Beauty vs. Bombs: Could Muslim Fashion Unify the World?

By Carrie Brunner – NB Herard

There’s nothing more controversial than Islam and Muslims these days. According to a 2015 Huffington Post poll 55 percent of Americans had either a somewhat or very unfavorable view of Islam (while one in four said they were not sure how they viewed the faith).  But could an Islamic fashion and lifestyle brand do something improbable – like actually bring people together?  This founder thinks so.

Let the Beauty of What you Love be What you Do’A quote by Rumi, the famed 13th century mystic, is part of the mission statement of Islamic fashion & lifestyle brand Its also the north star for Sarah Ansari, the company’s founder.

Ansari, a mother of four, founded the company in the intensely difficult environment for Muslims, post 9/11. She has persevered for over a decade, as negativity around Islam and Muslims has grown steadily worse.

“Beauty has no religion. The beauty of Islamic art and artistic heritage can bring people together when there is no common language they speak”, she says.

The artistic traditions in Islam date back over 1400 years. Every major museum in the world has a collection of Islamic Art. Whatever part of the Muslim world you travel to, certain artistic elements and motifs are immediately recognizable. These motifs and elements like geometric patterns, graceful florals, intricate miniatures or fluid calligraphy communicate a beauty and deeper meaning, that resonates with not only Muslims but people of all backgrounds.

This artistic tradition flows into Islamic clothing and Muslim fashion too. Our clothes are a second skin and say so much about us. Far more than just keeping us covered, warm and dry, clothes these days represent everything from our personality to our mood, our values and our faith.

Like all forms of clothing, Islamic clothing and Muslim dress (especially how Muslim women dress) has sparked much discussion, debate and yes, hate, in recent years. That’s because there’s a social history woven into the clothing we wear. We are what we wear, according to a new exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). This landmark exhibit “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” looks at some of the garments that changed the world. Interesting and ironic, it features both a burkini and a bikini.

With so much focus on Islam and Muslims, most of it negative, the small (yet diverse, and determined) Artizara team has been busy doing something quite the opposite; quietly crafting a different narrative, one that tells an uplifting story.

“There’s so much beauty in the Muslim world. Both in the shared artistic past of the Islamic community and the vibrant present of Muslim cultures around the world. That’s the story that needs to be told, a transformative story  that has a ready audience; a story whose time has come”, says Ansari.

According to the Pew Research Center, at 1.8 billion, roughly a quarter of the world’s population is Muslim. Growing faster than any other faith group, it is expected to surpass 2.4 billion by 2030. It is a mostly young population that rejects its negative portrayals in mainstream media, and is ripe for an opportunity to craft its own, positive narrative. These are the consumers of the future, and big business is taking notice.

There’s been an explosion of modest and muslim clothing brands in recent years. While many mainstream designers have ‘borrowed’ and used Islamic artistic elements in their collections over the years; more recently, Hijab wearing models have made it to New York Fashion Week, onto the cover of Vogue magazine and even into Playboy (shock!)

But for the most part the fashion on runways and sold by the new crop of ‘modest fashion’ brands is mainstream western fashion made modest, not modern fashion that speaks authentically to Islamic artistic heritage or cultural influences.

Ansari is convinced that the time is right for a fresh art-centric global Islamic clothing and lifestyle brand, and that’s the moonshot the Artizara team is making. A brand that celebrates the deep richness of Islamic art, interpreted in fresh modern Islamic fashion and lifestyle products. A brand that draws young Muslims of all stripes, and helps them tell their story: A story grounded in shared history, shared heritage, shared experiences and shared hopes.

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