Friday, 16 December 2011

fashion and Islam

The Turkish women’s magazine Ala first gained notice in the summer of 2011 by putting the most controversial piece of fabric in Turkey, the Islamic headscarf, on its cover. Four months later, Turkish secularists and traditional Muslims alike are still debating: Can fashion and Islam comfortably coexist?

The brainchild of advertising agency account executives Mehmet Volkan Atay and Burak Birer, Ala (Beautiful Lifestyle) targets Turkey’s growing number of observant Muslim women with a monthly selection of clothing advice, interviews with Muslim designers and businesswomen, travel tips and feature stories. It claims that its circulation has quadrupled to 40,000 copies since the first edition hit newsstands last July, and is widely reported by Turkish media already to have surpassed sales of Vogue and Elle.

In online social media forums, critics nonetheless claim that the glossy, high-end monthly tries to “westernize the idea of modest Islamic dress,” and tries to turn veiled women into the prototype of Vogue-reading, spend-thrift fashion victims; concepts contrary to Islamic ideals. The magazine features photos of both professional models and ordinary readers in Islamic garments.
“Our religion and the Koran dictate how to dress modestly and which parts of the body need to be covered up. But that is the only constant: designs and patterns change and evolve, and as long as these changes remain in accord with religious rules, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that,” commented Mustafa Karaduman.

Large Turkish cities, such as Istanbul, are dotted with Islamic clothing stores, but their number depends highly on the neighborhood; more conservative Istanbul districts such as Fatih, for example, offer a variety of boutiques for Islamic women, but non-Islamic-oriented clothing stores easily dominate elsewhere.

Atay underlines, though, that the Islamic clothing market is not an island unto itself. Most covered women interviewed reported not liking to shop in stores selling only Islamic clothing. Younger women, in particular, prefer to mix and match, he said.


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