Category Archives: Interviews

A self-confessed ‘style hauler’ Dina Tokio the inspiration behind hijabi fashion

Dina Tokio a 24 year old social media sensation, fashion vlogger, designer and vintage extremist from Cardiff, proves how the hijab is a representation of modernity and modesty through her works. The stylish and relaxed cosmopolitan Muslim style icon has established herself as a dominant figure within hijabi centred fashion since rising to fame in 2010 showcasing her first designs through social media.

Her state of the art designs and inspiration behind hijabi fashion has changed the nation’s perception on the hijab. Dina says “I wore the Hijab at quite a young age but I didn’t care about how I presented it, until I hit the age of 17 I valued the importance of the hijab and living in a country surrounded by great artist and fashion designers I wanted to express myself through the hijab. I also started designing hijab wear at A-level stage of my course.”

Dina has designed hijab wear for over seven years, embracing the concept and the art behind Muslim women of today. Her designs are fresh and vibrant; Dina uses traditional techniques to create modern contemporary looks. All of the hijab’s Dina creates are handmade and showcased through her website Lazy Doll and also through social networking sites.

Her fearless, fun and statement looks celebrate vintage aesthetics and qualities. She says “the ‘bintage and vintage’ page on my website provides the perfect pieces at the perfect prices. I have a love for vintage clothing and have embraced it through offering inspiration from the 20’s all the way till the 90’s.”

With the rise of hijab wear Dina states “It is much easier now to shop and create modest looks through western high street stores… you are free to express yourself.” She is currently working on her latest collection where she has partnered up with another designer that will be released by the end of the year.

Focusing on a chic and contemporary twist combined with sublime colours and luxurious fabrics, Dina says “I want to make every piece as different and unique from the last, I am constantly developing my looks to fit the ultimate Lazy Doll. One of my biggest fashion inspiration is Rabia Z I love her work and take it on board through my personal style.”

To find out more about her unique style through  DINA TOKI-O

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Behind Dubai’s daringly detailed dresses: Interview with fashion designer Ahmed Yousaf

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Heating up the fashion stakes in Dubai, British Fashion designer Ahmad Yousaf, 25 years old, born and raised in London the capital of fashion has become renowned for designing finely detailed couture gowns featured twice a year at Dubai Fashion Week. He has recently had the opportunity to design for UAE’s royal princess Maryam Al Maktoum with no expectations of stopping just yet.

 His latest project with L’nette Boutique owned by Dubai’s royal family focuses on the modern day Muslim women aspired by the cultural arts of eastern fashion forms blended into the fine attributes of feminine couture pieces defining detailed silhouettes.

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M: When did your passion for fashion arise?

 A: I have been passionate about fashion ever since I chose my own ensemble to wear at the age of six. I was hooked on colours shapes and fine detail. I gained an eye for detail and also learnt the importance of organisation at a very young age this made me reliable and competent which was a good attribute to take forward in both personal and work life.

 M: Who have you been most inspired by through your designs?

 A: Since my childhood I was fascinated about creating new stuff which drawn my interest into architecture my favourite architect is Zaha Hadid I was inspired by her style and her quality of capturing fine detail. I focused on exploring this particular aspect through fashion that soon became my signature drawing upon new shapes and the finer details of the female silhouette.

I have also drawn inspiration to the British legend that is Alexander McQueen his unique sense of art and fashion is a perfect combination in creating unique collections. I also find Christian Dior’s colour scheme through couture pieces particularly fresh and stimulating.

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M: How do you feel about exploring modern couture pieces in Dubai?

A: Working in UAE is a great experience, as I explore pieces that have a strong emphasis on the Arabic culture. It’s all about glamour long dresses and full of embroidery that emphasise modern couture. I have never explored this type of work beforehand but learning from the best it was a great combination of shape and embroidery.

Individuals always want to wear the latest creations so being innovative through shapes and the female silhouette is of particular importance in the UAE. There are two seasons that very important for fashion designers in Dubai one in April and another in December where collections are featured on public and private fashion shows. Therefore designs need to be of a particularly high standard. I do design in between these dates for younger and older females exploring both traditional and new styles.

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M: You often talk of the future, being avant-garde. What does innovation of western and eastern fashion forms mean to you?

A: My creations have always been innovative through the western and eastern culture. I explore the modern Muslim woman defining sharp shapes with delicate embroidery and patterns taking route from western influences including Alexander McQueen I focus on Dubai as a developing modern art form through my works. These two cultures in fashion are very strong when applied together as I am able to create gowns that have a strong concept of today’s innovation within fashion. I also design bridal gowns that are very similar with the west yet have a twist of the traditional eastern culture.

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M: The cultural heritage and crafts of Dubai are very important to your creative process. How important is the Western perspective on Dubai?

A: The world’s view of Dubai is very important it’s what I call a modern fusion of mutable fashion of different cultures. I have designed for the royal princess drawing inspiration on the western culture Dubai is very good at celebrating that arts behind every culture which is why I believe it is so successful. Unfortunately, the centre of fashion and art is not Dubai, but nonetheless I find the opinion and point of view of Dubai very useful.

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M: How long does it take you to design?

A: Well about designing something I can’t say how long it takes, sometimes I cannot design for whole day and sometimes ideas just do not stop coming that why I always carry a pencil and paper with me. It may sound very unusual but a few times I create designs in my dreams that I wake up and develop.

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M: A lot of you designs explore modern day glamour what does that mean to you?

A: Glamour is about confidently showing your style, it means standing on your own feet and explore through the arts of culture it’s the way you present yourself through strong shapes and detailed quality designs.

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Interview by Maryam Ali

Fashion Blogger Naballah Chi on why Hijabi fashion is evolving and developing ones individuality

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Ever since she exploded onto the fashion blog scene Naballah Chi has made a name for herself as a fashion forward hijabi. The island girl from Trinidad and Tobago explores culture and heritage through modestly fashionable clothing, her aim to bring out ones individuality through the comfort of the hijab and fashion.

M: What makes you feel most comfortable with your hijab?

N: I’m honestly comfortable with my hijab no matter what I do. I think I’ve came to conquer being confident in hijab, no matter what the circumstances are, being around other confident Hijabi’s makes me feel right at home.

M: Why have you chosen fashion to express your style?

N: Fashion is something I was born into, so it comes natural. My parents both worked in fashion. My dad was a fashion designer and my mom is an avid fashion designer/seamstress. Being involved in fashion is being engulfed in my natural element…it brings me all kinds of happiness. Fashion has also inspired my life in so many ways, namely to take my natural creativeness far beyond what I think I am capable of achieving.

Style is thus born when I am able to be creative and personalize my pieces, through the conscious arrangement of colours, shapes and movements in an artistic manner, while wearing clothes that fit my lifestyle. My style is a reflection of my personality. It is only when I become creative, then can I become consequently stylish. So in a nutshell fashion enhances my creative ability in expressing who I am.

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M: Who are you most inspired by?

N: There is no particular person who inspires me. My inspiration is my life as every aspect of my life has taught me how to rise beyond any circumstance, no matter how hard I fall.

M:  How do you feel about the Hijab being expressed through the media?

N: I believe the increasing power of the media to define Islam and aspects of Islam, such as the hijab, causes tremendous negative associations with hijab. As a result, people view hijab as oppressive, because the media, which is supposed to be the peoples trusted source, falsely tells them that hijab is oppressive.

Also most people don’t take the time out to educate themselves on the concept of a woman dressing modestly and what Hijab means to Muslims. Hijab is contrary to images that we are bombarded with  where women wear little clothing and expose their bodies in the name of freedom, therefore some people see hijab as taking away a woman’s freedom to choose what to wear, how to live etc. Hijab is meant to free us as individuals and reinforce honouring of the Muslim identity not hold us as prisoners to ideal beauty standards and scrutiny.

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M: Why do you choose to explore the hijab?

N: As a hijab stylist, hijab is now a social enterprise that introduces me to business savvy entrepreneurship and stylish flair; essential skills for any modern Muslim female pioneer.  Muslim women, young and old are always looking out for new ways to incorporate fashion into the way they wear their Hijabs and so Muslim fashion enthusiasts and professionals like myself have found innovative ways to blend both modesty and style, without having to sacrifice the basic elements of what constitutes Islamic dress or the basic elements of fashion.

Being a trendy hijab stylist is how I explore hijab in today’s society. Fashionable hijab has spread vigorously throughout the Islamic world and in some cases in the non-Islamic, as non-Muslims can occasionally be spotted donning headscarves and Islamic-inspired wear for modest fashion. I’m not a gatekeeper between my hijab styles and the general public, because I know my work is surely a way to inspire other women to share their talents and to empower themselves through a positive turn on self-esteem.

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M: Why is there a rise of hijab fashion with modern society?

N: The rise of Hijab fashion redefines what it means to be a modern Muslim woman and now I can enthusiastically flex my marketing muscle in the world of fashion- something that didn’t exist a couple of years back. Having an online hijab store, or even a brick & mortar store, with an array of designs shows that Hijab fashion is empowering Muslim women economically.

I think that Hijab in today’s society has done enough to empower Muslim women and change attitudes towards Muslims in general. In today’s global competitive market, hijab fashion is evolving and one of the utmost advantages of fashion is the development of one’s individuality. When you become confident you can do bold things in the society you live in and as a result you experience inner happiness.

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Find out more about Nabballah Chi fashion through her  blog

Fashion Designer: Rabia Zargarpur on why ‘modesty is always in style’

United Arab Emirates based fashion designer Rabia Zargarpur who owns the world renowned label Rabia Z proves how modesty is always in style in her latest S/S14 collection.

Rabia has always depicted the hijab as a significant piece within her wardrobe whilst donning the hijab during her studies in the US. Rabia came to terms post 9/11 attacks on the hijab her response was to ‘design creative outfits for the modern Muslim woman.

Through her own incorporation of the hijab Rabia soon let it be heard as liberating modest fashion piece. Rabia recalls ‘It kind of became like a conversation piece and just like that I was able to give them this insight on hijab and Muslim women.’

Growing up in the UAE, Rabia designed clothes using her mother’s manufacturing unit. After completing a business degree, she studied fashion in New York. Years of researching and branding later, she created demand for her designs and finally launched her label Rabia Z online in 2007.

A creator in modestly-chic clothing, Rabia has collections that consist of colourful abayas and ready-to-wear outfits, including everything from casual to luxurious eveningwear. Her latest S/S14 designs from the Mukhawara Collection are inspired by the traditional dress, the Mukhawara, influenced by her rich Afghan-Arab heritage.

Rabia states, “I promote modesty…the fact is that we have to live in this life, in this society and in these trying times. Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said to choose moderation and that’s what I see.”

Art behind Afghanistan

Where is the art behind Afghanistan? This rhetoric in such a contemporary society can only be answered by people who know about the culture of Afghanistan and its significance. Some people may not know, but Afghans do actually have their own unique fashion forms, their own clothing and their own jewellery.

To get the world to notice the beauty behind afghan art fashion designer Zolaykha Sherzad’s label Zarif Design explores the distinctive qualities of such an intriguing culture. Zarif Design means “precious” in Dari with a mission to preserve and merge Afghan traditions and culture with the elegant designs of today.

This belief is showcased through the distinctive, drawing on the rich cultural heritage of Afghanistan with intricate detailing and unique fabrics. The works of Zoloykha Sherzad proves every culture has a significant history of art behind it. It is the exploration beyond the Burqa and the Hijab where you truly develop an understanding behind the culture of Afghanistan.

“I want to show people that Afghanistan is not all about war, orphanages and Burqas. It’s also about textiles, history and culture. It’s about beauty.” – Zolaykha Sherzad.

Zolaykha Sherzad’s recent fashion show explored women’s traditional Afghan clothes made through coloured silk with hand embroidered designs on top and rich silver metal crafted jewellery. The traditional Afghan clothing consists of a long length dress or kameez with a loose trouser or partug. Through the traditional Afghan clothing colour of the kameez is always different to the partug.

Overall the Afghan attire is a unique piece of art full of an oasis of colours, textures, variety of fabrics and exquisite hand embroidery. Zolaykha Sherzad helps express this view what lies behind the burqa/ hijab is the artistic traditional fashion forms of Afghanistan that will never fade.

The art behind Afghanistan Not anonymity but rather identity

Zolaykha Sherzad’s designs are currently on sale in a French boutique called Agnes B in Marylebone High Street, Fenwick and Bond Street, London. 

Hijab Center of Attention at Tokyo Fashion Week!

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Aspiring Asian fashion designers taken centre stage at  Tokyo fashion week from Revived  sharp detail forms to sophisticated slouch. Every garment had an awe of precision.  One of the most striking was an Indonesian label’s bid to blend a traditional Muslim head scarf with haute couture.

The twice-yearly show, which wrapped up today, saw NurZahra roll out its autumn/winter collection “Layers of Fidelity,” turning the modest hijab into sophisticated fashion.

the meaning of the labels name itself stands for a “ luminous light” in Arabic.
“The modest hijab is not actually a restriction” in fashion, designer Windri Widiesta Dhari told reporters after her stylish designs hit the catwalk.

It’s how you cover yourself and look more elegant in a way that has a loose fit.”
But Dhari sees the traditional scarf as not just a modesty covering, but also a stylish, comfortable accessory.

“We want to inspire people to think that wearing hijab is not something difficult, and could be worn by anyone,” she said.

Her collection also bucks a contemporary design trend for simplicity and minimalism.Blending cotton or silk into her hijab, she includes natural dye prints that rely on a traditional Japanese tie-dye technique called shibori and the Indonesian batik method.

With patterns ranging from mini mandalas to Turkish geometrics, Dhari plays with multiple layers of fabric to freely shape her silhouettes. Another eye-catching element of the collection was a hat that spreads wide in the back, a throwback to the sixties with elements resembling a long-ago royal head piece.

“The concept of the hat was actually inspired by the style in one from 1963,” Dhari said. “I was looking for vintage hats that could be used to cover your hair and also your neck.

“I used that inspiration and then mixed it with a traditional ethnic concept, so it becomes something very unique.”

Tokyo certainly ended on a high note portraying fashion has no limitation and just how much there is to explore. Fashion designers including NurZahra, breathed this vibe and showcased there efforts to make a statement.

Captured in focus the evolution of the Hijab

British artist Sara Shamsavari proves how the hijab is far from oppressing for Muslim women in her latest photo series. She explores the hijab as an artistic fashionable and creative expression, bringing a fresh perspective to the discourse surrounding it.

Shamsavari, who is a non-Muslim of Iranian descent, wants to challenge stereotypes and invite engagement in the presence of the hijab. She wants her project to discuss the hijab “beyond differences.” She adds “a person should have the right to choose their expression and it seems this group of people are targeted with a lot of prejudice and abuse in the west.”

Shamsavari’s London based photo series proves the hijab and fashion are not mutually exclusive in fact, Muslim women can use it to express themselves in a way most fashion bloggers can’t.

She states the photo series was inspired by her own experience growing up in London in the 80s and 90s. Despite her blue eyes and fair skin, Shamsavari’s Iranian background meant she became accustomed to name calling. Yet this prejudice only fed her desire to focus on what she calls “uncelebrated communities” in her work.

She said,“With all depictions of ethnic minorities there is too much negativity and too many clichés and stereotypes. I wanted to do something that was the opposite.”

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Shireen Ahmed: Tales from a Hijabi Footballer

Here is my reality

I have been contacted many, many times since March 1 when FIFA announced that IFAB formally overturned their decision to ban headcoverings on the pitch.Family, friends and colleagues have sent me congratulatory notes and news reports.

Since July 2012, I have blogged, written and expressed happiness, hope, gratitude and sometimes frustration with this process.

One more step towards the pitch!

I was elated.

Women from all qualifying nations will attend the Women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada. My country. There will be women from Asia, Africa and from Europe. There will be women in hijab, in pants and in shorts.

As it should be. I was thrilled initially.

Now, I am exhausted.

I am drained from the process. I lost time away from the sport I have know and identified with since I was a very young child.

It was a part of my identity. It was a part of my routine. It was a part of my life.

I found other ways to be involved, be motivated, and get fulfilment.

I have written and opined about FIFA’s stance. I have shared pictures of radiating women who love the game and who defy cultural norms to enjoy it. Those connected and inspired by it.

Got this beautiful picture from Lela Ahmadzai’s website.   This particular image makes me incredibly happy. My mother always taught me I could “be anyone and play anything”.   I hope young women all over the world hear that message at some point in their lives.  It doesn’t have to be football. It can be something they love and something they crave. Women’s Advocacy, Sport, Environmentalism, Hobbies but something. So that they know, and the world understands, that everyone has a contribution to make.  Women need that chance. And that encouragement.   Lela has captured the resilience and passion of the women in Afghanistan and their love for the beautiful game.  Do check out her amazing work: http://www.ahmadzai.eu/en/allgemein-en/a-wmans-goal  I watch this short film a lot. It reminds me of my privilege. I am very aware of my ability to play safely and teach my daughter the same.   I have posted it and will continue to post it again. And again. And Again.

And those who risk their lives to play it.

What I did not say was how I suffered from sheer resentment and difficulty when I was not allowed to compete.

I am allowing myself to say it now.

I longed for the the thrill of the sprint, and the rush of the challenge.

And the goal. The beautiful goal.

I even craved the hit of the post or the uncontrolled shot that went wide.

I missed it desperately.

But I chose to cover for personal reasons and told myself my connection to my Creator was stronger than my connection to football.

What I didn’t recognize was those two connections were not mutually exclusive.

I understand the anger and frustration of women who were told “NO”. Who were told “NO” by an organization that is supposed to create opportunity and advocate for the Beautiful Game.

I started wearing hijab in 1997. I played my last season in the fall. I was told I had to either “take it off on the pitch” or “wait until I was ready to commit fully to the rules of the game”.

There was no specific law against (that would come in 2007) it but nothing allowing it either.

I walked away from the pitch.

My heart broke. But I quickly wiped my angry tears with my hijab. It provided me tight comfort and strength against this sporting injustice.

I played pick-up. I played at picnics. At family gatherings. I played at any opportunity. I played against my husband. I played with my children.

But I was used to playing in leagues, in matches with referees and full of politics and drama.

I remember watching one of my heroes, Zinedine Zidane hoist the World Cup over his head in glory in 1998.

It was the first summer I did not play.

His victory as a Frenchman of Muslim-Algerian descent was bittersweet for me. He was of my faith. But he was playing.

I practice his roulette anyway. Just in case I might need it someday.

Life went on. I cheered, I watched and I fooled around with a ball. I did not play regularly.

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After what seemed like several lifetimes, I found a league that would accept me.

I went back hesitant and I went back happily.

I tasted the joy in the sweat rolling down my face.

I loved it. I stayed for years and then I found the courage to venture out and challenge this.

I found a club that agreed.

And I remember what I always knew: I was a footballer who wore hijab.

Not a hijab-wearing woman who played football.

Fast forward to 2014 when Jerome Valcke announced: “It was decided that female players can cover their heads to play”.

Muslim women *could* always play.

Now they are *permitted*.

Semantics.

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How can I laud FIFA for striking down a law that should have never been implemented in the first place?

How can I be grateful for someone allowing me to do what I should ahve always been allowed do?

Why was I made to choose?

How can you choose between your heart and soul?

Thank God my daughter won’t have to face that choice.

Someone pointed this out to me: “funny how the west tells us that hijab is oppressive yet they use it to oppress hijabis by banning them from playing sports”.

That isn’t funny. It is horrible.

Last year, I was sidelined from football due to what turned out to be a full blowout of my ACL . Being ripped away from the game in this manner was painful. But it was of my volition. I was injured in a match, while in play. My choice.

Being ripped from the game because a lot of white, privileged men decided it was dangerous for me and the sport was torturous. Their choice.

And it was unfair.

So, today I am not “happy”. I am disappointed that I lost time and energy.

My joy is tapered with simple relief.

In future, I will not let it ruin other childhoods and affect and exclude people.

Football is for all of us.

It should always have been.

Shireen Ahmed is a writer and advocate focusing on Muslim women in sports. She writes regularly on her blog, Tales from a Hijabi Footballer.