While the big-ticket haute couture shows were underway in Paris last week, with luxury labels like Chanel, Atelier Versace and Giambattista Valli parading their coveted, and at times, skin-baring wares on the catwalks, designs of a different sort were being celebrated on runways elsewhere in Europe.
It may not be Paris or Milan, but Torino (also referred to as Turin) is a cultural hotspot in its own right – the city is home to galleries, museums and opera houses, and was the first capital of Italy. Last week, the city played host to Torino Fashion Week, and was the first time that an Italian fashion week incorporated a segment dedicated solely to modest wear. In partnership with the Dubai-headquartered Islamic Fashion & Design Council (IFDC), brands from all over the world, including Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia, Oman, Bahrain, Turkey and South Africa, were selected by the IFDC to show their collections in Torino, giving many labels unprecedented exposure to clients, buyers and press. There was also an awards ceremony to recognise the top three modest-wear brands taking part.
It’s no secret that modesty has become a buzzword in the fashion industry. This year, there has been an increased modest-wear focus from global e-tailors like Net-a-porter and Shopbop during Ramadan, and the advent of platforms dedicated to modest dressing, like TheModist.com. At the same time, a hijab-wearing model in America, Halima Aden, has earned international acclaim, plus a Vogue Arabia cover, and the modest fashion blogger movement, spearheaded by personalities like Kuwait’s Ascia Al Faraj, is gaining momentum.
Al Nisa Designs
In second place was Al Nisa Designs, a Los Angeles-based brand headed by African American Muslim Carmen Muhammad. Having designed clothing in the United States for over 20 years, her client list includes personalities like Makaziwe Mandela, the daughter of former South African president Nelson Mandela.
Upon converting to Islam as a teenager, Muhammad found it challenging to find clothing that was both contemporary and covered. She started making her own clothes, and hoped that by showing that you could dress modestly, with style, she could encourage others to be more open-minded about the religion.
Specialising in mono-toned suit sets for women, Al Nisa’s signature long tunic-and-flared trouser pairings are offered in hues of heather grey, black, peach, teal, red, fuschia and more. A Torino Fashion Week highlight was the sight of Muhammad’s eye-catching entourage in the front row, dressed in matching head-to-toe utilitarian outfits in millennial pink.
Only one month prior to the show, Muhammad launched an online campaign to raise funds for her collection. “To be able to be a part of something so historical is truly a humbling event,” she wrote. “ I pray that I’m worthy of this great blessing and opportunity. I want to thank you in advance for your prayers, love and support. I have less than 15 days to do it. Your donation, even if it’s $1 will be greatly appreciated.”
The designer pulled off the challenge with panache. In addition to winning an award from Hamdan, she was also a recipient of the LVMH honourary brand award. “I am beyond speechless,” she shared on Instagram.