“The business of Islam” – Hijab style

An Egyptian article discussing “the business of Islam”, including the booming Islamic fashion industry;

Once a minority, muhajabat (women who wear a headscarf) are now an overwhelming majority in Egypt. Understanding that this was a market with huge potential, businesses immediately began to make products to satisfy the needs of their veiled customers.

Perhaps the first company to respond was The Tie Shop, a store dedicated exclusively to providing women with headscarves of all colors, styles and fabrics. From velour to chiffon garnished with sequins or beads, these veils quickly began flying off the shelves.

Previously a piece of cloth wrapped once or twice around the head, the hijab (headscarf) has not been free from the influence of fashion — donning the veil can now take up to an hour. It has also spawned complimentary businesses — magazines such as the local Hijab feature models wearing the garment in a variety of ways and pages dedicated to explaining how to create new styles. Hairdressers have also jumped onto the trend — muhajabat can visit a hairdresser who will tie their veil for them in the desired style (rosette and braid for example) or for prices ranging between LE 100 to LE 700, specialized stylists will visit homes to tie the hijab in private.

And after the hijab? Clothes, of course. Catering to the conservative Muslim woman has become big business, with some shops stocking only ankle length skirts, high-necked shirts and the like. Al-Salam Shopping Center near the Ramses Hilton caters to an almost exclusively veiled clientele, selling everything from hip fashions to abayat (the long Islamic dress that is typically black).

Some shops such as the chain Muhajaba release new designs every few months and use advertising gimmicks such as bringing in well-know actresses that have donned the hijab to advertise their new styles. Like the Islamic revival, the rise in muhajaba wear has extended to all segments of society, with many exclusive designer stores also opening shops where the cost of a basic black abaya starts at LE 1,000.

Perhaps the most successful product created to serve the needs of muhajabat is the seamless long sleeve high-neck top that molds to the body and sells for LE 60. Carina, the major producer of these tops, has been so successful that the company’s name has become synonymous with the style. The company has opened 25 stores around the country in three years — a phenomenal success story, according to Carina Marketing Executive Hana Youssef, who claims the product is worn by at least 90% of women in public universities.

“Before we created the Carina top, muhajabat simply couldn’t wear anything they wanted. So we designed a top with a high neck and sleeves that muhajabat can wear under anything they want, and still be conservative,” says Youssef. Carina uses Lycra from Switzerland that is breathable, elastic, seamless and molds to the shape of the body.

“We’re not only targeting Muslims,” says Youssef, who says that the garment is useful for non-veiled women as well, “It’s a product for any woman who wishes to dress conservatively []. It just so happens that most of our clients are Muslim.”

With the success of the classic long-sleeved top, Carina immediately branched out to other similar products, beginning with the t-shirt cut, long-sleeved top, to the tank tops that are used as outerwear by girls under 14. Its product line now includes over 60 underwear and outerwear products for women, ranging from leggings and corsets to long-sleeved sequined tops and hijabs. Read the full article here.

What do you think about making the religion big business? I mean, it’s wonderful to have a lot of different choices when it comes to clothing, but it’s very sad that much of the “trendy” clothing for mohagabat is just too exclusive and expensive for normal Egyptian women… Or what?

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8 thoughts on ““The business of Islam” – Hijab style

  1. Candice says:

    It definitely is a business, but no one can be blamed for that, and in fact, I’m sure clients are happy about being able to have more choices, and the business owners are happy about making money off of this. Of course, it’s true that not all of Egyptian women can afford to be fashionable.. And it is too bad… but it’s because of the poverty there, I don’t think it’s so much about majorly expensive prices for clothes in Egypt… I got my favourite skirt 2 years ago for about 15$. It was not the least expensive or the most expensive, and I know it’s a lot for many Egyptians, but at least it’s not 50$ or more like it would be here…

  2. Janan says:

    I agree with Candice!!

  3. I see it as a good sign that “religion” is becoming more “normal” in the secular culture. Modest dress related to “religion” is no longer such a threat!

  4. jessyz says:

    I think it is also helping girls dress modestly, 10 years ago if you wanted to wear hijab you had to mix and match with what you could, and it usually turned out looking not so good. A lot of women shied away from hijab because of it. Most women take it for granted now that they can find good looking and good quality hijabs and clothes suitable for hijabis.

  5. Jasmine says:

    I am actually selling these carinas in all colors and sizes. If anyone is interested please contact me at feliwa@bhsec.bard.edu. They are great! I have very satisfied customers! They are sold at 20$U.S. DOllars a piece.

  6. gargeer says:

    so if its so tight, and ive seen them they are, like a 2nd skin really isnt that a little not appropriate?? i think they should be looser plus the poly material isnt really healthy for the skin, specially in hot weather!!
    luv ur blog basbosa by the way

  7. Angie says:

    are there Carina’s in the USA?? Ive been trying to look for one!!! And I wont be in Egypt for another year! 😦

  8. June says:

    Hello. Has anyone been able to find out if they are sold in US? My husband brings them for me from Egypt but all my friends/co-workers (mostly non-muslimahs) ask me for them. I’ve tried to contact Carina – but their website is not working properly. Shukran Gazelan!

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