Eco-Friendly Hijabis: Taking a Sustainable Stance in Muslim Fashion

By Sarah Ghanem

Not long ago, Muslim fashionistas had to master the art of layering to ensure their fashion ensembles followed the religion’s prescription. These days, it is so much easier to procure Muslim-friendly garments that are stylish and fashionable. The growing purchasing power of Muslim consumers have convinced many mainstream fashion powerhouses like Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karen and Chanel to jump onto the Muslim-fashion bandwagon.

This effort in changing the fashion industry to be more inclusive of other styles of dress has been lauded by many fashion-conscious Muslims around the globe. While this is a positive move, some Muslims are still searching and wanting more from their garments in order for them to fully perform their responsibilities as devout Muslims. The passages of the Quran and Sunnah not only shape their belief in dressing modestly, but also to do so in a manner that protects every living creature on Earth.

What is sustainable fashion?

For many Muslim women, the flowy abaya coupled with a headscarf that drapes over the neck and chest is the easiest combination that complies with the Islamic dress code. However, these garments are often the barrier in fulfilling her responsibilities in conserving the environment. Oftentimes, abayas and headscarves are made of polyester, rayon and nylon – synthetic fabrics that have damaging effects on the environment. They are created by a number of complex chemical processes and treatments that deteriorate the ecosystem through the emission of pollution and intensive energy consumption.

Sustainable fashion often refers to garments made of eco-friendly resources, e.g. sustainably-grown fibers from crops such as organic cotton, hemp and bamboo or recycled materials. One of the biggest misconceptions that designers and consumers have about sustainable fabrics is that they are grainy and rough, making them less versatile than synthetic fabrics.

These days, this is no longer true – technological breakthroughs have allowed these fabrics to evolve to be more refined and flexible. However, it is important to note that it is also about reducing the amount of clothing in landfills and diminishing the negative impact of agro-chemical products used in the production of conventional fibre crops, e.g. cotton.

Greener lifestyle is an equitable responsibility

Leading a green and ethical lifestyle is of the upmost importance for eco-friendly Muslims. They believe that they are stewards who bear the responsibilities of protecting god’s creations against the negative effects of climate change and restoring the balance in the environment. Among the many aspects in this niche crusade, young Muslim women in eco-friendly hijabs are spreading awareness and knowledge on sustainable fashion through websites, blogs and social media.

This notion of a greener Islamic way of life has been adopted by many young Muslims in the United States, Canada and Europe.

While there is still little awareness about the importance of sustainable Muslimah fashion in Asia, some entrepreneurs are starting to cater to this niche in order to spread awareness of this accountable responsibility toward Mother Nature.

Companies like Kloth Malaysia are working with Waste2Wear to push the idea of using greener textiles in everything. While Kloth Malaysia’s business started off with colorful, eco-friendly hijabs, the foursome are now expanding to other eco-friendly merchandises – an endeavor that not only delights eco-friendly hijabis around the globe, but other environment evangelists as well.

Sustainable fashion and hijabis going mainstream

Efforts in disseminating the importance of sustainable fashion is not a lone battle for these eco-friendly hijabis. Since 2011, H&M has been in the forefront of ethical and sustainable fashion. While some critics are still skeptical of its business model, the fast-fashion giant is striving to revolutionize the mainstream fashion industry, in search of ways to improve carbon footprints left by industry players. Last year, H&M made headlines when it decided to recruit model Mariah Idrissi as one of the faces for its eco-responsible line “ReCreated Denim.”

Clad in a blush overcoat and loose pants, Idrissi complemented her outfit in a printed hijab for the Close The Loop campaign. The campaign was a bold move by the retailer in a time when the hijab is seen as a negative symbol. While the move was praised by many eco-friendly hijabis, some members of the Muslim community were upset by the promotional posters and video as they view it as immodest and inappropriate for a Muslim woman. Instead of being discouraged by this, the beautiful British model continues to spread the word on sustainable fashion and tries to do more to change the Muslim community’s perception on fashion.

There is still more to be done to bring the idea of sustainable fashion mainstream. While H&M’s Close The Loop video was praised for its diversity and the deconstruction of fashion rules, many failed to see that it is about recycling. In this cause for a better Earth, people need to realize that it is a collective effort regardless if you are an eco-friendly hijabi or a 40-year-old woman in a miniskirt.

Image credit: Modanisa

Sarah is a hijabista and fashion consultant at Modanisa. She is really keen on modern, but modest Islamic wear for women, and she’s always trying out new fashion trends and styles.