With the simultaneous rise of modest fashion and streetwear in the region, contemporary fashion is moving in two (exciting) new directions. Clocking these emerging trends, South-African Muslim designer Ulfah Davids has made the leap we’ve all been waiting for by bringing together the Arab world’s two leading trends.
Davids studied fashion at university in Cape Town, and then successfully went on to become the head designer of South African streetwear label 2Bop for two years. In order to hone her craft further, Davids returned to university, and the graduate collection for her modest-streetwear brand is the fine result of that – reconciling the image of a woman of faith without sacrificing an ounce of style.
This dichotomy was the central question in Davids’ thesis, as shared on Nataal, “What challenges do Muslim women in a predominantly Westernised Cape Town face around their fashion identity when adopting a casual dress code?”
In the Arabic language and Islamic tradition, ‘Aya’, the title of Davids’ collection, stems from the Quran’s denotation for ‘verse’, a statement (usually a miracle) of varying length that constructs the chapters of the holy text.
This name draws attention to how the collection is nestled-in amongst the many varying “verses” of diverse contemporary Muslim fashion, with the pieces acting as mediators between traditional concepts of Islam, which have been adopted according to contemporary design today.
The collection places particular emphasis on the veil, typically a visible symbol of the female Muslim identity. In predominantly Western societies, Muslim women have either altered their wearing of the veil or stopped wearing it, attempting to align the hijab with trends that attract them in whatever city they inhabit.
In South Africa, where many women reconcile their wearing of the hijab with trendy, clout-bearing clothes, this hybridity of dressing reflects the multicultural communities of cities like Cape Town, even if it may cause feelings of disparity in women who feel like they have to ‘choose’ one way of dressing over the other.
This is where Davids’ collection comes in, as she aims to create pieces that Muslim women can be proud to wear (in its abidance to both traditional Islamic dress as well as contemporary streetwear style). This attitude is a new kind, a new generational spirit where fashion doesn’t mean compensating to one strict societal code.
Something that is echoed in Luke Bell Doman’s imagery for the collection where the two models (Mira Jaan and Lamis Hassim) are seen sporting their hijabs with Dr. Martens, fully covering their bodies in cool denims and patterned silks.