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Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): “Beyond The Veil” is certainly an attention-getting title for a Muslim fashion show, considering how we cover. What is the significance of the title and how was it chosen?
Salimah Shaheed (SS): Muslimat Collective (MC) is the organizer for this fashion showcase. We are Muslim and women. We are smart, educated, entrepreneurial, professional, talented, activists, educators, wives, mothers, and a host of other labels. But often in the media and societal/cultural projected opinion, Muslim women are portrayed as oppressed, inferior, hidden, inconsequential. Nothing could be further from the truth!
When we were trying to decide on the name of the show, we brainstormed several title ideas. Ultimately, we decided on this title because it can take on so many valid meanings depending on one’s perspective. For us, Beyond the Veil represents the variety and complexity of the Muslim woman beyond what you think you see of her or what you think you understand about her. So, it could mean: what’s behind her headdress (hijab)? Or what’s behind her public persona? MC doesn’t want to, nor do we think we should, define what it means to be a Muslim woman for anyone else. We just want to showcase (appropriately) and celebrate her splendor.
EM: What inspired you to plan this fashion show?
SS: Outside of bridal showers, weddings, and baby showers, many Muslim women don’t have other opportunities to attend nice events in public where we can get dressed up, socialize, and have a good time. We wanted to create an event that allowed for this while being safe and inviting. The Beyond the Veil Fashion Showcase is planned by Muslim women to cater to the unique needs of Muslim women, namely the need for privacy, security, and protection. Thus, there will be no men allowed inside during the event and we will have security outside to ensure safety. While this event is for Muslim women, women of other faith traditions are invited and welcomed. There will be something for everybody.
In addition to creating a fun event for women, we also wanted to support a cause. Muslims are called to be charitable as a tenet of our faith. The Masjid Warithudeen Mohammed community is raising money to build a community center for its members and surrounding neighborhood. Our community is growing with lots of children. We want to serve the religious, economic, and social needs of the community, but our masjid doesn’t currently have the capacity to serve these needs in the way we desire. This community center will allow us to create space for our community members to expand programming, events, activities that serve everyone, especially our children. We want our children to grow up in an environment where they are comfortable being Muslim and they can explore many ways to express that identity. Proceeds from The Beyond the Veil Fashion Showcase will go to supporting this effort.
EM: How did you come into the fashion industry?
SS: The irony is I’m not in the fashion industry. I like to look good but that’s about it for me. I wanted to do this to create an experience for Muslim women- an experience of elegance, class, and quality. I wanted to be a part of an event that respected and appreciated the style and taste of Muslim women. I wanted something nice for us. A fashion show seemed like a good fit for this concept. So I organized a team of very talented women, some who have extensive fashion show experience, and went to work. The Beyond the Veil Fashion Showcase is a manifestation of that vision.
EM: Why is it important to show the variety, creativity and vibrancy of Muslim fashion for women?
SS: It’s important to show the variety, creativity and vibrancy of Muslim fashion for women for two main reasons. The first reason is because it’s accurate. Muslim women are so diverse. We come from every country in the world. As such: we speak many languages, represent many cultures, and have many different tastes, especially when it comes to fashion. The second reason is our diversity is often not depicted in popular media and societal norms. And when it comes to Muslim women fashion, the perceived public image is so monolithic. But the reality is our fashion runs the spectrum from simple and conservative to quirky and high fashion. We are here to highlight and celebrate the diversity of Muslim women fashion.
EM: What impact do you believe this event and demonstration will make on those who have such a negative view of Islam and those who believe all Muslim women are oppressed?
SS: Honestly, I don’t know. I guess it depends on why someone has that view. If they have that view because they don’t know any better, then this show can help to reshape their view. They will have an opportunity to meet and talk to Muslim women directly and maybe this experience will challenge/change their perceptions. But this show is really seeking to challenge our views of each other within the Muslim community. In Houston, the Muslim community is diverse, large, and spread out. Oftentimes, we tend to gather at masjids and events with people who look, sound, and think like what we are used to and that with which we are most comfortable. The Beyond the Veil Fashion Showcase will bring together women from all over Houston and beyond who represent different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This event will be an opportunity for us to get to know and learn about/from one another.
EM: What message are you hoping to send to the fashion world such as New York Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, etc.?
SS: The message that we are trying to send to anyone paying attention is that Muslim women are fashionable. We love fashion- we design it, we create it, we wear it. We are always on the hunt for businesses who cater to our needs for modesty and style. And when we find those businesses, we support them with our money and refer our friends and family. We are also trendsetters and purveyors of fashion, particularly modest fashion. Some of the designers in the fashion show are up and coming while the other designers are well established in the Muslim community. The market for modest fashion is growing with the Muslim population and interest in this fashion market is growing among those who are not Muslim. We are here to be a representative of this market.
EM: What do you hope everyone attending will experience as they see all of the Muslim designs?
SS: Our hope is that attendees can see themselves in the fashions being modeled on the runway. We want attendees to see that they have options when it comes to modest fashions. Our designers are from diverse cultural backgrounds and make clothing that reflects their heritage and personal style. Runway designs will have influences from South Asia, Europe, Africa, America which all have their own distinct fashion flair. We want our attendees to examine their own fashion sense and be willing to explore others. We also hope our attendees have a restored pride in modest fashion and Muslim women beauty.
EM: Tell us what else to expect at Beyond The Veil? Will there be live entertainment, Muslim cuisine, vending, etc.?
SS: The Beyond the Veil Fashion Showcase will feature five different designers from diverse cultural backgrounds who will present fashions that reflect their backgrounds. There will be vendors selling clothing, jewelry, beauty products, and much more. This is a women only event. No men are allowed. As such all of our organizers, designers, vendors, photographers, videographer, DJ are women and most are Muslim. These are women who own/operate businesses. Let that marinate for women empowerment.
The food is being catered by Culinary Sensations and it is the BEST! The runway show will feature over 30 models strutting the catwalk. There will be live performances that include poetry, musical acts, and drill team. It’s going to be amazing, Lord willing!
EM: What do you see or hope to see coming from this major event in fashion?
SS: We hope attendees enjoy themselves. We hope that they feel it was a well-organized and well-executed event. We hope that attendees meet new people and start productive new relationships. We hope the designers and vendors make money. We hope to raise money for the community center. What we hope to see come of this event is more events designed for the Muslim woman. As for Muslimat Collective, this is our inaugural event. We hope this event is a catapult into exciting new ventures. The possibilities are endless and we’re excited for this event and what can follow.
EM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
SS: This is a show you don’t want to miss. Purchase your tickets at www.muslimatcollective.com. Please like us on FB at www.facebook.com/muslimatcollective. Follow @muslimatcollective on IG and Twitter. Check out our website at www.muslimatcollective.com. Hope to see the ladies at the Beyond the Veil Fashion Showcase on April 23rd!