Modesty meets style, thanks to these hi­jabi in­flu­encers

Young so­cial-me­dia savvy In­sta­gram­mers are show­ing head­scarves can be haute, and that one doesn’t have to be in­vis­i­ble or un­fash­ion­able be­hind the veil

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Sunday Special -

Ramsha Sul­tan was in her first year of col­lege when she de­cided to start wear­ing a hi­jab. Her de­ci­sion was met with sur­prise from her par­ents and ques­tions from friends and class­mates, who asked if she was be­ing forced to wear it or whether she’d stopped sham­poo­ing her hair. But Sul­tan, whose mother wears a head­scarf but didn’t in­sist her daugh­ter wear one, was clear that it was her choice. “I strug­gled with the change of wardrobe but grad­u­ally I un­der­stood what looks good,” says the Delhi res­i­dent, who de­cided to help oth­ers with the fash­ion tran­si­tion by post­ing hi­jab styling tu­to­ri­als on her YouTube chan­nel.

Sul­tan is among a grow­ing num­ber of young Mus­lim girls who are re­claim­ing their hi­jabs in style. Mum­bai-based Farheen Naqi, 26, owner of mod­est fash­ion brand Lit­tle Black Hi­jab, says that thanks to the in­ter­net, there is a change in how young Mus­lim girls view fash­ion. “My mom’s gen­er­a­tion didn’t in­cor­po­rate fash­ion as much. Now, you can do both — dress stylishly while dress­ing mod­estly.” LBH’s clients are mostly in their teens and twen­ties, and many are wear­ing the hi­jab for the first time. “If some­one was con­sid­er­ing the hi­jab be­fore but was hes­i­tant be­cause they were scared to look ‘dif­fer­ent’, they don’t have to be any­more.”

Nabeeha Fakih, 25, says that she had her own strug­gles with the abaya in col­lege. The em­bar­rass­ment and the hur­dles to mo­bil­ity made her give it up and just wear the head­scarf. To­day, the Mum­bai-based den­tist runs an In­sta­gram han­dle @the_ur­ban­hi­jabee in which she teams shim­mery hi­jabs with denim jack­ets, jeans and sneak­ers. “The hi­jab has em­pow­ered me and helps me stand out. I can swim with it or play sports with it. That’s the mes­sage I want to give young girls out there,” says Fakih, who has over 48,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram and re­cently launched her own brand.

Coim­bat­ore-based B. Tech stu­dent Safreena Noorin, 20, was in­spired by Fakih’s In­sta­gram han­dle to start her own. “Since the hi­jab is not very com­mon in Tamil Nadu, my class­mates tease me and ask me why I wear a hel­met all the time or if I for­got to comb my hair,” she says. “I’ve told them it is part of my cul­ture and they need to re­spect ev­ery­one. They also call me a model and make fun of the way I walk, but ever since I’ve gained f ol­low­ers, some­thing has changed. Now, they ask me for treats for the money I make as an in­flu­encer.”

For many in­flu­encers, a large so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing has opened up sources of in­come. Noorin, who has 23,000 fol­low­ers, earns be­tween Rs 5,000 and

Uploads of videos re­lated to ‘hi­jab’ and ‘tu­to­rial’ grew by

Rs 20,000 through col­lab­o­ra­tions with brands such as Shein and the Ama­zon in­flu­encers pro­gram. Sul­tan has col­lab­o­rated with over 70 na­tional and in­ter­na­tional brands in the last three years, and started sell­ing scarves, mod­est wear and jewellery un­der her own brand in 2018. Delhi-based Roshni Mis­bah, who is fa­mously known as the hi­jabi biker for rid­ing su­per­bikes while wear­ing a head­scarf and has over 80,000 In­sta­gram fol­low­ers, has be­come a ma­jor shoe com­pany’s brand am­bas­sador and bagged a real­ity show ap­pear­ance.

Ramsha Sul­tan

The vis­i­bil­ity of so many young Mus­lim women on so­cial me­dia also helps breaks stereo­types about the hi­jab. “It makes you re­alise that hi­jabi girls are re­ally di­verse — there’s not just one kind of a Mus­lim girl. More­over, it does not have to be an op­pres­sive or bor­ing gar­ment you are forced to wear. You can re­ally show your per­son­al­ity through it,” Naqi says.

Some in­flu­encers are go­ing be­yond style tips. Be­sides re­view­ing cos­met­ics, Kochi-based Shyma Habeeb’s beauty-cen­tric YouTube chan­nel called The Desert Rose Jour­nals fea­tures videos on men­tal health and cy­ber bul­ly­ing. Sul­tan, 24, too wants to bridge the gap be­tween Mus­lims and non-Mus­lims and brings out reg­u­lar ex­plainer videos on why she started wear­ing a hi­jab, why she says as-salam-alaikum, the sig­nif­i­cance of Ramzan and pray­ing five times a day. “We are teach­ing other peo­ple about our cul­ture. The more we are com­fort­able in what we wear, the more peo­ple ac­cept it,” Sul­tan says. “I feel that if one com­mu­nity doesn’t ex­plain them­selves to the other, how will we know each other?” YouTu­ber Tazeen Abaji says she was sur­prised that half of the mes­sages she gets come from peo­ple who had never spo­ken to a hi­jabi in their life. “They say their mis­con­cep­tions were cleared af­ter see­ing my videos.”

It isn’t all smooth sail­ing though. A lot of in­flu­encers get on­line hate from trolls who ac­cuse them of us­ing their Mus­lim iden­tity for com­mer­cial gain. Some fear their fam­i­lies’ re­ac­tion more than trolls. Kochibased Unaisa Subair, who has 22,500 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram and 11,500 sub­scribers on YouTube, ini­tially didn’t tell her par­ents. “I am from an or­tho­dox fam­ily and wasn’t sure if they’d ac­cept this,” says Subair, 21. “But then my rel­a­tives told them and they were sup­port­ive. Now, they’re happy when peo­ple recog­nise me in public or when I get prod­ucts.” She has col­lab­o­rated with sev­eral mod­est wear and cos­met­ics com­pa­nies, and or­gan­ises two shoots a month with a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher. Though she is about to fin­ish her course in naval ar­chi­tec­ture, Subair wants to con­tinue blog­ging so that she can ear n more money. “We have to be fash­ion­able and move with the times,” she says.

Unaisa Subair

Of­fers tips on how to fuse head­scarves with street style En­gi­neer-YouTu­ber has launched her own line of hi­jabs Ker­ala girl’s hi­jab styling tu­to­ri­als have landed her brand spon­sor­ships

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