The South African designer’s new collection gives female Muslim attire a street-wise attitude
How can you create clothes that allow Muslim women to dress modestly and fashionably? That is the task Ulfah Davids set herself with her recent graduate collection. Being a Muslim herself, she was interested in designing Islamic streetwear that respected the traditional hijab style. The designer originally studied fashion at Cape Peninsula University of Technology and then went on to become the head designer at 2Bop from 2016 to 2018. She’s since gone back to university to further her understanding of fashion design and now wants to share her knowledge with the youth of the city as an educator herself.
Her graduate collection, Aya, opens up new sartorial choices for women of her faith living in westernised cities around the globe. Keeping comfort front of mind, these simple separates in soft tones of blue, yellow and green take her girl from party to prayer with dignity and ease.
What follows is an abridged extract from Ulfah’s thesis, which poses the question: What challenges do Muslim women in a predominantly Westernised Cape Town face around their fashion identity when adopting a casual dress code?
Pronounced ‘aayah’, the word has various meanings across multiple languages. In Arabic, the word is used to denote a verse from the Quran, but is also a feminine name meaning ‘miracle' or ‘wonderful’. In Japanese, it means ‘colourful’ or ‘beautiful’.
Islam is part of an Eastern culture where the veil is a visible symbol of a Muslim woman’s identity. At present, many Muslims live in Westernised societies where Muslim women have adopted new patterns of dress due to the influence of the West. Muslim women living in South Africa have a varied way of dressing. Some wear traditional Islamic clothing while others follow Western fashion trends. Some mix the two to create a hybrid dresscode. The city of Cape Town is a multicultural community within which Muslim women must decide how much they are willing to adopt the influences that surround them. This results in a dilemma: even though these women are inclined to follow the dress practices of their religion, they also want to express themselves in a diverse way.
Traditional Islamic wear (Hijab) is part of a Muslim woman’s identity and this collection is a means of respecting that identity by allowing a balance between required Islamic attire and Westernised dress practices. Aya is my attempt at creating contemporary Hijabi casualwear for Muslim women who find it challenging to find trendy, hijab-friendly clothing that they are proud to wear.