Fashion in the Middle East and its diaspora is diverse and multifaceted, traversing modest, Islamic fashion to Western-influenced designs. Some brands choose to focus on gender fluidity while others preserve indigenous textiles threatened by political conflict and globalization. Listed below are some fashion labels and designers that continuously push the bar forward. Apart from brands and labels, scholars continually challenge norms of fashion in the region and diaspora. Kayla Renée Wheeler, a Fashion Studies and Islamic Studies Scholar, has been investigating the role of early Islam and political Islamic movements in the 20th century (namely, the Nation of Islam) in developing the modest fashion industry in the United States.
Initially taken aback by the West’s fear and misunderstandings of Middle Eastern culture, Tala Khalidy started this New York City-based brand as a way to work with local artisans in the Levant to incorporate traditional embroidery techniques into clothing items. In doing so, Tala hopes to reintroduce the Middle East to the West under the lens of culture.
(Credit: Tala Barbotin Khalidy Web Site)
Based in Saudi Arabia and run by two Saudi women, Abadia is an ethical luxury fashion brand that uses female artisans and generationally passed down textile knowledge to inform their timeless and ethical pieces. The word Abadia is derived from the Arabic words badiah and abadi, meaning desert and timeless, respectively, demonstrating the brands “eternal connection with craftsmanship, heritage, and roots”.
(Credit: Abadia Web Site)
Established in 2016, AASSTTIINN is an online shop born, in response to the need for a cutting-edge platform for design and its market, to serve as a bridge between Iranian designers and the worldwide enthusiasts for design. The multi-brand online marketplace, features fashion as well as jewelry, products for the home, food items, health and beauty supplies, and art and cultural pieces that are tailored to the young, fashion-savvy consumer.
(Credit: Aassttiinn Logo)
Meera Adnan is a Palestinian contemporary ready-to-wear clothing label that crosses borders and spaces by operating from Gaza City. Their work focuses on reclaiming narrative and is influenced by religious, political, and local references that tell personal stories from the “city under siege.” By operating in Gaza, the label aims to to revive local textile industries and “build a platform for Palestinian creativity.”
(Credit: Meera Adnan Instagram)
Bougroug, a Scandinavian-Moroccan brand, is a contemporary genderless/unisex fashion, accessories, and lifestyle label established in 2017 by Anwar Bougroug. As a brand against fast fashion practices, bougroug only produces small batches of each collection. Every product is handmade in Morocco using traditional techniques and local artisanal expertise. In 2020, the label launched a free mentorship program aimed at young entry-level professionals and students whose goal is to work in the fashion industry. The goal is The goal of the initiative is to offer free career strategy development for young individuals just starting out their career or business. Founder Anwar Bougroug was selected as one of Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 Class of 2020 for pushing boundaries and challenging rigid gender norms.
(Credit: bougroug instagram, Anwar Bougroug instagram)