Islamic Couture Reigns On: Uniqlo Joins H&M, D&G Caters to Muslim Females

Uniqlo
[Photo Source: Uniqlo/HanaTajima]

by Tania Rahman

This post was originally published on our partner website India.com:

In a period of time where anti-Islamic rhetoric is more prevalent than ever, several well-known fashion labels have stepped up amidst controversy to offer a dazzling compromise. Hot on the heels of Dolce and Gabbana having announced the Abaya collection—which caters to the female Muslim demographic—another label has joined the ranks of this niche group of designers: Uniqlo.

Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing brand best known for its ultra-cool urban and casual wear, partnered with UK-based designer and blogger, Hana Tajima, to create everyday wear of detailed designs and comfortable fabrics. The clothes, as depicted on Uniqlo’s website, appear light and airy, printed in solid colors and are conservative yet flattering. Launched for the first time with success last June, the line marketed their new collection in January.


[Photo Source: Uniqlo/HanaTajima]

Alongside labels like DKNY and Mango—with both brands having launched Ramadan-inspired clothing in the summer of 2015—this new initiative extending a hand to a population whose style is often overlooked in the fashion world is groundbreaking indeed.

While Islamic-inspired fashion is a modern phenomenon in the West, it has been rapidly expanding in parts of Asia such as the South and Southeast as well. Turkish start-up Modanisa and California-based Artizara are among several online retailers whose products are marketed exclusively towards Muslim women.

This daring modernization of Islamic female attire has been met with a generally favorable response. In fact, it has been coupled with further turning points in fashion history. Last year, 23-year-old Mariah Idrissi was the first woman to model for H&M, donning a hijab, or headscarf. The campaign is one of a kind and surely an influence upon the launch of aforementioned collections.

[Read Related: Everything You Need to Know About H&M’s First Hijabi Model Mariah Idrissi]

According to Idrissi, she said her experience modeling for H&M wasn’t merely a show for the cameras, in fact, the brand had shown her beliefs respect throughout the shoot.

“If the cameramen noticed something not quite right, they would call a woman over to fix me, it was sweet,” Idrissi said in an interview with Fusion. “One of the watches was dangling in the wrong way, and rather than just twisting it on my wrist, the cameraman asked a woman to come over. It just showed that little bit of respect.”

[Photo Source: YouTube/CloseTheLoop]

Idrissi’s H&M campaign, Close the Loop, was created primarily to promote recycling in order enable sustainable fashion, but also to exhibit how crucial it is to maintain diversity in fashion advertising. Models today come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.

Close the Loop also featured Sikh blogger Pardeep Singh Bahra. Bahra’s appearance demonstrates yet another step in revolutionizing the industry as Sikh models are not yet a norm.

Another pop culture icon that is slowly recognizing differences in cultural molds and physical appearance is the Barbie. A longtime toy favorite of children worldwide, Barbie’s attire and measurements has been the subject of controversy for many years, having been accused of inaccurately representing women’s bodies. It was only earlier this year that Mattel began producing Barbies in different shapes and colors.

In another pleasant surprise, a woman named Haneefa Adam rose to the fame as media uncovered a line of Barbie attire that she designed herself: a hijab-wearing doll dubbed the Hijarbie. Following this new wave of modest mainstream clothing, 24-year-old Adam, who recently completed a Masters in Pharmacology in the U.K., seized the limelight by designing everyday wear for Barbie that abide by her own religious roots.

[Read Related: Hijarbie: The Barbie You Never Knew You Needed]

Adam said that she was inspired after skimming Barbie’s official Instagram page and noticing that none of the dolls were dressed the way she would, despite Barbie being considered a role model to girls.

Hirjabie-2

It is important to acknowledge and support these efforts in the name of fashion. A demographic often overlooked is now seeking a platform from which to speak, to blossom in a language that people across the world are able to comprehend. Uniqlo, Idrissi, and Hijarbie are unique in these recent endeavors, and they are imperative in continuing an ongoing upheaval of archaic perspectives on fashion that currently exist and eventually larger topics that remain at bay.


Tania RahmanTania Rahman is a creative hybrid who enjoys lively debates about economic inequalities and using words as her weapon of choice. A Bronx native whose roots trace back to Dhaka, Bangladesh, she is a recent college graduate pursuing opportunities in digital media. She relies almost entirely on coffee to function and has a rather unhealthy obsession with her two cats. Follow her blog, where she actively discusses the portrayal of racial conflicts in the media.

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

The Family Immigration Process That’s Meant to Reunite, Keeps us Apart

These days, the phrase, “love knows no bounds” doesn’t seem to hold true. For many couples, specifically, those in long-distance relationships, the lengthy and complicated immigration process can keep lovers apart for six to 24 months. Well, aside from the thousands and thousands of miles of the deep ocean in between. I’ve been there; I have been an immigration attorney for 10 years and I found love abroad (my wife was living in the UK when we met).

I was flying across the Atlantic every few months so, as you can imagine, dating was quite expensive (though she quite liked the fact that for our first intentional visit, I paid several thousand pounds for a global migration conference as an excuse for flying over).

Marriage immigration is complex and costly. The eligibility and procedural requirements are confusing and require multiple long and complicated application forms over the course of six to eight years: from fiancé(e) or spouse visa through adjustment of status process, the Removal of Conditions Application, and thereafter applying for U.S. citizenship.

To put it in perspective, many immigration applications end up being 200-300 pages long. For you to know exactly what you need can be either extremely expensive — using an attorney, who typically charges $2,000-$12,000 per application (not including government-filing fees) — or time-consuming learning how to DIY. If you opt for the latter, it is quite scary to have to figure out the requirements and procedures and follow up with case status checks in hopes of finally getting some peace of mind that your case is progressing as it should. 

[Read Related: Tug of war: Brown Women and the Feat of Marriage]

The worst part? The grueling wait. Waiting while not knowing how long until you can bring love home; waiting to start a family — the next chapter of your life. You keep hearing people say, “life is short!” and you thought that you finally found a partner you want to spend it with. Unfortunately, life (bureaucratic procedures) get in the way. 

The combination of distance and long immigration processing times puts our next chapter ‘on pause’ while we do everything we can to bridge the gap — the gap that effectively challenges our ability to build a ‘real’ relationship. Or did it? Is there a test for this kind of thing? I mean, apparently, the U.S. Immigration Service (USCIS) seems to know what a “real” relationship is and tests ours against some “standard” to determine if it is genuine enough to grant a fiancé(e) visa or spousal green card. What makes a strong Fiancé(e) or Spouse visa application? I’ve experienced love; I am human. What do they want from me to bring my partner home?

I have been a U.S. immigration lawyer for over 10 years and I myself found love abroad and firsthand had to go through the process of bringing my spouse home to the United States. My wife is an NRI who grew up in the Philippines and lived in London where we met (more on how our meddlesome Indian families instigated our “meet-cute” in a future article). Having recently gone through this journey, and having helped hundreds of immigrant couples over the years, it became obvious that there had to be a better way. It should not be expensive, unaffordable, or overly complicated for you to bring your loved one home to become a family. 

[Read Related: How to Follow Your Heart, Even When it’s Hard]

When we were apart, we did everything from waking each other up in the middle of our respective nights, with the time difference, to one partner falling asleep with the other on the phone. We watched movies together on Netflix. We made travel plans and talked about what the future would look like. We craved each other and expressed our love daily, maybe even hourly.

The future can be uncertain for any couple, but perhaps even more so for those in a long-distance relationship. When one partner is waiting for a spousal visa or fiancé visa, there can be a lot of anxiety and stress about the process and wait times. Even one mistake can set the whole process back months or even years and, if you are not familiar with the process, there’s always the overhanging uncertainty of whether or not the visa will be approved altogether. 

In today’s globalized world where borders are becoming less relevant than ever before, largely thanks to technological advances which allow individuals across countries via Facetime, WhatsApp, and Skype chats without having left home, there is more of a need for a streamlined immigration tech platform that helps “modern” couples who are dating long-distance with the help of technology.

The number one reason Fiancé(e) visa or Spouse visa applications are denied is lack of documentation evidencing your relationship/intent to marry. This article shows what evidence you can provide USCIS to prove you have a genuine relationship and thereby strengthen your visa application. OurLoveVisa.com is an immigration attorney-designed platform that provides free tools and features to help couples going through the U.S. K-1 or marriage visa process plan, manage, and track their immigration journey. Many couples going through the K-1 fiancé visa process, or CR-1/IR-1 spouse visa process, have found its relationship timeline tool, which is as easy to use as Instagram, helpful in building their application. The best part: it’s free to use. The OurLoveVisa.com platform was built so you can focus on what is truly important, your relationship!

The long, unreasonable immigration processing/wait times are definitely another topic for discussion and, as time goes on, I will continue to share and elaborate on my and my wife’s joint and individual journeys through marriage, immigration, and closing the gap from our long-distance relationship. In the meantime, I hope the information provided will bring value to you and your journey.

By Kunal Tewani

Kunal Tewani is a US immigration lawyer who grew up in New York with his extended family under one roof. … Read more ›

5 Indo Caribbean Food Experts you Need to Know This Winter Season

trinidad curry
Curried Chicken with Roti Parata or Roti, popular Middle Eastern/Indian cuisine

It is officially that time of year—the holiday season. There’s nothing like Christmas and New Year’s in the West Indies. Between the pepperpot in Guyana and the palm trees decorated in lights in Trinidad, the home food, warm weather and laid-back ambiance makes us wish we could escape the cold and head back to the Caribbean. Most of us, however, cannot “take holiday” and find ourselves hungry for fresh dhal puri and doubles. But, thanks to these Indo-Caribbean food bloggers, we can bring the motherland to our kitchens.

1. Matthew’s Guyanese Cooking

From Diwali mithai specialties to curry chicken, Matthew is creating a name for himself as a young Guyanese food blogger. He makes a great effort to incorporate Hindu holidays and traditions on his Instagram account, in conjunction with the customary foods and sweets associated with these religious events. However, his expertise does not end there, with new and alternative recipes for classic dishes such as curry chicken and bhara, Matthew takes center stage sharing both traditional Guyanese dishes as well as specific religious dishes made for festivals. His most popular YouTube video, with 1.4 million views, features his grandmother and focuses on the best tips to make the softest Guyanese paratha roti. In addition, his YouTube account is home to many videos offering guidance to Indo Caribbean cooking. Find recipes at @mattews.guyanese.cooking

2. Trini Cooking with Natasha

Natasha Laggan of Trini Cooking with Natasha is wildly popular throughout the Caribbean and the U.S. With humble beginnings, Natasha credits her love of food to her family’s business. She speaks of the nostalgia home food provides her as she reminisces memories of her grandmother’s cooking and helping her mother make sandwiches early in the morning. Featured by Forbes, Natasha grew her Facebook following quickly throughout the pandemic by posting old YouTube videos. Today, she has more than 1 million followers on Facebook and over 200K followers on YouTube. She uses her passion for cooking and Trinidadian culture to bring easy-to-follow recipes to viewers. Her following has now reached the West Indian diaspora globally as she has also become a brand ambassador to two well-known food companies.  Follow the food expert @trinicookingwithnatasha.

[Read Related: 5 Indo-Caribbean Recipes for the Holiday Season you Have to Make]

3. Cooking with Ria

With over 100K followers on YouTube, Ria is quite the expert when it comes to making roti. Her dhal puri, sada roti and paratha roti tutorials have over 1M views! However, her expertise does not stop there. Of the 180 YouTube tutorials, her recipes vary from curry to other Trinidadian favorites like macaroni pie and pigtail soup. Just scrolling through her YouTube page makes your mouth water. From doubles to classic Trinidad bakes like pound cake and sweet bread, she provides precision and anecdotal commentary while guiding you through the familiarity of home food. Check out Ria’s page at @cookingwithria.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by CookingWithRia (@cookingwithria)

4. Chef Devan

Known as Chef Devan, Devan Rajkumar embraces his Guyanese Canadian heritage by creating recipes combining flavors of both the East and West Indies. His love of food has allowed him to expand his role to judge in a popular Canadian cooking show: Food Network Canada’s Fire Masters. His cooking often blends the flavors of multiple cultures but also creates the classic recipes of his motherland. With a multitude of interests, Chef Dev uses his social media platform to connect with followers by sharing various aspects of his life that go beyond cooking. His most recent YouTube video provides a trailer for an upcoming video “Tastes Guyana” which shows him exploring Guyana from the inside, specifically deep parts of the inner country. To learn more about Chef Devan follow @chefdevan.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Devan Rajkumar (@chefdevan)

5. Taste of Trinbago

Reshmi is the chef behind the growing blog, Taste of Trinbago. A Trinidadian native who now resides in Texas, she uses her love of food and Trinidadian culture to share hacks, tips and easy recipes with West Indians throughout the globe. She finds a way to simplify traditional West Indian meals, that we once watched our elders make with curiosity.  From holiday specialties like black cake to Diwali delicacies, Reshmi has brought vegetarian and non-veg recipes to followers in an extremely accessible way. She even posts recipe cards on her IG highlights for followers who may need written instructions. Her IG profile is a mix of various West Indian foods while also sharing bits of her life and even her secrets to baby food. Follow her @tasteoftrinbago.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Taste of Trini ?? (@tasteoftrinbago)

These are just five Indo Caribbean food bloggers sharing their secrets to easy cooking. The once very daunting recipes and food instructions our parents gave have been simplified by most of these bloggers through video, voice over and modernized recipes. We no longer have to estimate a “dash, pinch or tuk” of any masala. We are just days away from Christmas and this is the perfect time to find the best-suited recipe to make that paratha for Santa.

Featured Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

By Subrina Singh

Subrina Singh holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Asian & Asian American Studies from Stony Brook University and a Master’s Degree … Read more ›

Ramadan is My Spiritual Sanctuary for Healing in a Chaotic World

This story was published as a collaboration between Brown Girl Magazine and Reckon, a national news organization that covers the people powering change, the challenges shaping our time, and what it means for all of us.

This is a special year for Ramadan. For the first time in three years my mosque will fill to capacity, giving my community a chance to rebuild lost connections and overcome heartache. It reminds me of a simple truth: healing comes not when you expect it but when you need it.

For Muslims, Ramadan symbolizes the time of the year in which Islam’s prophet Muhammad first received the revelation of the Quran. Since Islam follows a calendar based on the monthly cycles of the moon, the start of the holy month of Ramadan is determined when a crescent moon is sighted in Saudi Arabia.

The Quran is said to have been received throughout the life of the prophet Muhammad, and Ramadan marks the days it took for him to receive its first verses. When Muhammad received this revelation, it is said that he isolated himself in a cave to reflect and devoted himself to endless worship. In the same way that Muhammad secluded himself to focus on gratitude and prayer, Muslims around the world use the time to distance themselves from daily distractions and focus on spiritual growth through a month of fasting.

Siyam in community

The Arabic word for fasting is siyam which translates to ‘be at rest.’ Abstaining from eating and drinking allows us to take the rest our body and soul so deeply crave and ground ourselves and one another in a physical, mental and spiritual reset.

When I was a child, Ramadan symbolized the one time it was normal to spend your entire weekend in the Mosque. It was my first experience of a sleepover, with pajamas hidden under my abaya and Pakistani kurtas. Beyond the gender divide of the prayer halls, children would take naps on parents laps as the community prayed throughout the night. The Mosque was a beautiful gathering space open to anyone who needed a meal, whether or not they were fasting.

During the pandemic, Ramadan was different. Endless nights in the Mosque filled with prayer and community were scaled down to Zoom hangouts. Programs that were once filled with intimate in-person conversations on the floor of the Mosque, were now faceless squares on a screen, their names barely visible.

[Read Related: How I Create Everlasting Ramadan Memories as a New York City Mom]

The Jummah or Friday prayers that were once so packed with people that the crowd spilled out onto the surrounding grass and sidewalks were conducted in parked cars. The mosque decorated the parking lot for drive-through visitors for the Eid Namaz, and community members waved from a distance to others with the same time slot.

I still remember when a friend’s mother died of COVID-19. What would have been a Janaza or funeral that surrounded the grieving family with community and prayer, turned into a Zoom call. Watching the tears of my friend’s family during the burial services, unable to visit her home and read the Quran together was heartbreaking. 

Even before the pandemic, the world was not always a safe place for me and my community. From my family and I being yelled at to “go back to our country” when we were on vacation, to the looks my mother received when she wore her hijab in public, I understood even as a young child the ways in which Muslims were perceived as outsiders in our own country.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for Reckon’s newsletters.

In many ways the pandemic compounded the islamophobia that my community began experiencing at heightened levels after 9/11.  During Trump’s time in office, the Muslim community—which in the US mostly consists of people who identify as Asian and Black—faced heightened racism and incidents of violence, in part due to misinformation about the coronavirus. In the racial justice uprisings of 2020, Black Muslims—which make up more than 20% of all Muslims in the US—were not only targeted for their race but their religious background. Mosques across the country were vandalized, and continue to experience increased threats to this day. 

Ramadan as a space to heal

These last few years made me realize how badly I craved the sanctuary of my Mosque, and to physically return to a space where I felt safe. I feel relieved and at peace to return back to nights where I am surrounded by familiar faces praying together side by side and breaking our fast without any fear of judgment. 

During Ramadan, I find myself closest to my faith and to myself. Just as the Quranic verse says, “so, surely with hardship comes ease”,  I am reminded of our resilience and how obstacles can be overcome through spaces of community and prayer. 

I believe that the healing we need in the world begins from within. My community needs the sanctuary of Ramadan now more than ever to reflect and rebuild, away from the violence. 

Reckon is a national news organization that covers the people powering change, the challenges shaping our time, and what it means for all of us.

Feature Image courtesy: Aysha Qamar

Avatar photo
By Aysha Qamar

Aysha Qamar is a writer, poet and advocate based in the tri-state area. She currently serves as BGM’s News and … Read more ›