American Muslim Fashionistas Hit the Runway

It is the most anticipated Islamic fashion show in America, with global designers, attendees, live entertainment, and an eclectic mix of social and mass media personalities. On Sunday, the Fashion Fighting Famine (FFF) show in Irvine, Calif. drew close to 1,000 attendees, and the air was filled with unity and anticipation.

Dedicated Designers and Yuna

The variety of designers present at FFF were, perhaps, a reflection of the attendees themselves. Women of all ages were dressed fashionably in everything ranging from spiked heels to couture scarves. Headpieces and scarves in every imaginable color created a rainbow of presentation to onlookers--and there were many.

"I flew in from New York, and was really looking forward to it. I'm a fashionista and want to eventually start my own blog," said Noor Fatima.

Anum Khan, a volunteer for FFF, echoed the desire for a creative outlet for Muslim designers and fashion-forward Muslim women. With over 4,000 followers on Facebook alone, interest was heightened.

Anum Khan, a volunteer for FFF, was excited about the present and future. "We've been expanding over the years, and our reach has been exponential this year," she said.

This exponential reach has attracted designers and company founders to apply to showcase their clothing lines at FFF, of which only an elite few are chosen to present on the runway.

This year, designers from around the world, including London and Australia, were present to showcase their clothes. Runway designers present in the show were: RAYAN (Los Angeles), Hijab House (Australia), Nisaa Boutique (London), Madamme BK by Couture Swim N'Sport (Paris); INAYAH (London); Abaya Addict; Mohajababes; and SixteenR.

Designers presented everything from swimwear to scarves to formal attire. Nisaa Boutique's models donned elegant evening wear, many bejeweled and in pastel colors. INAYAH's trademark look was that of longer dresses, including some tunics with cinched ends. RAYAN's designers (of which its founders cited Kate Middleton as a source of inspiration) were "conservative yet fashionable" and inlcuded long evening wear as well.

Hijab House of Australia showcased ready-wear that reflected the philosophy of the company: Hijab House now has a physical location in a shopping mall in Australia, and it's customers look for clothing that is fashionable as well as readily wearable.

In the middle of the fashion show, singer Yuna Zarai sang accoustic versions of her songs. Yuna, a popular Malaysian singer, thanked FFF for the invitatation, and sang songs about love, life and hope. Her 20 minutes of singing were an additional spark to the runway presentation.

Like Yuna, designers were dedicated to sending messages through their art, while using clothes as their medium. Afra Said, owner and cofounder of Mohajababes, a kaftan company, cited customers as her source of inspiration.

"We're hoping for exposure, more customers, and donating to the cause," said Said.

Indeed, Mohajababes' caftans proved to be hot selling items in the bazaar.

Representation and Shopping for a Cause

One of the signature qualities of FFF is that it isn't simply a fashion show, but a charity fashion show. Indeed, FFF is a nonprofit organization with a wider mission of assisting and helping those in need. Every year, proceeds benefit a cause. Last year the cause was humanitarian aid to the Syria conflict, as well as One Laptop Per Child.

This year, 25% of monies from purchases in the bazaar were donated to New Star Family Center of Los Angeles, a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to family preservation. Though their focus is on Muslims in Southern California, services and programs are accessible to all. New Star Family Center strives to empower communities through education, advocacy and awareness activities.

Vendors at the bazaar not only included designers, but other companies such as Total Woman Fitness; all were happy to help support not only the show, but New Star as well. Amany and Bayan Jondy, a sister team of designers behind the label Zeena, were excited to support FFF and its greater cause.

"We came from D.C., and we missed it last year," said Amany. "We're so happy to come by this year, connect with Muslim designers, entrepreneurs, and help out," said Amany.

Muslim American celebrities from across the country were also present. Blogger and Youtube personality YaztheSpaz was among the audience members. Edina Lekovic, Director of Policy and Programming at Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) was also in the audience. Amena Kin of Pearl Daisy flew in from London.

"I'm here looking for inspiration. I've attended fashion shows in the UK, but nothing [Islamic] of this scale," said Kin.

Bloggers such as Hafsa Ahmed of RedBottomsFlair were also naturally in attendance. Yet despite the emphasis on fashion, those behind FFF say the fashion show helps represent young people, too. Asmaa Hassanein, co-founder of FFF, felt FFF is made possible because of teamwork and belief in the potential of Muslim Americans.

"Everyone comes here and uses their talent for a greater cause," said Hassanein. "I think one thing we try to do every year is raise up the caliber of production."

Established in 2007, FFF is the longest-running and most established Muslim fashion event in the United States. Based in Irvine, Calif., it began by a group of young Muslim women as a means of showcasing local and talented works of fellow community members. In 2010, Nida Chowdhry, current Executive Director, and Asmaa Hassanein furthered the organization's goals and vision, creating the FFF in place today.

"We should expect the best from our Muslim community, and our community needs ideas like these by young people like us," said Hassanein.