Abayas only: NY show spotlights rise of modest fashion

Indonesian designer Vivi Zubedi made her New York solo runway show debut Sunday, wowing the crowd with her abaya-only collection as she hopes to capitalise on the growing market for modest, Muslim fashions.


A look from Vivi Zubedi show in New York on Sunday - Instagram


In September, she showcased her signature look in a joint show shared with other designers from her homeland. It went so well that she jetted back to New York with the aim of drumming up more business.

"Very excited!" Zubedi giggled backstage after being mobbed by friends and family, taking selfies with stylish US bloggers who admire her fashion-forward Islamic style dressing even if they're not Muslim.

"I have a lot of clients here actually," she giggled again.

It was standing room only as Zubedi sent down the runway a collection of batik prints, black and midnight blue velvet, pearl-rimmed hijabs and American baseball-style hats perched on the top of headscarves.

Unlike the average US catwalk display of leg and cleavage, there was barely a strand of hair in sight, and even hands were cloaked in leather gloves or shielded by flouncy lacy cuffs.

Zubedi's signature product is the abaya -- the loose, flowing head to toe black garment obligatory in Saudi Arabia and adopted by some of the most strictly observant Muslim women elsewhere.

But it was far from the throw-on-an-abaya-to-head-to-the-shops kind of look.

This was luxury, crystal-embossed material shimmering in the light, pearls draped around the neck, ruffled sleeves and hip hop meets tradition -- a daring black leather jacket zipped up on top.

"I thought the show was amazing," US blogger and stylist Dyandra Raye told AFP. "I would wear all of them! I'm super dramatic!"

Fashion writer Kristen Martin agreed, another of the scores of impeccably dressed guests -- some of whom queued outside in the rain.

"I absolutely loved it," Martin told AFP. "I think it's really important for us to embrace each other's culture."

- 'Excited' -

"The line was just really detailed and it made me excited," she added.

Since Zubedi established her eponymous label in 2011, modest fashion -- designed specifically for the affluent, modern, religiously observant Muslim woman -- is gaining traction as designers eye the consumer potential in conservative communities all over the world.

Dolce and Gabbana has produced a collection of hijabs and abayas. In 2016, Burberry produced its first ever Ramadan collection and Japanese high street label Uniqlo has moved into the modest market as well.

Nike has produced a hijab line for Muslim female athletes. US fashion houses DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger and Oscar de la Renta, as well as Spanish giants Zara and Mango, have all also produced a Ramadan line.

On Thursday, US retail giant Macy's will start selling a modest clothing range that includes dresses, tops and hijabs, created by a woman who struggled to find clothes after she converted to Islam.

Making the announcement this month, Cassandra Jones, senior vice president of Macy's Fashion, said the collection will help the retail giant to "better serve our customer looking for modest fashion."

Zubedi enthusiastically welcomed the move.

"That's a brilliant project," she told AFP of Macy's initiative. "Now there's a lot of people looking for modest wear and modest wear is not only for hijabi people or Muslim people, but for everyone."

After her shared show in September, Zubedi said she attracted attention from buyers in Dubai, Hong Kong and the United States.

Her next ambition? To open a store for overseas customers, who currently can purchase her wares only online.

"Anywhere -- but outside Indonesia," said the Jakarta-based designer when for her preferred location. "Department store, would be perfect!"

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