Lifting the veil on Islamic fashion

- Tingting Cojuangco () - January 29, 2012 - 12:00am

Yang Amat Berbahagia Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor, wife of the prime minister of Malaysia and patron of global Islamic Fashion Festivals (IFF), addressed the audience in Dubai, in 2008 and said: “Since the inception of the IFF in 2006, we have held two successful events in Kuala Lumpur and one in Jakarta. We have now brought IFF to Dubai because it is time to spread our wings. Our approach is inclusive. We want to bring together isolated fragments of Islamic fashion from different parts of the world to make it one powerful industry. Not only are we catering to Muslim men and women, who wish to project their Muslim identity proudly through their attire, but we also want others to see the limitless choices available for dressing fashionably yet modestly.”

Her last sentence is a reminder for us Christians as well, not just Muslims. The religious prescription for Muslim women is that clothing should have long sleeves, long lengths, and head covering. But that’s how the Filipina was brought up in her Maria Clara and alampay till the 19th century, when practicality and modernity eradicated both. I must point out that there is no reason why women who dress prudently cannot be desirable and attractive. In silk and satin? Yes. Any figure covered up in chiffon and damask can leave the audience’s imagination wanting for more. Number two, expect cruel consequences when women bare their bodies because tongues ordinarily never find anyone perfect.

In conformity with religious precepts, Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah encouraged Dato Raja Rezza Shah, chairman and founder of the Islamic Fashion Festival’s to fly Malaysia’s couture globally — a collection influenced by the flora and fauna of Borneo — including loose tunics, sarongs, kaftans and long dresses in hand-painted batik from Tom Abang. There are also soft romantic gowns in powder pink, baby blue, gold and white called “True Romance” by Radzuan Radziwill and other Malaysian designers turning out a collection in lavish texture, embellished with glass and sequins. 

Still, I am asked, “Isn’t Muslim fashion just those long and scary black loose abayas?” These were actually the inspiration of American kaftan designers 30 or more years ago. Underneath an abaya may lie surprises of European and Malaysian exclusive couture bought from oil and rubber sales.

Shelina Janmohamed, a senior strategist at Ogilvy Noor and consultant for building brands with Muslim consumers, blogged on Financial Times, “Bloomberg has estimated that the global Muslim fashion market could be worth $96 billion. For scale, compare that to the entire UK fashion industry, which is valued at £21 billion. What makes it even more attractive is that those driving the development of Muslim fashion stem from a young demographic among the 1.8 billion Muslims.” 

The Muslim youths are confidently carrying the Islamic ideals of modesty!

It appears Dato Raja Rezza Shah will never unpack his trunks, which carry an 80-piece collection of Malaysian high fashion. After Monte Carlo it was London, now it’s Manila…then on to New York, Singapore, and again Indonesia. 

Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor is promoting peace and harmony through Malay craftsmanship and is determined to make Malaysia the global center of Islamic fashion. She says, “Muslim fashion is not limited to anyone country or region.”

Malaysian Ambassador Dato’ Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad, our IFF Manila advisor, and his wife Y. Bhg. Datin Seri Dato’ Zainab Abd. Kader, IFF Manila’s primary coordinator, have been extremely occupied in arrangements for the Islamic Fashion Festival Manila show, which should have been in May and now scheduled for Feb. 23 at the Inter-Continental Hotel. Fortune Ledesma, Tina Ocampo, Doris Ho, myself and Robby Carmona of Saga Events as our producer are “working.” We are all gathering our nerve, resources and friends and Malaysian companies courtesy of Ambassador Dato Ibrahim to convince them to kindly and enthusiastically help our Filipino countrymen. Proceeds from the Feb. 23 show will be for the benefit of the Philippine National Police Academy, a public safety institution that needs lots of equipment, the Verlani Foundation for Abandoned Babies and Street Children, and Filipino Doctor’s scholarships at the Allianze University College of Medical Sciences with Datu Dr. Zanuidin Bin Md. Wazir as its president in Malaysia. The last reminds me that the first hospital ever built in the Muslim world was in Damascus in 707 by Caliph Walid ibn Abd a-Malik.

Thirty Malaysian staff members from the Islamic Fashion Festival of Kuala Lumpur will arrive in Manila to coordinate the gala and lunch presentations with us and meet with Loriebelle Millama and Intan Mawarney Izhar. Thirty one local models will wear Malaysian couture at this elegant sit-down dinner with the wife of the Prime Minister and their well-heeled friends flying in on Malaysian Airlines. Guests include common friends of Ambassador Datu Ibraham and Zainab our family, such as Dato Sri Fathil Mahmood Ambak and his wife Datin Sri Zurina Zulkifli, whom we have known for decades from the equestrian world.

If a fashion show can erase the face of Islam as one of terror, suspicion and fear as consequences of 911, then so be it. This exhibit of beads and lace and of different swaths of fabrics at a time like ours makes this show all the more significant as a vehicle for brotherhood. 

* * *

The show will be held on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. at Inter-Continental Hotel, and at 1 p.m. the next day also at Inter-Continental Hotel.

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