The “hijabistas”; veiled fashionistas chased by luxury brands
With the so-called modest fashion and haute couture markets booming - worth over $360bn by 2023 - hijabistas are asserting themselves as ambassadors of chic.
In 2013, a video entitled Somewhere in America was posted on social networks, featuring ultra-styled young women wearing veils taking a break, dancing, skateboarding or even riding a motorcycle in New York City.
Seen by millions, the video gave birth to the “hijabistas” movement.
Since then, on social networks and around the world, many Muslim fashionistas – who do not necessarily wear the hijab, sometimes preferring the turban – have appropriated the term, a contraction of “hijab” and “fashionista”, just like the “mipsterz” – a contraction of “Muslim” and “hipsters” for men.
Among them, Ruba Zai, a young Dutch blogger, youtuber and instagrammer of Afghan origin followed by 1.1m on her account, hijabhills. In June 2017, she collaborated with Dolce & Gabanna for their collection of abayas, but also with Saint Laurent.
Ready-to-wear and haute couture on the brink
Likewise the British Mariah Idrissi, followed by 90,300 subscribers, also on Instagram, who has posed several times for H&M.
Not to mention participating accounts, such as Hijabista Fashion Style (149,000 subscribers), where young, veiled, stylish and trendy women, themselves followed by thousands of subscribers, take a break in front of shops like Max Mara or luxury cars and carry designer bags.
Hijabistas are a marketing tool for ready-to-wear and haute couture brands that offer so-called modest or modest fashion items (Oscar de la Renta, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, etc.).
At a time when France for example is being torn apart over the issue of Muslim women’s right to cover their hair during school outings, the worlds of fashion and luxury have not got involved.
And for good reason, by 2023, the modest fashion market will be worth $361bn, compared to $270bn in 2016, according to the report “State of the Global Islamic Economy 2018-2019 – An Inclusive Economy”, published by Thomson Reuters.
The same report shows that Muslims spent $270 billion on fashion and luxury items in 2017. The first countries concerned by this market are the United Arab Emirates, followed by Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
It is therefore not surprising that the Arabic edition of Vogue features hijab models on the cover, which are also internationally successful, such as the Somali American Halima Aden or the British Ikram Abi Omar.
There are countless fashion sites for women wearing the veil such as hijab-ista.com or louellashop.com – the latter featuring the Louella by Ibtihaj brand, created by the American fencer and veiled Ibtihaj Muhammad.
Silk and satin
Considered by Vogue as the ambassador of luxury hijab in the United States, lawyer and blogger Melanie Elturk became a fashion designer in 2010, with the birth of her Haute Hijab brand, co-founded with her husband.
Based in Detroit, she claims to have embarked on the adventure after suffering from a lack of choice in hijabs during her teenage years.
- “I spent most of my youth with two horrible hijabs that made me feel anything but beautiful. The only options available on the market were scarves, but they were always too thick and never the right size,” she told the Muslim media Mizane Info.
Followed by 277,000 people on Instagram, it offers silk, viscose, Georgette or satin hijabs on its website for an average price of 20 to 60 euros.
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Similarly, the Tunisian company @AnotherArabGirl (30,400 subscribers on Instagram) has also created its own brand of colourful hijabs, The Hijabista by Souha, which it sells directly on the social network.
The luxury players who address hijabistas also do not hesitate to set a course for the very rich Gulf countries while keeping a foothold in Europe, the United States or Asia.
This is the case of Ghizlan Guenez, an Algerian businesswoman based in London and Dubai who founded The Modist, an online sales platform specializing in luxury items since March 2017.
Her target audience: “Any woman who wants to look chic and elegant without revealing too much.”
Guenez financed the creation of The Modist herself, after working for the Abraaj Group, a Dubai-based private equity firm. She saw her e-commerce platform grow from 75 to 140 luxury brands in just seven months. In other words, hijabistas have plenty of customers.
On average, the price of the items is over 400 euros and 50% of the site’s revenue comes from the Middle East, followed by the United States and then the United Kingdom.
The hijabistas movement primarily concerns the “millennials”. And it is by no means fixed phenomenon.
For example, 29-year-old blogger and promoter Ascia Al Faraj (2.7 million subscribers on Instagram), who in September chose to stop covering her hair.
Faraj who collaborates with brands like Chanel or Kenzo argued that ten years in the spotlight had profoundly altered her outlook on herself. So, to find herself, she chose to leave her turbans aside, even if it meant creating controversy.
The “burkistas” on Instagram
Bloggers in burka or niqab are also making their way to Instagram. The most famous of them, Amy Roko, a 24-year-old Saudi Arabian woman, has nearly 1.5 million subscribers. She has become a web sensation in the Gulf thanks to her humorous videos.
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There are also accounts such as the Nada fashion blogger (308,000 subscribers), Aida Faris (14,300 subscribers) and Beautiful Niqabis (2,238 subscribers). And there are nearly 40,000 occurrences of the hashtag “niqabista” on the social network.
Brands are present too, such as Madina Paris (130,700 subscribers), which offers abayas, capes, jilbabs, gloves, etc.