Reina Lewis is professor of cultural studies at London College of Fashion (University of the Arts London) and a consulting curator of the de Young Museum’s exhibition “Contemporary Muslim Fashions.” The following is an edited excerpt of her essay “Muslims and Fashion Now, and Then,” taken from a book accompanying the exhibition, also called “Contemporary Muslim Fashions.”
For many years — especially after the attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 — the fashion industry was deeply averse to being publicly associated with Muslims, whether as designers, models, consumers or influencers. That Muslim clients from the newly rich petro-economies of the Gulf provided essential support to European couture houses from the middle of the last century was insider knowledge only.
But fast-forward to the second decade of the 21st century, and a connection to Muslims is seen as an asset.
Global fashion brands from luxury to high street have woken up to the Islamic calendar. Around the world, brands run fashion promotions for Ramadan and Eid — the “new Christmas.” In London, luxury retailers gear up for the “Harrods Hajj,” a seasonal pre-Ramadan influx of affluent Gulf shoppers.