The Muslimah E-Commerce Boom: Bridging The Gap Between Fashion And Modesty in M’sia

With the inclusion of not one, but two Malaysian hijab e-commerce sellers on our recent Forbes 30 under 30 list, (Neelofa and Vivy Yusof #represent) it’s safe to see that the estimated $230 billion spent on modestwear estimated to reach $327 billion by 2019 statistic is no joke.

Modestwear in general has become so important to fashion that there’s a whole fashion show that will be based on it in London soon, and fashion’s eyes are now turning to cater to this new influx of modestwear sweeping the world.

We probably wouldn’t have imagined this just 5 years ago in Malaysia, but Muslim fashion is actively being celebrated, and Muslim/Muslimah e-commerce is a force to be reckoned with on an international mainstream arena.

Going into this, I am going to refer to “hijabi fashion” and “Muslim fashion interchangeably, even though Muslim fashion encompasses more than just the hijab.

For example, the Aisy Ashraf brand by popular Imam Muda Asyraf Mohd Ridzuan is a male-centric kurta brand that is a prime example of Muslim fashion trend that is not hijab-focused.

Nevertheless, you really cannot deny the power and influence that hijabs have had in raising the bar for Islamic fashion. It’s for simplicity’s sake, and as a testament to how powerful of a driver the hijab has been in modestwear fashion.

They Are Supplying An Existing Demand 

Hijabi fashion in Malaysia has always existed in its own circle.

In my own limited exposure to hijabi fashion in my lifetime, I still remember the hype train behind the Tudung Mawi that honestly, were just normal pieces of hijab that were branded with the Mawi name after the singer’s Akademi Fantasia win in 2005.

There was the rise of the Tudung Wardina, named after a converted-to-hijabi actress Wardina Safiyyah for the specific way that she liked to style her hijab. Then there was the Tudung Waheeda, that was similar, but featured a more distinctive colourful inner. The Tudung Ekin bandwagon came and went with a similar inner idea and shorter fabric, and finally the modern shawl trend brought to us by Yuna, now an internationally performing artist.

It’s interesting how the specific trends pre-e-commerce boom could be broken down by different celebrities.

However, these were always geared more towards “one-size-fits-all” trends that came and went over years rather than the weekly churn of hijabi fashion today that is more open to experimentation. So what changed?

1. Rise of Conservative Islamism 

Again attributing to how much social media has taken over our lives, it became easier for Malaysian Muslims to tap into the global Islamic community through the internet. In recent years, we began to use the more Arabic, globally accepted terms like hijab, solat and iftar to replace the Malaysianised terms tudung, sembahyang and buka puasa.

And just like how meme culture has taken root here, the movement towards conservatism came to grip our nation from these internet interactions.

There is a growing social pressure for girls (at least in Malaysia) to don the hijab now, and also an increasing sense of Muslim Pride from the global unity that empowered Muslims to want to be more visible in their Islamism.

This also contributes to Malaysia’s acceptance of global Muslim trends in both ideals and fashion.

However, it should be noted that this conservative Islam movement is a double edged sword on fashion as well. Some would argue that in Islam, modesty refers to shying away from attention as well. The individuality and attention-grabbing nature of fashion defeats that purpose.

Furthermore, in the name of fashion, some Muslimah girls opt for tight-fitting jeans, body-shaping dresses, tops, and short hijabs that in many scholarly Islamic opinions, reveals too much of the body to be considered modest, even if you cover those body parts in cloth.

Some hijabstas work around this by wearing the looser variety of trendy clothes, and shawls that fall lower on the body, while others either ignore or are affronted by this outlash. In this, many Muslims have differing opinions, and some are even exasperated by all of this, crying out for Muslims to just live and let live. Suffice to say that even today, this conversation is still ongoing.

Originally published on www.vulcanpost.com