The Islamic Fashion Festival (IFF), a Southest Asian fashion event established in Malaysia in 2006, was hosted by the Philippines this year for the first time.
The festival, held in Manila's Hotel InterContinental, featured the collections of eight designers, three of them from the Philippines, namely JC Buendia, Veejay Floresca and Jun Escario. The others were Tom Abang Saufi, Syaiful Baharim and Melinda Looi of Malaysia, Milo Migliavacca of Indonesia, and menswear brand Ya Jameel Homme.
The wife of the Prime Minister of Malaysia -- who is an IFF patron -- was in attendance with other Malaysian VIPs and royalty.
Launched in 2006 in Malaysia's capitol of Kuala Lumpur, the IFF was a reaction to the Islamophobia that grew after 9/11.
In his speech at the Manila festival, the ambassador of Malaysia to the Philippines Dato Seri Dr. Ibrahim Saad said: "9/11 has been associated with Islam, violence and intolerance. With [the IFF], we show a different face and point of culture. We want to show that we appreciate beauty and that Islam is a region of tolerance."
Founder and chairman of the IFF, Raja Rezza Shah wanted to counter Islamophobia through a "visual language" that would enable the international community to regard and speak of the religion positively, and break down the negative Muslim stereotype.
Its aim, he said, is to build an updated visual and cultural reference from which Islam can be related to the modern world through the creative arena of fashion divorced from political, economic and social strife.
While Islam does not prescribe a fixed standard as to the style of dress or type of clothing that Muslims must wear, it does call for modesty. In general, women are to cover their bodies except for their face and hands. Some Muslim women cover their entire bodies, including their faces, in the all-encompassing burqa. For men, the minimum amount to be covered is between the navel and the knee.
The show was kicked off by Ms. Saufi's collection dubbed as "Love." Peonies and oriental hues were featured in the collection which was inspired by the universal theme of love.
Her collection included a variety of head wraps included a veil style and headgear that looked inspired by traditional African turbans. Bright blue, orange, red, pink and green dominated.
JC Buendia's "First Lady" collection followed. Inspired by his favorite style icons Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana, the collection was regal. His pieces, in metallic black, white and silver, were something out of a prim and sophisticated woman's walk-in closet.
Orchids fashioned from the same fabrics and used as corsages added an Asian feel to the collection. The piÃ¨ce de rÃ©sistance was a pearl-encrusted coat dress which symbolized the richness of the sea.
Combining animal prints with Indonesian batik, Mr. Migliavacca was inspired by the Hollywood movie Avatar. He showcased fine fabrics embellished with intricate hand embroidery and beading for an elegant and glamorous feel.
Up-and-coming young designer Mr. Floresca also combined elements in his collection. "I was inspired by art galleries with different work of arts displayed. [The collection] is a mixed combination of different patterns and prints. It looks clashing but I like the oddity of it," he said after the show.
"It was very challenging because I've never really designed for a specific religion," he added, "but I think, the reason why they added me [in the roster of designers] is because they wanted an element of chic-ness in the outfits which is apparent in the silk turbans, quirky lace glasses and mismatched prints."
He wanted his collection to be conservative but at the same time wearable for young women of all walks of life. "I wanted to be true to myself and make something that I see young women can wear because that's my target market, the younger generation of women," he noted.
The biggest challenge, he said, is being conservative and fashionable at the same time.
Meanwhile, Mr. Baharim layered and combined different fabrics and textures which gave a sense depth to the pieces in his collection. Seen were silks, sheer printed fabric, faux fur, laces, and jewel ornaments.
Aside from being inspired by Sufism mystics and romance, the designer also was influenced by the concept of purity and virtue of an innocent bride.
Adding a shimmer to the show was Mr. Escario, with his subtle glittery pieces. A few had a Cleopatra vibe to them due to the beadwork on the neckline and cuffs.
Ya Jameel Homme â which is soon opening a store in Manila â presented a menswear collection inspired by the various Islamic nations of the world.
Turbans were included in the collection, along with fashion-forward pieces mixed with traditional elements.
Ms. Looi capped off the show with her dramatic headpieces.
"I was inspired by the beaches of Malaysia. Colors are very natural, fabrics are flowy, yet it's edgy at the same time," she said.
She used silk chiffon, embroidered elements, and â her favorite â French lace. Her signature silk chiffon represented the soft waves and the emerald green colors of the deep, clear green waters.
"When I first started out designing [Islamic wear], it was quite a challenge because even though I was born in Malaysia, I am not a Muslim. As a non-Muslim, I had to learn how to design [for them]," she recounted.
The journey, she said, was enjoyable. "I had to speak to my clients and understand the culture. It's not difficult to design but we have to know the rules. It wasn't difficult for me after getting to know and seeing how they dress, and their culture."
Her hope is for women to feel beautiful even when they're all covered up.
Camille Erika R. Sarte, "Beyond Burqas" Business World February 26, 2012
"Islamic fashion festival Comes to Manila" Malaya Business Insight February 21, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today