MUSLIM CLOTHING DESIGNER: MODESTY DOESN'T HAVE TO LOOK MUNDANE
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, N.J. -- Brooke Samad's contribution to high
fashion may not be as well known as Diane von Furstenberg's wrap dress
or a Vera Wang wedding gown.
But her long skirts with kick pleats and her kimono and Nehru jackets
are allowing Muslim women who want to dress modestly, as their
religion requires, to be fashionable at the same time.
A year and a half ago, Samad, 27, created Marabo, a clothing line that
she designs and sews herself in her small studio located in her home
along the central, Jersey shore. The clothing line is geared toward
Muslim women like herself who've had a difficult time finding suitable
clothing at the mall or in catalogs.
OR: FASHION FORWARD, NOT UNTOWARD
Garments were loose-fitting, longer and sporty but as stylish as
clothing on any runway. The difference? These conformed to Islamic
The hall went dark and a hush fell over the crowd. But when the music
started and the spotlight shone on the catwalk, the all-woman audience
cheered to see a slender model hit the stage in a chic designer dress
. . . and hijab.
About 320 women attended The Muslim Educational Trust's first benefit
fashion show Saturday night at Portland State University, an event
that put the mod in modesty -- and proved that hijab, modest dress
worn by Islamic women, can be highly stylish.
Islamic theology requires modesty in thought, behavior and dress.
That's not always easy when surrounded by pop culture that encourages
"We have a hard time finding what we need," said Majeda Hodroj, who is
originally from Lebanon but now calls Oregon home. "We have to buy
extra-large so it won't be (immodestly) tight, and then it is too big
at the shoulders."
At the fashion show, Muslim vendors from Oregon and elsewhere who
specialize in modest clothing showed their wares on the runway and
sold them in the foyer afterward.
The fashions honor ancient tradition but were certainly made for
A red-and-navy track suit from Prima Moda looked like the sort of
thing a sporty young woman would wear to class or coffee. But the
zip-front jacket reached modestly to mid-thigh.
Any fashion-savvy college student probably could see the influence of
Vivienne Westwood in the black skirt with pockets, tabs and red plaid
inserts by Rebirth of Chic. But instead of a sky-high mini length, the
skirt fell to the ankles.
Lavishly embroidered fabrics cut into evening jackets and skirts by
Artizara looked thoroughly modern. But the fabrics are woven and
embellished by artisans around the world trained in traditional crafts.
"We wanted to assert that there is beauty in modesty," Asra Razzaque
said of the philosophy behind the Artizara line, which she started
with Sarah Ansari. Both women are from San Diego.
One segment in the fashion show featured modern takes on traditional
costumes from parts of Africa, the Middle East and India. The women
watching the fashion show cheered to see the garb of their heritage.
"There are so many different countries here, I don't recognize all the
clothes," said Shazia Malik, an engineer originally from Kashmir
region of India who now works in Portland.
The audience represented a global community, including Islamic
converts of European descent and non-Muslims who came to support friends.
"After 9/11, we reached out to the Muslim community," said Setsy
Larouche, a board member of the Portland chapter of the Japanese
American Citizens League. "We didn't want them to experience what our
families did during World War II, when it seemed no one was there for
Afterward, women of the world shopped in the lobby. Not exactly world
peace, perhaps, but still a bonding experience.
Vivian McInerny: 503-294-4076; vmcinerny @ news.oregonian.com
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