Paris. London. Milan. New York. These are the principal fashion capitals of the world. Everyone knows they are a cut above other cities.
When it comes to Muslim fashion, though, Jakarta has a lot going for it. The country’s rising middle class has fueled a boom in the domestic fashion industry. The Industry Ministry and the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry have already announced plans to turn Indonesia into an Islamic fashion capital by 2020.
“I believe Indonesia can soon be the Paris of the international Muslim vogue,” said Irna Mutiara, a Muslim fashion designer. “We’re already a trendsetter for Muslim fashion styles.”
Indonesian women have long been known for their fashion sense, she added.
“When going on the pilgrimage to Mecca, Indonesian women always stand out,” Irna said. “Our beautiful fashion styles have always invited other pilgrims to start a conversation.”
International buyers are increasingly taking notice of Indonesia’s Muslim fashion, and efforts are under way in the country to cultivate a vibrant local industry. One of the keys is the unique, varied styles and tastes of Indonesians, especially women.
In recent years, more Indonesian women have donned the hijab, whose main purpose is to protect a woman from unwanted attention, designer Sarfilianty Anggiani said . Some believe that wearing the garment is required by the Koran, which tells Muslim women to guard their bodies against men’s lustful stares.
But nowadays, Sarfilianty said , the hijab is a “hot fashion trend.”
“Women don’t just wear it for religious reasons alone,” she said.” They also want to look chic.”
According to Sarfilianty, many of the young women wearing the hijab are fashion forward and tech savvy. They take pictures of themselves and their friends wearing stylish hijabs and upload the images onto social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Multiply. That in turn feeds awareness about what looks good, as Muslim women see what their peers are doing.
“Many see a unique style on the Internet and decide to follow suit,” Sarfilianty said. “I believe this is the start of a very positive movement.”
And the domestic Muslim fashion industry is growing along with this movement, she added.
“Indonesian hijabs have become much more fun and stylish these days,” she said. “Women look outstanding when wearing them.”
The colors, patterns and styles of hijabs draw attention to the women who wear them.
“It’s OK to be eye-catching,” Sarfilianty said. “All women dress up to be seen. But you won’t invite men’s naughty stares in the hijab. You’ll look beautiful, elegant and respectable.”
Indadari, owner and stylist of Salon Jilbab in Cibubur, East Jakarta, agrees.
“I’ve always told my clients that it’s important to look chic and beautiful in a hijab,” Indadari said. “By looking good in the hijab, we’re spreading the message and encouraging other women to wear the hijab like we do.”
Salon Jilbab specializes in the creative styling of Muslim headscarves for evening parties and special occasions. “Head scarves have become more beautiful, lightweight and comfortable,” Indadari said. “All it takes is a little creativity to look outstanding.”
According to Indadari, the current trend is to wrap around a long pashmina with colorful tie-dye designs over the ciput, the inner jilbab, usually made of spandex.
The pashmina, made of lightweight silk, cotton and linen, drapes beautifully around the head and shoulders.
“You can easily style it for a chic modern look in only three to five minutes,” Indadari said.
Fashion designer Dian Pelangi has created an innovative jilbab series called Circle Shawl to encourage more young women to wear the jilbab.
“Most young women complain that wearing the jilbab is impractical and time-consuming,” Dian said. “That’s why I created the Circle Shawl. It’s a very practical and easy-to-wear style.”
Dian’s Circle Shawl is better known among her customers as Jilbab Sosor (Slip-On Jilbab). The shawls combine the inner ciput and outer pashmina in one item. Made of jersey, the shawls are soft, breathable and convenient to wear for long periods.
“You just have to slip it on and style the ends [of the pashmina] according to your own creativity,” Dian said.
She said customers could create at least 20 different styles with her Circle Shawl.
Indonesian Muslim fashion creativity extends well beyond headscarves. “The current trend is mix and match,” Dian said.
Her new collection includes tailored overcoats, made of tenun Palembang (handwoven textile from Palembang, South Sumatra), which are combined with long-sleeve blouses with asymmetrical hemlines and pants.
“Today’s dynamic Muslim women prefer to wear pants rather than skirts,” she said.
Her latest pants collection consists of Pallazzo trousers and carrot pants. While Pallazzo pants are loose-fitted and more relaxed, carrot pants make for a sleek, sophisticated look.
“Carrot pants are as stylish as skinny jeans, but they also conform to the basic rules of Muslim clothing [not very tight],” Dian said. “They’re wide around the hips and posterior area and tapered at the legs.”
Dian documented modern hijab styles in her new book, “Hijab Street Style,” published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in July.
The 585-page book has 700 pictures of women in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand wearing hijabs.
“As we can see in the book, Indonesian hijabs are the most stylish of all,” she said. “Indonesian women combine various motifs, colors and styles in their chic hijabs.”
Jenahara Nasution, a Muslim fashion designer and co-founder of the Hijabers Community, a group of well-educated young Indonesian women who wear hijabs, agrees.
“Gone is the demure top-to-toe uniform look,” Jenahara said. “The current look incorporates bold colors, bold patterns and cutting-edge designs. I believe it signifies that Indonesian Muslim women have become more expressive and confident in the hijab.”
The beauty of Indonesia’s Muslim fashion comes from the country’s diverse cultural traditions, said Irna, the fashion designer. “Indonesia’s cultural riches are an endless source of inspiration for our fashion designers,” she said. “We can always look around us and create something new from our traditional clothes.”
Last month, Irna attended the Japan Fashion Week International Fashion Fair in Tokyo and presented her new collection of dresses and tunics inspired by Sulawesi’s traditional Baju Bodo garb. She got a lot of attention from foreign buyers, she said.
As part of the plan to turn the country into a global fashion Mecca, the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry will send six Indonesian designers to the 2012 International Fair of the Muslim World in Paris in November. The designers — Defrico Audy, Hannie Hananto, Malik Moestaram, Monika Jufry, Najua Yanti and Nieta Hidayani — will each present 30 looks from their latest collections.
The fair is a major event. This year 20 countries will participate, and more than 100,000 buyers and visitors are expected to attend.
“The government has given a lot of support to encourage the growth of Indonesia’s Muslim fashion industry,” said Najua Yanti, a designer whose oeuvre includes a collection inspired by Frida Kahlo.
Najua was confident Indonesian fashion could rise to great heights.
“I’m pretty sure that if we all work together hand in hand, Indonesia can be the world’s Muslim fashion capital way before 2020,” she said.