Designer, Vogue Arabia star, and social activist Safiya Abdallah ignited a #>Hijabi campaign about the diversity of the modest dressing movement this week. Abdallah wants to shatter stereotypes surrounding the hijab, as well as kickstarting a positive, self-affirming conversation about the different styles women connect with the ways of modesty.
Far from the term defining them or overpowering their dynamic personalities, the five women featured in the hijabi campaign video show off their different interpretations. The women joining Safiya are government council member and speaker H.E. Sara Al Madani, H&M’s first hijabi model, Mariah Idrissi, NYC influencer Maria Alia, and LA-based journalist Shyema Azam. The message is a powerful one, and serves to demonstrate the highly personal, often misrepresented depth of diversity in this global movement. Vogue.me decodes Abdallah’s journey behind the campaign and muses on the glass ceiling it could break.
What is the most pressing message you want to share?
The message I find most important to tell the entire world is to open their minds to the truth, that modesty has a different definition for every individual. I’ve found that, having worn hijab for the last six years after living most of my life as a non-jabi, has given me a fine-tuned perspective on both realms. There is this unspoken division between the two and I would like to use this campaign to start that much-needed conversation. We as women desperately need to eradicate the lines and boxes we put each other in to feel “secure.”
I first designed the T shirt you’ll see throughout the campaign that reads “> Hijabi > Non-jabi”
I wrote the meaning behind the shirt in slam poetry form:
~While modesty and modest fashion is on the rise,
~what defines modesty is a question on many people’s minds
~every individual expresses their modesty in individual ways
~rather than criticize let’s conceptualize a way
~to uplift one another rather than tear one another down
~celebrate just how far we have come
Essentially, the T-shirt states that we are more than a head cover, we are more than a “non-jabi;” someone who does not cover. Society reduces us to these boxes that we no longer wish to be put in. We are much more than a yard of fabric, we are individuals.
What defines modest dressing and how personal is it?
Being that each individual has their own meaning as to what modesty embodies, it is one of the most personal descriptions there is. I have interviewed many women from all walks of life on and off the record about modesty and, funnily enough, it almost never has much to do with a hijab. The world has been going on about the “modest” movement for years, some say modest clothing and hijab equate oppression when, on the contrary, it exists to give women the choice of who is able to see her “beauty.” I consider myself to be a modern hijab-wearing woman – most times you will find me in one of my “saf” beanies, a pair of track bottoms and the “>” tee I teased in the campaign. Other times, depending on the occasion, I will wear a gracefully draped silk scarf. After becoming a designer, I feel modesty has taken on a plethora of new meanings and I like to think of myself as someone who can instill and accept all of them.
Describe modest dressing in three words.
Graceful, elegant, empowering.
Complete this sentence. A chic woman is always…
Humble, confident, knows her worth, and owns a great coat/robe! Or two.
What is your work/life mantra?
There is no boundary I cannot overcome or dream I cannot achieve as long as I work hard, grow, and learn from my mistakes.
What is the most supportive encouragement you’ve ever received via Instagram?
1. My first magazine feature being in Vogue Arabia’s first September issue has to be the biggest encouragement to date. The amount of pride, love, and appreciation I have for Mr Arnaut and the Vogue Arabia team is incomparable. Vogue Arabia has an aura no one can match, Vogue is the epitome of class and a fashion guide to all. Vogue Arabia supports raw talent and gives it the edge needed for the region. For these reasons I was beyond honored to have my first editorial spread be with Vogue Arabia.
2. In October I was given the opportunity to dress Catt Sadler, an extremely down-to-earth soul who graced Dubai with her raw unapologetic self at the Annual Simply conference. Imagine my shock when Catt featured my design in her blog!
3. This campaign, despite being a work in progress since August. I vividly remember the night the vision was incepted, I couldn’t sleep and wanted to blog about my feelings on modesty and how people feel entitled to push their definition and ideology onto others. I wanted a wider reach, I wanted to go big, or go home. This campaign has helped restore my faith in what people can achieve when we are all affected by a movement or defined by a term that has no black and white meaning.
What prompted you to make this video and how did you choose the people joining you?
This video is my message to the world that hijab is not the only definition of modesty. This campaign was meant to evoke emotion and relate to so many women of all generations who feel the same as the women in this campaign. Its purpose was to bring awareness to the widely misconstrued stereotypes. If we cannot stand together despite our differences, how can we ever expect others to accept what they do not understand?
I chose the girls in the video to represent different women from different media backgrounds, who share strong feelings about the message. Each woman embodies the balance of those qualities: they are graceful, elegant, and empowering to others. I also targeted women from strategic areas to show the similarities regardless of where each woman resides. We have hijab-wearing women living and working in media in the heart of NYC, the local Emirati who is a wonder woman and mother with no barriers holding her back, the UK-based first hijabi-wearing model traveling and empowering women globally, the mixed race entrepreneur and mother designing and living in Dubai, and the marketing executive turned blogger and public figure based in Dubai.
What are the different types of women you have in mind when you design your collections?
I am designing for all women, with a strong emphasis on the modern woman. As women, we need key pieces in our wardrobes that can easily be styled to take us from a day to night, work to a dinner out. My upcoming collection is something very special to me as it is so different to what I have done before but, of course, not without signature elements. Snakes are the key focus and element throughout the collection. The inspiration came to me when I encountered one and gained somewhat of an obsession for their majestic nature and how they adapt to any environment. Women adapt in similar ways, going from work to a dinner, day to night. My debut fashion show is happening at Dubai Modest Fashion Week this December 8 and 9, where the world will receive a first glimpse at eight looks from my upcoming Fall 2018 collection, “Serpentine Queen.” I cannot wait for the world to see it. My “Serpentine Queen” collection will include snake graphics, prints, and all things serpentine – minus the real snakes.
Join the movement with #>Hijabi #DulcebySafiya on social media
Related Read: How modesty became the new cool