Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Scarf ace - the rise and rise of the hijabista

anoujoum's facebook

Perth’s Zoe Loveland has graced the covers of Frankie, Summer Winter and Karen magazines. Now she is about to add something a little different to her repertoire. In June, Loveland - who is not a Muslim - will become the very first model to be featured on the cover of an Australian magazine wearing a hijab. That's according to Anoujoum, which bills itself as Australia's only English-Arabic magazine and which chose Loveland for the cover of its June 'Modesty' issue. 

Great sales pitch, but is it really the first Australian magazine to put a fashion model in a hijab on page one?

“Yes, that appears to be the case" says Silma Ihram from the Australian Muslim Womens Association, who added that noone in her organisation could recall anything similar. "We welcome the hijab and Muslim attire becoming more of a mainstream item, rather than reflecting ‘the other’ – migrants who are different. We commend the magazine on portraying an attractive Muslim woman who is more accurately representing a uniquely multicultural Australia”.

Originally launched in 1997 and boasting a circulation of 16,000, Anoujoum was relaunched in May by publisher Australian Middle East Media with two brand new editors at the helm: Arabic editor Chadia Elhage and English editor Sabrina Houssami.

Houssami's name may sound familiar. Crowned Miss World Australia in 2006, she represented Australia in the 2006 Miss World competition, placing as second runnerup and then in 2009, appeared in Nine Network's at the time new reality show, The Apprentice.

Just to clarify, Anoujoum is not a fashion magazine, but a general interest title.

However its ‘Modesty’ issue has a heavier-than-usual fashion focus. The issue’s cover story, 'Making the hijab stylish – a new approach to Muslim fashion', profiles Tarik Houchar, the founder and director of Islamic fashion company Hijab House.

But the real catalyst for the issue appears to have been the Sydney Powerhouse Museum's exhibition, Faith, Fashion, Fusion: Muslim Women's Style in Australia, which opened in May and runs until February 2013. The Powerhouse show is also covered in the issue, with another cover line claiming the exhibition is "changing the face of a religion".

The June edition may be a taste of more Anoujoum fashion coverage to come says Houssami - just don't expect hijabs in every issue.

Amply demonstrating the complexities of the Australian Muslim community, Houssami chose another beauty pageant winner, Miss Lebanon Australia 2007 Jessica Kahawaty, as the uncovered cover girl of Anoujoum's May issue, Houssami's first issue as editor.

"Anoujoum is beginning to take a healthy interest in how fashion is evolving, and being revisited" she added. "As an editor, I can recognise that there is a growing market for conservative fashion - especially when the mainstream fashion houses are repeatedly conforming to the mantra 'shorter, tighter, sexier'. Anoujoum isn't trying to champion religious choices - we're just making people aware that we shouldn't be judging others negatively for what they wear just because it's different and that different can in fact be very beautiful. And we'll keep doing that. Perhaps in an upcoming issue you might see more unusual fashion pieces on the cover. But what we're aiming for is the initial reaction, 'Wow, that's beautiful', a second before we hear, 'That's so different!'"
via erniekha 

Anajoum's relaunch coincides with quite some activity in the Islamic fashion and lifestyle media arena, which includes the launch of at least four international magazines and the emergence of a score of Muslim style bloggers

Arguably the best known of the magazines is Emel in the UK, which was founded in September 2003 by Sarah Joseph after Joseph reports she found herself “firefighting” on behalf of British Muslims in the wake of the 9/11 attacks

Hijab Style - the UK's first online style guide for Muslim women - was launched in 2007.  

both covers: aquila style's facebook

More fashion-focussed than Emel is Aquila Asia, which launched in March 2010 and claims to be the world's first English-language fashion & lifestyle magazines for “cosmopolitan Muslim women”. Headquartered in Singapore, with editorial offices in Jakarta, the magazine – which boasts the cover strapline “Modest and fabulous” - charts the emergence of a new breed of fiercely fashion-forward ‘Muslimah’ or ‘Hijabista’, for whom conservative attire is no impediment to style.

June 2011 saw the launch of Ala, Turkey's first fashion magazine for conservative Islamic women. Nicknamed by local media as 'the Vogue of the veiled', in under one year Ala had reportedly entered mainstream glossy territory, with a circulation of 30,000 – closely tailing the local editions of CosmopolitanVogue and Elle. No small feat, perhaps, in a secular country in which the headscarf has become such a politically divisive issue. Notwithstanding that an estimated 60percent of Turkish women cover their heads and Turkey’s constitution was amended in 2008 to allow women wearing loosely-tied headscarves to enter universitiesheadscarves are still officially banned in civil spaces and official buildings in Turkey.

Ala co-founder Ibrahim Burak Birer, a devout Muslim, told Der Spiegel that Ala was launched as a salvo against what he described as the "diktat of nudity” in western fashion imagery. Noted Ibrahim, "CosmopolitanElleVogueMarie Claire, it's all about sex and naked skin. The motto is that sex sells. But we, and millions of women around the world, believe that fashion can also be different."

Many Malaysians would be inclined to agree with him. 

Just last month, a new Malaysian fashion magazine called Hijabista emerged, aimed at "contemporary" 21-35 year-old Muslim women. 


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