Monday, July 9, 2012

Hijab: a Symbol of Fashion, Freedom and Respect

The use of hijab is growing in Indonesia, where the head covering can communicate fashion sense as well as faith.

Models display a pastel rainbow of hijab ensemble styles at the Indonesia Hijab Fest 2012 in Bandung, West Java. Designers participating in the June 12th-15th event showed how Muslim women can express their religious beliefs while looking fashionable.

Many prominent Indonesian fashion designers come from Bandung, the "Kota Kembang" (City of Flowers) and capital of West Java province, where 97% of the population is Muslim.

So it was the perfect venue for what organisers said was Indonesia's first Hijab Fest, a national event highlighting creative industries in Muslim fashion, held June 12th to 15th at Bandung's Sasana Budaya Ganesha Building.

Indonesian Muslims have influenced the evolution of the hijab, and Indonesian women's awareness of wearing hijab has increased, especially among the younger generations, festival organisers told Khabar Southeast Asia.

"With the improvement of hijab fashion nowadays, Indonesian Muslims do not hesitate to wear hijabs and still look stylish. Hijab culture has prompted Indonesian designers to produce creative works in fashion," said Ria Miranda, a designer who participated in the event.

Dozens of Indonesian Muslim designers took part, with 120 stands representing various local brands and boutiques such as Jenahara, Ina's Scarf, Zemma (by Indri Sahrul Gunawan), Zaskia Mecca and many more.

The festival was enlivened by a hijab Instagram competition, music performances, fashion shows, a halal food fest, a charity program, and a talk show attended by the writer Muhammad Assad, young Indonesian cleric Abu Marlo, and the wife of the well-known cleric Abdullah Gymnastiar, Teh Ninih.

"I think Indonesia Hijab Festival 2012 is a new breakthrough in the fashion industry. Besides being good for Indonesia's economy, this event is also a very good way to increase the number of hijab fashions and Muslim entrepreneurs in particular," Fitri Aulia, owner of the Kivitz Muslimah clothing line, told Khabar during the festival.

She stated her motivation for joining the event is to make Muslim women feel beautiful while wearing a hijab.

Festival participant Fatyah Dzikra, the owner of Madame Shoppe, sees a ripe market for her products in the 10,0000 people who attended the festival each day.

"I feel that the fashion hijab industry is booming. Muslims are the biggest religious population in our country, and this will continue to grow," she said. Meanwhile, Fifi Alvianto, a fashion blogger who runs, raved, "Well done! The Indonesia Hijab Festival successfully allowed hijabers to show their creativity."

She joined with several other festival participants in urging more Muslim women to wear hijab.

"Hijabs protect Muslim women in the early stages. Generally, men have more respect for women who wear hijabs," said designer Ria.

"I decided to wear the hijab since I was in junior high school," Dzikra said "My parents asked and directed me. I finally realized the importance of women covering their body by wearing a hijab."

She emphasized that the hijab is part of a Muslim woman's identity but also helps with her self-control.

Hijabs have become more popular than before with greater utilization of modern design, and through online communities of Muslim fashionistas.

"We as the young generation have our own way to express our personality. Social media are tools to expedite the process of making this even more popular. Fashion is an attractive bait to make wearing hijabs more appealing to Indonesian women," Ria continued.

About 86% of Indonesia's 248 million people are Muslim, but the practice of wearing headscarves was suppressed for most of former president Suharto's three-decade rule.

After the ban loosened in the mid 1990s, the hijab trend was led by young people, according to a recent opinion piece in The Jakarta Globe.

"It was high-school and university students who started the waves of hijab wearing," wrote Sabrina Loebis in "Hijab: Misunderstood Symbol of Freedom". Many initially encountered resistance from parents still influenced by "old ideas "linking hijab with Islamism".

Today, only women in the Sumatran province of Aceh and city of Padang, along with some Islamic school students, are compelled to wear hijab. "Other than that, most Indonesian Muslim women wear hijab simply because they prefer to," Loebis wrote.

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