Putting Singapore Modest Fashion on the map
An extra piece of cloth, an extra inch of material, a little extra coverage, doesn’t change the fact that Muslim women are normal women too. And just like every woman, we want to dress up, make up and feel beautiful too. Perfect point to start playing “I’m every woman” by Whitney Houston.
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As modest fashion takes off globally, it’s no surprise that our little island is stepping up efforts to push this to the forefront as well. Up till this point, when it comes to modest fashion, all focus is on Malaysia and Indonesia but Singapore too has an impressive amount of talent. On the 27th of November 2016, we were invited to the launch of Singapore Modest Fashion Collective - a platform for fashion designers, photographers, videographers and modest fashion bloggers to network and collaborate.
Co-founded by Tayeba Abdur-Rahman and Hasna B, the collective strives to put Singapore Modest Fashion on the map.
The launch event saw a panel of speakers from bloggers, photographers and media sharing their knowledge, experience and advice on the different aspects of the industry. GAYA Magazine, Co-founder, Juliana Iskandar was an invited speaker. Read her interview below.
Interview with Juliana Iskandar
Co-founder & Editor-in-Chief
at GAYA Magazine
Tayeba: Please introduce Gaya Magazine.
GAYA Magazine is an international modest fashion and lifestyle magazine. It's a digital magazine so you can download it to your phone or tablet. It's specially designed for the mobile device and it's free. Just download from our website at gayamagazine.com
Tayeba: What was the modest fashion scene in Singapore like when you started Gaya magazine? How has it changed since then?
When I started the magazine in 2013, the modest fashion scene in Singapore was in its infancy. There were hijab bloggers and modest fashion brands, yes, but it was pretty quiet and individual. There weren't events such as these. Media wasn't looking into it. Modest fashion was booming outside Singapore and I guess that's why we got picked up in places like the U.K. and the US rather than here. To be honest, we got known overseas before getting known here. I've met people here telling me they thought GAYA was a European magazine. I guess now that modest fashion is getting this much attention elsewhere, thankfully Singapore is following suit. There are more events like these, more modest fashion brands sprouting up, etc. In fact even mainstream brands like Zalora is picking up on the modest fashion scene.
Tayeba: Singapore is considered to be a secular country and so there are some restrictions on where you can wear hijab (similar to France). What effect has that had on the modest fashion scene in Singapore?
Personally I don't see that having an effect on the modest fashion scene. Yes, there are some places of work where we can't wear the hijab. Even school. But personally I've not seen that curb the love or creativity of women who dress modestly outside these places of restrictions. I know many of our readers who are nurses for example and while they can't wear the hijab because of work, outside they still indulge in it. Perhaps the only thing I see where this may be affected is how big the scene can grow into. We attend KL modest fashion week almost every year, I don't think we will reach a point where we will see a Singapore Modest Fashion Week. Or for Singapore fashion week to have a modest section like how Malaysia fashion week did recently. Then again we can take this as a challenge and create one ourselves if we come together.
Tayeba: Singapore is a cosmopolitan city, with many cultures and influences. How can Singaporean designers stand out and make their mark on the global modest fashion scene?
Think outside of the box. Look beyond just Singapore. Designs should speak to all and not just the trends in Singapore. Compare yourself to the brands out there. For example at one point florals were a Singapore trend and suddenly you see florals everywhere on everything. Like everyone just came out of the botanic gardens. Be different. If you want to make your mark on the global scene, be different. Push the envelope. Let me give you an example. When I started GAYA, I got flack from the Malay community. I was featured on a site called People of Singapore and I had a slew of negative comments calling me “un-islamic” because they said I made the hijab a fashion statement. It affected me. I wanted to give up but I stuck with it because I know in my heart that's not my intention. My intention for the magazine was beyond the hijab. Fashion to me was a gateway to a deeper conversation about Islam and Muslim women. That's another long story and I don't want to run out of time.
Tayeba: What excites you most about the modest fashion scene in Singapore?
That it's growing. In 2013, we didn't have events like these here in Singapore or maybe we weren't privy to it because it's all quiet and only among those in the circle. Now my days are filled with events like this and it's fun. Like finally.
Tayeba: What frustrates you most about the modest fashion scene in Singapore?
This is a tough one. I hope I don't offend anyone when I say this but what Fatin (@nurfatiin) said earlier was right. As modern as Singapore is, our community is still pretty conservative. So when we push the boundaries it is seen with skeptical looks.
Also it's a very competitive industry. It could be a combination of the typical fashion industry and a Singaporean thing to be better than everyone else, I don't know but I personally find it negative sometimes. Healthy competition is good but not when we bring each other down for the sake of our own success. Modesty is not just in the way we dress but our hearts and mannerism. For me personally fashion is a gateway to a deeper conversation about Islam and Muslim women but if we don't support one another in a positive way and we compete with one another "unhealthily" then what are we really trying to teach then? What is our real cause?
"For me personally fashion is a gateway to a deeper conversation about Islam and Muslim women but if we don't support one another in a positive way and we compete with one another "unhealthily" then what are we really trying to teach then? What is our real cause?"
Tayeba: What advice would you give to women who would like to start wearing a headcovering?
Just do it. Really. In fact I just started wearing the hijab myself. I've been wanting to do it for a long time but my work situation wasn't ideal. Back story, aside from GAYA, I run a digital marketing agency. I run digital marketing strategies for clients like retail outlets, F&B outlets, hotels and many aren't halal. Sadly your ability is judged by what you wear. But my heart wasn't at ease. I spoke to my family and my mother, bless her heart, was worried for me. She's an Assistant Director of Nursing at a local hospital and she also is not allowed to wear the hijab to work so she knows how it would affect but recently I threw my hands in the air said, “you know what? I'm doing this”. And you know what? All the concerns I had were just in my head. Alhamdullillah I wasn't treated differently. FYI I come from a mix family. My dad is a revert n I was raised by my paternal grandparents who are Catholic. Imagine the shock of my grandma the other day when I appeared at her house in a hijab. Thankfully she didn't slip and fall in the kitchen when I appeared. But after that, we continued our usual conversation. It was like as if nothing changed. She even gave me styling tips at the end actually telling me what color hijab would look nice on me.
But that's my story. I know women who have been treated differently or worse, been told by their bosses to take it off. But I'm always a believer that if you do something with the right intentions Insya'Allah He will help you. My brother told me, when I was contemplating the hijab, that if an opportunity slipped just because the other person judged you by your hijab, then that was not truly meant for you.
Hasna B: How is your relationship with YouTube vloggers i.e. what are the differences between modest fashion in France and South East Asia? Is there is censorship in Singapore regarding women on TV in hijab?
I don't think there is a difference because so far the vloggers I know talk about fashion. And that's not a censorship issue in Singapore. Just don't touch on politics and you'll be fine. Even when talking about religion as long as you're not like "radical" I think that should be fine. Alhamdullillah we've been doing GAYA and we talk about religion too but it's all in a positive way that doesn't incite hate or anything.
With woman in hijabs on TV, I may not be well equipped to answer that as I’m not inside the media industry in that way. I don't think you'll see a newscaster on the mainstream English channel wearing a hijab to be honest with you. But I'd like to think that we will change that in time but for the moment it is what it is and this goes back into politics which I won't touch on.
Special thanks to Singapore Modest Fashion Collective for the opportunity. For more information about the collective and how to join, visit www.sgmodestfashioncollective.com.
Photos by @asyariphotography