Why Are Dark-Skinned Women Not Represented In The Modest Fashion Industry
Last year was a great year for women of colour. Rihanna released her Fenty Beauty line offering an impressive 40 colour shades in her foundation collection, using a diverse group of models for her campaign and pushing the boundaries of the beauty industry.
We also saw the modest fashion industry grow considerably with Halima Aden, a black Muslim model, taking the mainstream fashion industry by storm whilst sporting the hijab.
To top this off, London had its first ever Modest Fashion Week earlier in the year with over 40 labels showcasing their collections and many hijab-wearing models walking down the catwalk.
Despite these successes, the lack of inclusivity of black Muslim females reared its ugly head with the recent Dubai Modest Fashion Week (DMFW) reigniting this issue further and causing widespread frustration.
I have seen the Muslim community vocalise their disappointment about the mainstream fashion industry due to their lack of inclusivity of hijab wearing Muslim females for many years, yet the Muslim community has also failed black women in the modest fashion industry.
Following the Dubai Modest Fashion Week (DMFW), the fashion and beauty blogger Hodan Yusuf, shared a statement on Instagram explaining that dark-skinned women are underrepresented in the modest fashion and beauty world. Hodan voiced her concerns about the racism dark-skinned women face in Western societies, to only face it again within the Muslim community; a community which fails to practice the Islamic principles of equality and oneness. This post received great attention and started a much-needed dialogue on social media regarding the anti-blackness within the Muslim community.
Dina Tokio, a well-known YouTuber and fashion blogger further added to the outrage.
“The Muslim community is one of the most racist in the world,” she said, “keep speaking out because sooner or later these organisations won’t be able to get away with it.”
Although, this issue of racism within the Muslim community is not a new phenomenon, today this dialogue is important because just like the ‘Oscars So White’ movement, it is with persistence that progress can come about.
This made me question why black Muslim females who have championed and raised the bar for modest street fashion and beauty, including Basma K, Shahd Batal and Aysha Harun have not been given the recognition they deserve in the modest fashion industry compared to their lighter skinned or non-black counterparts.
This clearly echoes the anti-blackness within the Muslim community where Eurocentric features are deemed to be more desirable and in accordance with mainstream beauty standards.
Time and time again, I have seen black women being exploited in the modest fashion industry as their styles, thoughts and ideas are taken without recognition or a seat at the table which they have created. As a black Muslim female, it is undeniable that I am at the intersection of many marginalised identities so I am all too familiar with this issue.
As a young girl growing up, I did not see someone who shared my identity in the mainstream fashion industry and although we are now seeing more black women walking the catwalks for huge designers, we are unfortunately not seeing the same progress in the Muslim fashion community.
As highlighted by the YouTuber Asha, the black people Dubai Modest Fashion Week (DMFW) hosted were the likes of Halima Aden who had a significant global success, again sending the message that black women should work twice as hard for equal representation.
Finally, not only has Dubai Modest Fashion Week (DMFW) opened the dialogue on the lack of black Muslim female representation in the modest fashion industry, it has also led Najwa, the founder of female Muslim creatives, to start a movement using the hashtag #BlackMuslimahExcellence.
This movement has already taken off and found its support by Shahd Batal. This clearly shows that the black Muslim community is now taking initiative to begin its own movement to represent the underrepresented. Ultimately, one wonders why black Muslim women should push for representation in the modest fashion industry, when this recognition is merely a quota for diversity?
THE WRITER: SARA AHMED
I was born in the Netherlands but raised in the UK. I am a medical scientist, an activist and a modest fashion enthusiast. I have always enjoyed fashion as I feel like it is an expressive form of art. I am passionate about advocating for equal representation of dark-skinned Muslim females in the fashion industry.
For more stories like these, get the January/February 2018 issue of GAYA Magazine here.
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