The Redefinition of Modest Fashion

Meet the digital creator turned designer spearheading the movement.

“Inclusive” is the latest buzzword in fashion as most brands are trying to adapt their styles to keep up with our evolving definition of what the word actually means. 20-year-old college student, digital creator and influencer Nawal Sari is on a mission to prove that inclusivity is more than a buzzword through the redefinition of modest fashion.  

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Nawal has developed a strong sense of appreciation for the “buzzing colors of culture, the wide range of creativity and drive for success the community holds despite the negative stereotypes associated with it.” As a young Muslim woman, Nawal is leveraging the power of social media to document her own take on modest fashion while encouraging other Muslim women to explore its infinite avenues and has even started designing to share her view of modest fashion with the world. 

We chatted with Nawal about her entrance into the fashion world, the cultural impact of Hijabi bloggers and the importance of identity. 

How did you start designing?

I would never ever thought I would have ended up designing, let alone in conjunction with what I do online. When Hijab House reached out to me to further our relationship through collaborating on a collection, I was beyond excited. I have [a] close alliance with the team, and they helped launch me into the modest fashion scene a few years back when I started. They believed in me and understood my vision and now I am launching my own line with one of the world’s biggest modest fashion labels.

Share with us how you view your identity. 

My identity is something I love and strive to understand as I feel I am constantly in an identity crisis. I was born and raised in Australia, Lebanese on my father’s side, English Australian on my mother’s side. Within that my parents are diverse with Turkish and Scottish last names and ancestry. I am also Muslim, a Hijabi, a creative, full-time student, retail worker and influencer. I’ve been raised close to my Muslim and Non-Muslim family, sharing cousins with traditional names such as Mohammed and Max. My Aussie freckles from my mother’s side being placed on my very common Lebanese trait of a prominent nose from my father’s side have always been a conversation starter. Being all of these things are something I’ve had to myself understand and appreciate to find belonging in. I’m not your conventional Australian, Muslim and or Middle eastern girl I definitely don’t fall into a box that sums up who I am.

Talk to us about the Muslim community in Sydney. How would you say the rise of Hijabi bloggers is shifting the culture forward?

The Muslim community here is large and very diverse, in saying that it’s also very closely knit, and everybody knows each other in some way. We are also still establishing ourselves with a sense of belonging. At most our grandparents migrated here from overseas so [we] are made up of first- and second-generation immigrant families. Traditions from overseas and [those] norms are still present and taught so the adjustment to Western norms whilst balancing cultural tradition and religion tend to be obvious obstacles with our youth. 

In Sydney the Hijabi community is large and it is very common to see the Hijab, although the digital world and its entrepreneurial capabilities I feel aren’t as known to us as it is overseas with influencers and creatives. There are very few Hijabi bloggers in Sydney and I feel it’s more apparent in cities such as Melbourne. Sydney does have more of a sense of the strive to fit in and being okay with the safeness of stereotypes as there’s more belonging in it. With that comes more close-minded people and a fewer amount expressing fashion creativity.

“The Hijab is empowering, a symbol of feminism, limitless and most importantly worn to demonstrate submission to God and worn as a reminder of Islamic values such as generosity, kindness and honesty.”

What does modest fashion mean to you and how are you redefining it?

Modest fashion to me is how I can be stylish and creative whilst respecting the Hijab. Every Muslim girl has their own narrative and definition of what modest fashion is and how they want to express it. My drive to redefine modest fashion means to me that I can help change the perspective the Hijab has. Opression, blandness and a male enforced power are all negative associations of the Hijab but they are far from what the majority of Muslim women experience with the Hijab. With [the] campaigns I do, collaborations I take part in, and fashion looks I post, it’s all in aim to show how it really is to us Muslim women. The Hijab is empowering, a symbol of feminism, limitless and most importantly worn to demonstrate submission to God and worn as a reminder of Islamic values such as generosity, kindness and honesty.

Tell us about your latest collaboration with Hijab House. What was it like bringing the collection to life?

It’s been super fun and stimulating. I love to think I’m creating clothes I would wear, and I know my audience will wear that is accessible and with a brand that has supported the Muslim women community for a long time. The variety in color, textures and styles excite me as I love to think it’s going to be ground-breaking and iconic. A Muslim owned brand is collaborating with a Muslim creative, something rarely done and I’m so proud to share it.

Where/who do you draw inspiration from in your designs?

It came from all sorts of avenues such as high fashion runway pieces, both current and new, trendy pieces I love but needed a more modest flare and 90s early 2000’s streetwear with the bold colors and patterns. I get inspired from cities, music and my surroundings in general, it’s safe to say the collection is a reflection of Nawal.

What’s next for Nawal?

I hope big things. I have learnt to manifest things I want into the world since I never would have thought I would end up here initially. I want to grow more as a person, travel A LOT and make a bigger impact for my sisters. Inshallah.

Words: Clarice Metzger
Photography: Nawal Sari

OCTOBER 10, 2019

 

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