Opinion: Hijabista Tajima at home with fashion and faith

By Melanie Chalil, themalaymailonline.com

KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 — United Kingdom-born fashion designer, stylist and blogger Hana Tajima is best known for her stylish interpretation of the hijab and has become a source of inspiration for aspiring hijabistas.

“I think there is a need for mainstream fashion to include modest trends because Muslim girls are experimenting and expressing themselves in a way that’s very genuine. It would be a shame if this is over looked,” enthused Tajima on her role as a hijabista.

The term hijabista is derived from the combination of hijab and fashionista, and is also known as hijabis.

Fashion bloggers, like Tajima, are touted as the new fashion pundits, a result of an intersection between digital technology and the fast-paced nature of life on the runway.

“It’s a new way of communicating with people, and bloggers have been at the forefront as it is all about the moment,” shared Tajima, who has over 90,000 followers on Twitter.

She believed that it was not a replacement for fashion magazines but both were equally important.

Tajima first rose to fame after leaving school, when she started Maysaa, the now defunct fashion label. She chose not to attend university and wanted to see how her vocational course in school would work in the real world.

She has been involved in all sorts of artistic endeavours since, including visual collaborations with musical groups.

When she was 17, the half-Japanese, half-English beauty converted to Islam.

Further adding to her multicultural mix, Tajima spoke about the evolution of her personal style, and being a product of converging cultures.

“It was really about channelling my style into whatever fit my personality best — for me that was fashion from a very early age. I was making clothes for my sister or for my toys.

Something about the way that fabric flows in a three-dimensional manner over the body is just fascinating. It’s like engineering from a blank slate to create unique styles,” explained Tajima.

Talking about her formative years she said she grew up in rural Devon with artistic parents. “It was a very creative background where there was always something to make or put together.”

But perhaps the more intriguing facet of Tajima’s foray into muslimah fashion is the generalisation and stereotype of the hijab by Western media and scholars.

In some Western countries, the headscarf is symbolic with the conservative nature that surrounds the Muslim community, and Tajima spoke about how hijabis like her are shaping perceptions and attitudes.

“I think that when the conversation is about fashion it really opens people up to a different kind of dialogue. There’s more humanity and connection when you’re talking about something that everyone can relate to,” Tajima commented.

“When you talk about fashion, everyone opens up and can relate to and understand, so it’s a way of breaking the ice and getting that dialogue going,” she said.

So, does Tajima think fashion has the ability to create a paradigm shift?

“The western perception when it comes to the hijab, is that it is a symbol of female oppression in a male dominated society, but we can completely turn this around to become interesting, vibrant and open,” answered the soft-spoken 28-year-old.

Now based in Brooklyn, New York, Tajima was recently in town to launch Uniqlo’s first ever modest wear

Yuna and Tajima spoke about fashion as a tool to change perceptions, attitudes and anxieties surrounding the hijab. — Picture by Azinuddin
Yuna and Tajima spoke about fashion as a tool to change perceptions, attitudes and anxieties surrounding the hijab. — Picture by Azinuddin

collection, fronted by Malaysian singer Yuna.

Just in time for the Raya celebrations, the Uniqlo x Hana Tajima collection — replete with cool cuts and minimalist simplicity — is a reflection of her design philosophy.

“It has to be simple and specific, meaning that design details have to be well calculated and thought through, while looking effortless at the same time,” she said.

If Tajima’s induction into the Japanese retailer’s long and growing list of collaborations was not impressive enough it was done in record time of under half a year.

The petite beauty claimed that she was terrible when it came to keeping up with trends, and she talked about the importance of creating a line of clothes that are timeless. She hopes her collection will become a trend.

When asked about what her family thought of her success, she exclaimed, “They are so proud.”

“They’ve been such a source of encouragement for me,” said Tajima, whose brother is a farmer in Italy, while her sister works for the British government.

Although she likes to keep her future projects under wraps, Tajima hinted that the future would definitely see more of her designs. “I can’t stop designing because that’s part of who I am,” she said.

But for now, the talented designer and social media personality is looking forward to the Raya celebrations, and catching a breather from all the excitement.

“I’m going to be in Japan, and if there’s a Muslim community in the area I am visiting, I would like to explore the opportunities and take it from there,” said Tajima smiling.

Five minutes with Yuna

The singer’s thoughts on hijabis:

It’s very empowering for women in general — not just Muslim women — girls who feel different, or don’t belong in a group, would have had a hard time with their identity while growing up. Hijabi fashion is empowering because it focuses

on working within limitations and bringing out the creative person in you. It encourages girls to be brave when it comes to their own styles.

On her personal style :

Simple and comfortable attire. I’m a little bit edgy probably because I grew up being a tomboy. I like jeans and pants. I don’t really like skirts but now that I’m a little bit older, I love wearing long skirts. I like to look classy and put something together when I go out.

Jewellery can really jazz up a solid coloured outfit. In Malaysia, I’m more toned down but in Los Angeles you want to put on something exciting because it’s LA! I get excited when I’m in LA!

On what she will be wearing this Raya — I’ll wear anything that’s comfortable, anything that my mum buys. I trust her style, on most occasions she’s spot on.