JAKARTA: An Indonesian Muslim designer has drawn global attention with a collection featuring hijabs combined with glittering gowns and flowing tunics, defying conservative critics in her homeland who say the outfits are not modest enough.
When Anniesa Hasibuan showcased her collection at last month’s New York Fashion Week, it was the first time the prestigious annual event saw all the models on the catwalk sporting hijabs.
The 30-year-old, who was the first Indonesian designer to have her own show at the event, won praise from fashion critics around the world, which she said was “totally unexpected”.
“Everyone appreciated my designs, praise be to God,” she said Friday at Jakarta Fashion Week, as she brought her collection back to the city where she lives.
Hasibuan’s works have previously featured at shows in London, Istanbul and Cannes but New York Fashion Week cemented her status as a rising star.
Her current collection features colourful tunics, a modern take on the Japanese kimono and sparkly evening gowns with lacey trains, all combined with the hijab — the traditional covering for the head and neck worn by many Muslim women.
The elaborate outfits are decorated with sequins and embroidery, and combine warm, earthy colours with more vibrant ones such as pink, gold, peach and green.
Called “D’Jakarta”, the collection — which was also showcased on Friday — is inspired by Hasibuan’s love for the Indonesian capital Jakarta where she lives, a metropolis of 10 million people that is a melting pot of different cultures and traditions.
The attention on Hasibuan’s work comes after Islamic clothing earlier this year hit global headlines due to a row in strictly secular France over whether Muslim women had the right to wear the burkini swimsuit, which covers all but the hands, feet and face.
French courts ultimately ruled that a burkini ban by some 30 towns was “clearly illegal” and a violation of fundamental rights.
But for Hasibuan, the reception of her work abroad has sometimes been better than in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population, and where conservative critics have attacked her for making clothing they deem immodest.
‘Just a designer’
The designer said that when she was in New York, people focused more on the artistic side of her designs rather than the religious aspects.
“I felt very comfortable because they didn’t care whether I was a Muslim designer or not — I was just a designer to them,” she told AFP.
She is not the first designer from the country to experiment with mixing the hijab with glamourous gowns. Islamic fashion in Indonesia, where most practise a moderate form of Islam, is often more daring and experimental than in other Muslim countries.
Hijabs can be elaborate and expensive in Indonesia, and wealthy women can be seen wandering Jakarta’s fancy malls wearing hand-stitched headscarves decorated with precious gems.
Nevertheless rising conservatism across society, which has led to increased attacks on religious minorities and calls for alcohol to be banned, has also targeted designers who try to push the boundaries of Islamic fashion.
While she has received a great deal of praise at home, photos of Hasibuan’s designs on her social media accounts have also been flooded with criticism.
“The hijab is not worn correctly because it still shows the neck and chest,” Facebook user Ummie Salamah wrote on Hasibuan’s account. “Covering your chest is a must — it is God’s order, please do not negotiate.”
Some conservative Muslims argue the true aim of wearing the hijab is for women to remain modest and not draw any attention to themselves, and the head coverings should not be elaborately decorated or colourful.
Nevertheless, Hasibuan is determined to stick to designing Islamic clothing with a modern, glamorous twist.
“Controversy is everywhere, I faced it here (in Indonesia) and all over the world,” she said. “But I try to stay positive.”