I found this article today in the morning while exploring around daily news in one of my favourite online news page. “Sweden’s ‘hijabista’: Selling Muslim fashion” is an article talking about Iman Aldebe, a woman and fashion designer who has manage to bring ‘Muslim fashion’ into European markets.
Despite the second headline of the article classifies her contribution as a ‘modest fashion revolution’, I have to say that her work is actually of a true revolutionary and her contribution is far from being modest. Instead I would say she has been working hard, demonstrating great personal leadership and entrepreneurial spirit, going against mainstream ideas and prejudices, and breaking through hardships such as cyber harassment (caused by her work as a fashion designer of Muslim clothes) and her own family background.
Her work sheds light on the challenges we still face in Europe today, such as discrimination in hiring based on religion and related dress code, ethnocentrism and resulting perspectives on hijab, racism and hate, amongst other. At the same it also contributes to bring about change in what regards some of these challenges, as Iman Aldebe says:
“I use fashion as a tool to eliminate prejudices against Muslims, I want to challenge the image of the oppressed Muslim woman in the West who voluntarily isolates herself from society.”
While this is an essential part of her work she is also contributing to increase Muslim women’s economic independence (by securing the opportunity of being hired even in case of wearing a hijab) and rising their representation in different professional spheres, such as the Swedish police force (as she developed a hijab for police officers).
I would like to make a small remark on the fact that part of Iman Aldebe’s work seems to be for haute couture fashion, which I expect to be more expensive and therefore less accessible to women of all classes, creating this way a gap that makes the possibility of change less accessible to all Muslim women, whatever their economic capacity. Albeit she has also developed a ‘happy turban’ line that is price wise apparently more accessible, thus making her work more inclusive for all women.
And whilst criticism could arise from the fact she is actually adapting Muslim cultural features (in what regards clothing) in function of discriminatory views and prejudices common in European society, the truth is that no culture can remain unchanged and untouchable. Despite all it remains the need to change and evolve, to experiment, to learn to be and do in different and innovative ways that create positive transformation. And it is in this spot of innovation and courage that I would like to place Iman Aldebe and her work, as a woman who took action in face of adversity, who persevered in moments of loneliness and who is now growing and expanding in search of new markets and new opportunities to transform lives.
To close I leave you with a quote from Iman Aldebe, which I believe can inspire us all in challenging moments of our lives as women change-makers:
“It’s not easy to be a pioneer in anything, it’s a huge responsibility but we must do it.”