An Arab Spring Of Fashion And It's Influence On The International Fashion World
Stones, glitter, gold and everything considered kitsch or cheap has become an inseparable part of Western fashion these days, but in the Arab world it has been "fashionable" since the beginning of time. The Arab spring brought with it a trend of change and now we are seeing an Arab Spring of sorts in the fashion world.
Generally speaking, it is clear that the Western world sets the international trends- contemporary Arab fashion designers are often interpreting modern and more Western trends in their practice. But its also clear that we are seeing a changing tide where Arab fashions and beauty style are becoming more and more present in the Western world. Suddenly the color of gold, coveralls (abayas), stones, glitter and everything that was associated with the kitsch, the highly embellished and colorful Arab culture has become chic and "desirable” today. Is this new trend about inspiration, appropriation or could it be simply the vast spending power of the Arab consumer?
This year we have already seen some interesting fashion events that speak to the intersection of the international fashion scene and the Arab world. Even here, in Israel, we are starting to see a spring of sorts and it’s as exciting and beautiful as it is culturally momentous.
One of the most talked about things around the world was the appearance of Halima Aden in Burkini, on the cover of one of the most famous swimwear and sports magazines in the world, SPORT ILLUSTRATED. Halima Aden is the first Muslim hijab model to be invited to pose for this swimwear and sports magazine. Aden not only fulfilled a dream but changed a long-standing tradition in which only women with very minimal swimsuits appeared on the cover and the pull out pin up. With this project, Halima Aden broke a glass ceiling for all Arab and modest women.
Also, for the first time in the seven years since Tel Aviv Fashion Week has started, this last March was the first time an Israel Arab designer was shown on the runway. Shadi Abed, 29, an Arab fashion designer from the Galilee, presented his collection at the last fashion week as part of the Mifal Hapis (lottery mentorship) project. Shadi left the audience awed with his chic feminine evening dresses. This success followed another successful showing a few weeks earlier at Israel’s bridal week. Not only did Shadi Abed succeed in making history, but his participation succeeded in bringing Arab critics, thought leaders, fashion figures and other Arab personalities to Tel Aviv Fashion Week for the first time. Abed’s design and involvement in Tel Aviv fashion Week helped to foster a bridge between the two largest populations of Israel in the most positive way possible.
Within this never before seen Arab presence at Tel Aviv Fashion Week, Hamudi Shalabi stood out. Shalabi, who only a month ago graduated from high school, has already become popular influencer and activist. With more than 22,000 followers in Instagram, Shalabi showed up at the fashion week in black pants and a fur coat. Leaving his shirt at home, across his chest he wrote "ARAB AND PROUD" and covered his face with a black fish net hosiery. Shalabi explained that "(he) wanted to give a very important message to the fashion industry- that I am also someone’s son, an Arab, a Muslim and I also enjoy fashion, because in Israel, it hasn’t been easy for me to move forward and it is still not easy". Shalabi was inspired by Freddie Mercury because “he was also different, unusual, in terms of everything and his fashion was crazy and special". There was no mistaking Shalabi’s intentionally controversial look- whoever said fashion isn’t political!?
Only a month later, and for the first time in Israel, a fashion day was held in Arab society- taking place in Nazareth, the city where many young designer’s have managed to grow and establish themselves. The shows at Nazareth Fashion Day mainly featured eveningwear and bridalwear from a selection of both Jewish Israeli and Arab participants. At the end of all the presentations, the organizers shared that the goal of this day is to make the fashion day in Nazareth more than one day and achieve the success similar to Tel Aviv Fashion Week. The event was attended by mostly local and fashion professionals from Arab society, however there was also a media presence from the wider Israeli society.
To punctuate this Fashion Arab Spring of ours, I share with you the relatively young Lebanese designer Rami Kadi. When I say young, I mean Rami Kadi has not yet become a internationally recognized name like Zuhair Morad and Elie Saab. However, it should be said that this is just the beginning because this year he premiered his collection at Paris Fashion Week. Already Kadi has successfully dressed celebrities and fashion personalities on the red carpet like Sarah Sampaio, Camilla Coheillo, Caroline Riessauer, Jessica Jenk, Meredith Mickelson, Lorna Ray, Paz Vega, Leomie Anderson (below), Maya Henry, Michelle Rodriguez. He reached another level of success when this year he dressed Kendel Jenner at the Academy Awards. I myself was personally overwhelmed by each and every women dressed in Rami Kadi at the Cannes festival.
According to the 2017 Reuters State of the Global Islamic Economy report, spending by Muslims on clothing and apparel is projected to reach $368 billion by 2021. So it is possible that this is authentic progress or simply business? Has mainstream fashion found a new way to broaden it’s market? Is it superficial in its intention or does it come from a place or understanding and appreciation? Is it an economic or cultural matter? Or, is it both?
I am not certain of the answer, but given the chance, would I wear a Rami Kadi piece?! In a second, without hesitation!
Originally written in Hebrew by Khadijeh Dissuky for FashionIsrael Magazine– מגזין אופנה של ישראל. Translated from Hebrew to English and edited for Wrapt Magazine by Chava Kuchar. For more information about Fashion Israel Magazine you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or find them on instagram at FashionIsrael.