CAIRO/RABAT (Mona Madkour, Hassan al-Ashraf)
Hijab is the new black. The veil worn by many Muslim women has become a fashion accessory that indicates more than just religious observance as models, actresses and fashonistas use their headwear to make a statement.
In Egypt, a group of young women have formed the first organization for "hijab fashion" in hopes of catering to the increasing numbers of veiled women and proving that elegance can still be modest.
In Bahrain veiled models are increasingly preferred to their Western, unveiled counterparts because they more accurately represent their society. And in Morocco the popularity of tight, seductive hijab styles have earned the trend the name "shoufouni," Arabic for "look at me."
The founder of the Egypt group, Yasmine Mohsen, calls herself a "veiled model" and told AlArabiya.net that she wanted to offer suitable clothes, makeup and accessories to meet the demands of women who choose to wear the veil.
Mohsen says many veiled women come from rich classes and need to dress fashionably
"Now many veiled women come from rich classes and need to dress fashionably," she explained. "Some of them even hesitate to wear the veil as they think it will make them less elegant."
But Mohsen's goals for the group also go beyond the fashion industry. She hopes that seeing models in hijab will help change stereotypes in the West about Islam and women.
"We are saying that hijab is elegant and that being veiled is not equivalent to raggedness and lack of femininity."
Fighting the "nudity trend"
" With the increasing number of veiled women the idea of a veiled model became more acceptable "
Yasmine Mohsen, founder of fashion league
When Mohsen started her career five years ago, she said she was criticized and treated as an intruder in a field that is not usually associated with covering oneself.
"With the increasing number of veiled women the idea of a veiled model became more acceptable. It didn't stop at women's products; I also made a video clip and several commercials for Gulf channels," she said.
More than 300 professional models who work in fashion shows, video clips and commercials have joined and found work through the group.
" It is well known what kind of clothes we model and what kind of commercials we can do "
Mohsen, founder of fashion league
Through its Facebook group and seminars the Cairo-based professional organization hopes to attract more members, explained Mohsen, who said that part of her goal is to fight the "nudity trend" in modeling.
"We are here today to fight the nudity trend that objectifies women and present them as bodies for show and sale," she said, explaining that the industry often pressures veiled models to take off their hijabs or limits their job opportunities. "Exposing the body is not by any means elegant or feminine," she added.
"It is well-known what kind of clothes we model and what kind of commercials we can do. So, whoever works with us must be seeking to offer something decent and respectable."
Hijab styles in the Middle East range from traditional wraps to spanish ties
The group has rules for the kinds of clothing its members can wear, which forbid sleepwear or lingerie, for example.
"This type of clothes needs unveiled models since normally a woman doesn't stay veiled at home," she explained. "On the contrary, she wears clothes that highlight her beauty."
Those who want to hire its members also must abide by certain rules. Photographers and directors cannot, for example, use their hands to direct the position of the model's face or body in front of the camera and must rely only on verbal instructions.
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