Alia Khan is founder of Islamic Fashion Design Council (IFDC), an organization dedicated to the support and development of Muslim presentation. UAEStyleMagazine has recently conducted an interview with Alia, as follows:
Q: It is good to see such an initiative in today’s world. However, how do you explain ‘Islamic Fashion’ to a normal person?
Islamic Fashion is beyond fashion. Islamic Fashion is a form of communication. When we are dressed Islamically we are saying a lot more about ourselves than somebody who is just making a generic fashion choice which is more general. So for example, if I am wearing an Islamic dress and covering myself Islamically, right away you will be able to know a lot about me than someone who has chosen to wear something off of Milan’s runaway. Even if I have chosen something stylish or understated or vibrant, the fact that I am covering in a particular a way states my Islamic Identity, right away I am telling you what my practices are and who I am. Islamic fashion, to lot of people that embrace it, is a large statement with a big responsibility that comes along with it.
Q: With the establishment of IFDC, how do you discover talent for promotions and publicity?
IFDC is still in the set up phase though we have started providing some services. Our official launch is going to be in early 2014. We delayed it because there were lots of different aspects to our plan that were coming together in ways we couldn’t imagine – this required a lot more from us than we expected. So, as a result we found that we had a lot more services and lot more to offer than we initially thought would be in our launch. So we took couple of months more to fine tune it and launch InshaAllah. How do we discover talent? For some reason I don’t know how it’s all coming our way, but this is where you have in to believe in Divine help. We are being sought out by various consumers, designers, stylists; we even had some modeling agencies with just Hijabi models. Lots of people around the world have contacted us that were very excited to take part and get member benefits. So it is growing organically. Having said this, we do have a marketing plan and will launch in phases. We are putting together PR, SEO and SMM campaigns so all of this is being ramped up. To answer the question, we are putting up a pretty strong campaign that is coming up. However prior to this we are getting approached by various people globally through word of mouth and online communities.
Q: For some people, fashion contradicts modesty. However, IFDC is all about modest clothing. What do you have to say about this?
Allah loves beauty and Allah loves us to be presentable. Now that doesn’t mean that we do not follow certain parameters and we do not follow certain ethics and values and rules. We don’t direct unnecessary attention to ourselves, we still keep the clothing modest. Most importantly we keep our conduct value based.
Q: In this cut throat industry of fashion & design, how do you see IFDC coming up in the next 5 years?
We don’t look at the Fashion Industry in the same way. We don’t look at it as cut throat. In fact, it is quite the opposite. We plan and we hope to create an ambiance of camaraderie, mutual support and of reaching to a collective win. So, we really hope to dispel whatever stereotypes that have developed over the years in the general fashion industry. We hope to keep ourselves as distant from that vibe as possible. We feel it is possible to facilitate everyone’s success and that what IFDC is about, creating a platform where you can showcase your talents and your skills and where we hope to convince you that there’s space for you and everyone else and because of the noble endeavor of trying to maintain a code of ethics while you are developing a commercial perspective for yourself, should be able to work hand in hand without you having to choose to become our engage in any cut throat aspects of what the traditional business has been.
Q: Which region in the world do you see as a forthcoming market for Islamic Fashion after UAE?
You know what’s exciting, it’s a global movement and that’s what is exciting and overwhelming. I don’t think you’ll find one place where there are Muslims and have growing members, people that are embracing Islam, where there isn’t a demand to be able and dress and work and be Islamic yet not have to give up on the idea of looking good and looking presentable. So, because that is a growing thing concept for the markets, really it is not just one country. You see this movement in America, you see it in Australia, I have actually gotten conducted by people in Auckland, New Zealand, and we got people in South Africa, in other African countries actually even in Uganda and Nigeria. We have been approached in Pakistan and India. Even in china the Chinese Muslim community is very strong. Now, everyone with the context of their own countries and their own cultures have a different idea of what fashion is what compliment it. There are some countries that believe that only Abaya is necessary staple item whereas other countries feels that perhaps they should take a Sheila or Chaddar as a different form of covering. So each country has its own cultural preferences when it comes to Islamic fashion and that is why IFDC welcomes an array of talents, an array of skills that would cater to the multitude of variety that exists within this industry.
Q: You are introducing Islamic Fashion for Men as well. What style of clothing do you plan to launch under it and when?
When we first started we felt that Islamic fashion required little bit more work and options for female market primarily. However, we were proven wrong very quickly because we were approached by many people including Islamic fashion designers, male designers, that cater to the male market and they had convinced us very quickly that there is diversity in Islamic fashion for men and there is very strong market and demand that needs to be catered to and it needs to be showcased equally as the women’s fashion. So as a result we are now looking at the different fashions and all I can tell you is that it is very exciting. We will be showcasing it also by the time we launch and it will be diverse as I said same as there are different tastes and multitudes of variety for women fashion the same thing does exist for men’s fashion so we are welcoming this diverse range of designers and talent and skills from around the world. You will see that it is diversified. To answer your question, this is what we would like to promote at IFDC
Q: Generally, in terms of latest trends, do you see a rise in the number of women turning to Islamic Fashion? If so, what do you think is the reason behind it?
I can speak to you about my own experience. Many times I have gone out with something I would say may be creative or little more trendy or in line with the fashion is for the current season but it would be Islamified in the way I wear it. It will have the covering of the head and it will be modest in the way that its loose enough, it is not inappropriate in any way and it covers all the areas it needs to cover to fill the parameters of our aura. So, when I go out and I am approached by a lot of non-Muslims, it convinces me that sometimes the way we present ourselves is in a way a Dawah because then they ask what we are wearing and who is the designer and it gives as a chance to speak about our Islamic fashion. And, it inspires them. Many times I had women approach me and I have to give them the numbers of where I got my clothing from. They too start purchasing such clothing and start wearing it because they just think it is very cool. So in that way it is very nice to look presentable because in a way we inspire people to know you can be modest, you can within the parameters of Islam and you can embrace because of appropriate way.
Q: Where do you dream to see IFDC?
Right now the industry is quite fragmented. There are various movements where people are doing Islamic fashion shows and its lovely and we like to support all of them. In fact we hope IFDC can get behind all of these efforts. You know there are various people and organizations trying to promote their local designers or their ideas on how to embrace Islamic fashion. We support all of that and we hope to be a big force, a big support for anyone that’s trying to make any stride within the Islamic fashion industry. So IFDC really hope to be a collaborator with people on a global level so whatever they endeavors are already in place that they have landed can find further support. That’s really is our dream.
Q: Are older women embracing Islamic Fashion as compared to the younger generation or vice versa?
Why not? You should see my mother. Obviously the older women are involved with their own idea of what looks nice and what is appropriate. It is lovely to see because we do take lot of inspiration from them. Naturally you will find some that are very traditional and they have been doing it in a certain way and they are comfortable and not necessarily wanted to change the You will find some of the older people in the market may not embrace it fully however many of the older women, our superiors and our mothers and our family members, are giving us inspiration. I take a lot of inspiration from older women in my family who love fashion and I love their ideas. For example some of these women are business women they are quite senior in age but they have been dynamic all their life and it shows even they dress and what they do, they wear professional suits that are flowing nice and just so elegant and they would have a beautiful hijab with it.
Q: What is your message to the ladies of the modern world today?
I think the message is what Islam has brought all along is that women serve value to society and the value is multi purposed and multi-faceted and we have a god given right to explore our values. The women have a very strong role and that role is critical to enjoy life line of our common ties. That’s what we encourage women to embrace now with the introduction of Islamic fashion for men, it warms our heart to know men are waiting to embrace more and more of their own Islamic identity in their own way and we are creating the space on our platform for that to take place and for that to find support.
You can learn more about Islamic Fashion Design Council by visiting their website here.