A well-known sportswear company in the United States, Nike, recently introduced a sports hijab. It received a mixed reaction among the Muslim community. Most people applauded Nike’s initiative to include Muslim women in their clothing line. They gave them the option to cover their hair while sporting one of the most popular sportswear on the planet. But not all are happy with Nike’s decision. Some people are criticizing their action accusing them of abetting women’s subjugation.
In fact, Nike is not the first U.S corporate company to incorporate clothing for Muslim women and sportswear. Most people in the West have this notion that Muslim women are apathetic towards fashion, but that’s not entirely true. Tons of research will tell you that the Islamic fashion is one of the fastest growing industry in the fashion world. There are roughly 2 billion Muslims in the world today. Imagine a quarter of that can afford branded hijabs. That’s at least 500 million Muslim women’s apparel in sales.
Where does the sports hijab originate?
Sports hijab started in July 2012 when the football governing body, the IFAB or International Football Association Board overturned a 2007 ban on wearing hijab in official competitions. The ban states that hijab is unsafe for any sports competition because it can increase the risk of neck injuries to the person wearing it. Because it lacks actual medical evidence that it can cause injuries to players, IFAB overturns the ban on hijabs. Manufacturers like Nike develop a headscarf with magnets to secure it in place. In case the hijab is pulled off, there’s an extra cap that serves as protection underneath. In 20012 London Olympics, hijab-wearing Muslim athletes received media attention and set them apart from other athletes that participate in the Olympics. After the prestigious event, more known companies like Nike started to reproduce sports hijab.
(Visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijab if you want to know more about the history of hijab.
Islamic fashionable clothing predates sports hijab. It started in the late 80’s when big grocery dealers in the United States and Western Europe began to import modest fashion clothing to accommodate their Muslim clients, and it became a successful product. Before the introduction of sports hijab, Muslim women athletes would put together their style. The idea ultimately turned into a profitable industry. In the past when we talk about Muslim fashion, it means women are wearing modest, long sleeve clothing from head to ankle with a high neckline. It is non-hugging outfits with clothes covering the head and draped with the different variety of styles. For more modern women that prefers wearing jeans or pants, they combine it with a long-sleeved top that covers the buttocks with a high neckline and a hijab covering the head.
Over time, more fashion designers, both domestic and overseas started to make chic Islamic clothing for a more sophisticated modern look. Muslim fashion has become a lucrative and productive global industry with countries like Turkey, Malaysia, and a predominantly Islamic population Indonesia is paving the way outside the Western nations. Turkish newspaper, Milliyer Haber, estimated a $2.9 billion growth in Islamic clothing all over the world. In 2015, a report stated that the Muslim consumer spends staggering $266 billion in apparel and footwear alone. It shows an 11.9% growth from the previous year. In 2019, it is projected to reach $490 billion in total sales.
With increased sales, it also comes with a lot of controversies. The term “Islamic” has been thrown around more frequently by designers, and religious conservatives, as well as Muslim clerics, have questioned what type of clothing would fit in that category. Even Islamic law scholars are hesitant to call most clothing designs lawful by Islamic principles are known as “Halal.”
Most recently, critics have objected to the fashion catwalk presentation that draws a lot of attention to the models, while the primary purpose of using hijab is to distract and move away from the gaze from the wearer’s body. For example, in Iran, modern Islamic fashion is viewed by religious scholars as a Western influence, or it is commonly known as “Western Hijabs.”
Islamic clothing has been in the receiving end of the controversy, but it still manages to initiate marketing campaigns that shake the very core of Islamic precepts: the Sharia or Islamic religious law.In Malaysia, a famous apparel company, Kivitz uses a phrase in their marketing campaign, “Syar’i and Stylish,” Syar’i means Sharia in Malay.
To establish an Islamic brand, marketing people have to make every possible way to align their products with Islam’s core values. So even if it is fashionable and the colors, as well as the materials used, are trendy, head covering of some sort should be included.
So the big question is, what did the designers do to gain a rapid growth despite all adversities in just three years? The answer is brand awareness. According to surveys, Muslim women are more brand aware than other demographics in the Muslim world. However, they were ignored by the fashion industry in the past due to misconceptions in the Muslim lifestyle. With the rapid growth of the Muslim population, it increases the demand for fashionable but modest clothing for young people with significant spending power. Not only that, traditional wealthy Middle Eastern consumers that go to Europe to buy fashionable clothing now prefer local and homegrown Muslim fashion designers. Not only that, the halal logo that was traditionally in food products has proved to be an effective marketing strategy to create a global Islamic brand. Consumerism is starting to get hold of the Muslim fashion industry and is beginning to modernize Muslim today.