Muslim Clothing Companies Flourishing in Southern California
Islamic clothing is getting a bit more hip in Southern California.
Home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the nation, the Southland has become fertile ground for a new generation of designers crafting clothes for women who are limited by faith and conviction from flashing too much skin.
Although Muslim women have been dressing fashionably for years, many in the U.S. say they still face tricky challenges when getting dressed — and especially dressed up.
“We are Muslim and we can still express ourselves, be fashionable, as long as we do it in a halal way” or in keeping with Islamic law, said LaTanya Maassarani, 30, a postal carrier from Long Beach. “But unless you have lots of money or lots of time to shop, it’s been hard for years to find clothes in America that aren’t dowdy.”
Filling that void now are designers such as Afra Said-Ahmed and her sister Eiman Ahmed, both Muslims, who launched Irvine clothing company Mohajababes. The name is a mash up of the words “babe” and “Muhajiba,” or one who wears a hijab scarf.
“Trying to conform to Muslim dress codes, you get stuck in a rut of black, black, black all the time,” said Ahmed, 26. “It’s definitely very difficult, especially in the U.S. You want to fit in, but still be appropriately dressed.”
So she and her sister scraped together $2,000 and began selling caftans and rhinestone accessories for head scarves at the end of 2011. The line is modest — caftans sweep the floor and hang loosely on the body. Yet the jewel-colored clothing comes with feminine frills such as silky fabrics and metallic embroidery.
Said-Ahmed said their goal was to dress fashion-conscious shoppers who are faithful to Islamic mandates but want nothing to do with traditional black coverings such as abayas and burkas, which are too hot for the California sun.
“There is a huge market here for Muslims who can’t access clothing like this,” she said. “People were saying, ‘Oh my God, that’s amazing. I have been looking everywhere for this.’”
Local designers in Irvine, Long Beach, San Diego, Newport Beach and Los Angeles are opening stores, showing off wares at conventions and sending models down runways in the Southland.
Is Pamela seething and shrieking about this yet?
There is a cute little boutique in Dearborn that I used to drive past last year, called “Hija Bee.” It’s not on my way any more, but I thought about going in there and buying something when Terry Jones and his gang of fascists were in town.