and hair of women.

In the international fashion scene, Muslim wear and accessories in the coming years is projected to reach 20 percent of the total fashion industry, which was worth US$1.7 trillion in 2008, according to Jetti.

While none of the Muslim countries are capitalizing on this, those in the Indonesian fashion field are set to make Indonesia the “Mecca” of Muslim fashion, Jetti said.

The government, realizing the various designers of Muslim wear, who combine colorful Indonesian fabrics of batik and ikat with interesting cloth design — distinguishing itself from Middle Eastern countries style Muslim clothes of dark abayas, burqas, and niqabs — are currently joining forces with the industry to promote the country’s Islamic fashion.

The Culture and Tourism Ministry last week held Gala dinner events in Auckland, New Zealand, and Melbourne, Australia with a contemporary dance troupe, Batavia Dance Studio, and two Muslim fashion brands, Up2date and Bilqis, to promote the country as a Muslim fashion shopping destination.

The Jakarta Post joined the tour by invitation from the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

Having a limited budget for promotion — the Indonesian tourism promotional budget for 2010 is Rp 426 billion ($47 million), the tourism ministry is aiming for targeted marketing strategies, such as the Gala dinner and Muslim fashion show.

The ones in Auckland and Melbourne, the Culture and Tourism Ministry director general of marketing Sapta Nirwandar said, were organized to attract the Muslim community from the two cities. Indonesia aims to attract 7 million visitors for 2010.

In his speech at the Melbourne Gala dinner, Sapta said the ministry wanted to voice that Indonesia had a diverse culture. “We don’t want to discriminate other religions or make Islam special,” he said.

Sapta said the clothes showcased in Auckland and Melbourne hopefully could shed the “scary” image of Muslim wear.

“The clothes are peaceful, stylish; an image that is not scary. There’s no boundaries between the one who wears the clothes and other people,” he said after the Gala dinner in Melbourne.

More Indonesian women began to wear Islamic garb since the mid 1990s after the New Order regime eased religious repression in the pretext of national stability. Previously, civil servants, office workers and students were banned from wearing the jilbab. The toppling of Soeharto in 1998 that brought the reform era brought more freedom for people to express their religiosity. In recent years, religious symbols were seen as selling points for some political candidates, with posters of their jilbab clad wives displayed during election campaign time.

Along with the political changes, the fashion industry has started to supply stylish designs for Muslim fashion, giving more choices for women who are thinking of buying Muslim wear.

Not just a veil: Muslim fashion brand Up2date designer Lia Triana puts an ikat accessory on a model’s veiled head, at the Gala dinner and Muslim fashion show in Auckland on June 16.

The growing market and the many fashion shows that include Islamic fashion categories have influenced mainstream designers to produce Islamic fashion. Established names such as Ghea Panggabean, Sebastian Gunawan and Itang Yunasz design Muslim fashion aside from their mainstream designs.

Jetti said that now in Indonesia, Muslim fashion designs were incredibly rich. “It’s very colorful and you can see from the different types of head covers the wide range of choices. There are jilbabs that are very tight, there are also loose ones that cover the chest,” she said.

Indonesian women who opt to wear the jilbab have various choices of fashionable clothes, Jetti said. “This makes Indonesian Muslims not feel frumpish. They feel fashionable,” she said.

She said that people from Malaysia and Singapore, look at Indonesia for fashionable Muslim wear. She said that Muslim communities in Middle East, Europe and Australia could be tapped through rigorous promotion.

Last week’s Gala dinner was Melbourne’s second and a first for Auckland. Last year the tourism ministry brought Muslim fashion designer prodigy Dian Pelangi and veteran designer Iva Latifah to Melbourne.

This year Bandung-based Up2date represented the more youthful designs while Surakarta-based Bilqis presented its signature glamorous and elegant batik pieces.

With the theme “Tenun Inspiration”, Up2date presented layers of structured designs with touches of ikat from different parts of Indonesia.

Colorful ikat were constructed as vests layered on top of spandex blouses. One model wore a batik cape that can be worn in different styles.

Lia Triana, Up2date designer, said that the idea was to create different and versatile pieces to mix and match. The result was interesting vests, capes and boleros to add character.

Tuti Adib, Bilqis owner and designer said her pieces centered on the idea of elegance and glamor using woven cloth, batik and sequins.

Partnering with batik craftsmen in Surakarta, she said the woven clothes were made using a traditional weaving machine, and the batik was handmade.

“Muslim fashion is not a trend. It’s a need for some people who want to cover their bodies,” she said.

Australian market: Up2date co-owner Aju Isni Karim checks out a dress at Muslim fashion store House of Emaan, in Melbourne, Australia.

“I try to make clothes that not only serve the function of covering the body, but that has a sense of art in them,” she said.

The response to the clothes varied between Auckland and Melbourne. In Auckland, Bev Wallace who was present at the gala dinner said that she was impressed with the design and fabrics. Asked whether she would wear any of the designs, Wallace paused and said, “I honestly don’t know.”

In Melbourne, however, the audience rushed backstage to purchase the clothes presented at the show.
Laura Anderson, the chairman

of L’oreal Melbourne Fashion Week, wearing a Dian Pelangi design blue batik coat that she sourced from last year’s event, said that clothes designed for Islamic fashion had beautiful choices of jackets
and coats.

She said that Indonesia’s attempt to be the hub of Islamic Fashion was possible only if there were easy channels to market it. “That’s obviously through retail chains and special boutiques… There’s also the online channel. I think that’s the key to bring the clothes from textile manufacturers to end consumers,” she said.

The show in Melbourne did open up channels to the Melbourne market with Up2date and Bilqis meeting with Melbourne-based Muslim fashion store owners, one being Indonesian-owned House of Eeman.

Zurlia Ismail, owner of House of Eeman, said that she imported clothes from Jakarta, Surakarta, Malang and Surabaya.

“Our customers vary from people from North Africa to the Middle East as well as Southeast Asia,
such as Singapore and Malaysia,” she said.

Sapta, who has several times promoted Indonesian tourism through its fashion and food, said that it was part of cultural diplomacy. Last April, the tourism ministry held a one-month Indonesia exhibition at London’s most prestigious shopping center Harrods.

The next step from the tourism ministry to establish Indonesia as a shopping destination for Muslim fashion is a yearly Islamic fashion fair in Jakarta that will debut next year.

The ministry is currently preparing a yearly Indonesia Islamic Fashion Fair, collaborating with the Indonesian Fashion Designers Association, NooR and fashion boutique, Shafira House, aiming to make Indonesia the center of the world’s Muslim fashion by 2020.

“People used to go to Singapore to shop. Now we want people come to Jakarta for that,” she said.


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