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The prayer cap and the Islamic fashion industry

Le 12 juin 2018, 05:04 dans Mode 0

Tiruchi resident Nazimul Asif Jeelani has built up a collection of over a 100 prayer caps, that he uses according to occasion. “Getting a new cap was one of the important rites of Ramzan when I was growing up. Wearing one to family and religious functions was expected of all Muslim men in those days,” says Jeelani, an entrepreneur in his 50s. “But nowadays, it doesn’t seem to be very popular, especially among youngsters.”

Jeelani looks up cap sellers on his journeys abroad. “Islamic headgear shops have nearly vanished in India, but in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, where the cap is a part of the official male dress code, you get some very fine products,” he says.

The most cherished part of his collection is a Turkish topi (also known as fez after its Moroccan city of origin) bought by his grandfather when he went on the Haj in 1936. “Though the lining has started to give way, this headgear still has a majestic look to it,” says Jeelani. The vintage item is preserved on its original wooden stand, with a small brush to keep it free of lint.

“A cap really adds panache and dignity to Islamic attire, just like the hat in Western dress,” says Jeelani, adding with a laugh, “It also helps men like me hide their baldness.”

Going global

Thomson-Reuters’ State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2016-17 estimates Muslim spending on what is marketed as ‘modest clothing’ to reach $368 billion by 2021. But as the global apparel industry continues to mine the rich seam of Islamic fashion, the focus seems to be restricted to women’s clothing.

While there has been a revived interest in hijabs, headscarves and outer garments like abayas and looser-fit clothes, the market seems to be silent on an older piece of Islamic wear — the male prayer cap.

Muslim men are encouraged to use caps to emulate Prophet Muhammad’s practice of covering his hair. At times, the cap is secured with a turban or scarf. In fact, the headdress can also be a good indicator of the wearer’s nationality, because it is invariably adapted to the culture and climate of the place. Often called taaqiya in Arabic, it is also known as topi in South Asian countries.

“Fashion choices, both modest and otherwise, are inevitably more generous to women than to men. They have many options in design, fabric and style, with newer additions every other day. But the choices for Muslim men are limited when it comes to modest wear. The headdress or prayer cap remains, not an old, but a timeless tradition,” says Maaz Mohamed, founder and CEO of, an online retailer of Islamic garments and halal (as permitted by Islam) products based out of Chennai.

The cylindrical and tasseled Turkey topi, popularised by the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Mahmud II, was considered the exclusive mark of the well-dressed Muslim male in pre-Independence India. But a more globally on-trend population is willing to try newer styles now. for example, stocks a wide range of designs like the Kufi, Kashmiri, Turkish, Malaysian, Omani, Karakul and hand woven prayer caps.

On the brink

Bangladesh is the biggest manufacturer of prayer caps in the world, followed by China. Mechanised production has enabled these countries to flood the global markets with their affordable designs, invariably at the cost of handmade caps. Abdul Raheem is reported to be the last cap maker in Thalangara, in Kerala’s Kasargod district, home to the once-famed Thalangara thoppi: a distinctive pure cotton cap with stiff sides, that was a much-sought after item of headgear in the Gulf states.

“One Thalangara thoppi takes 20 days to finish,” says Raheem, whose family has been in the business for over a century.

“From start to finish, at least six people are needed to work on the different stages that involve hand embroidery and machine stitching. I am only making these caps because my late father Abubacker Musalliyar asked me to keep our family tradition going for as long as possible.”

Abdul Raheem has limited his Ramzan orders this year, because of his father’s demise six months ago. In its heyday, the family used to produce 500 Thalangara thoppis per month, mostly for export. Now it’s down to 100. The decline in demand has largely been due to the wider availability of cheap Chinese and Bangladeshi caps.

“When you can get polyester caps for ₹40, who would want to pay ₹150 to ₹250 for a Thalangara thoppi?” asks Raheem. “Over all the labour costs, we get to earn a profit of just ₹10,” he adds. The absence of Government support for this heritage craft has also led to its slow death, says Raheem, adding that he has diversified into other business interests to supplement his income.

Cap sales typically pick up during the month of Ramzan, as Muslim families buy new clothes to celebrate Eid al-Fitr festival. “Ramzan, Eid al-Adha (also known as Bakrid Eid) and Milaad-un-Nabi (the Prophet’s birthday) are generally busy periods for us,” says Sheikh Dawood, proprietor of Surat Caps in Angappa Naicken Street, Chennai. “People don’t just buy caps for themselves, but also to gift friends and employees, along with other items of clothing,” he adds. In the business since 1984, Dawood’s shop also manufactures cloth prayer caps. “Older men, especially those who have returned from Haj or Umrah pilgrimages, tend to wear prayer caps through the day. Youngsters and professionals prefer to put them on only when they head to the mosque or a religious ceremony. The demand in this industry depends on the wearer’s age.”

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Nicole Richie Resurrected Her Old Wardrobe For the Most Unapologetically '00s Shoot

Le 18 avril 2018, 05:38 dans Humeurs 0

Nicole Richie's closet has seen it all. Though the 36-year-old star and designer has, in recent years, settled into her own confident style, her early aughts wardrobe was known for its headscarves, tracksuits, and trucker hats — all quintessential trends of the time. Now, Nicole is dusting off many of her old looks for an unapologetically nostalgic shoot with Paper magazine.

For the editorial, Nicole resurrected all the classics: a Juicy Couture velour tracksuit, several boho-chic dresses, her daring 2013 Met Gala look, a comfortable, what we call "shopping spree ensemble" with a wide-brim fedora, an Alexander McQueen skull scarf, and a pair of knee-high UGG boots. Nicole even brought back her brunette hair for a snap featuring a teeny Chihuahua, of course.

While her style has certainly evolved, Nicole insists that there's always been "some sort of a through line." She added, "I've always been attracted to color, to a certain drape, a certain fit. I'm never one to shy away from a headpiece. All of those things have stayed consistent, just different versions of them." Ahead, see pictures from the epic throwback shoot.

Menswear star Grace Wales Bonner: 'I had some pressure to prove my blackness'

Le 29 juin 2017, 06:06 dans Humeurs 1

There are not many designers who I interview and leave with a reading list. But Grace Wales Bonner’s company is unapologetically highbrow. Thanks to her, I have now read James Baldwin’s 1956 novella Giovanni’s Room and want to read Gary Fisher’s notebooks, published after he died of Aids in 1994 at the age of 32. That’s the book propped up on her bedside table.

Rest assured, Fisher isn’t there for any opportune shelfie purposes. Fashion is a world in which a veneer of cleverness – wearing glasses with non-prescription lenses, for example – is often mistaken for actual intelligence. But 26-year-old Wales Bonner is the real thing: book-smart, almost academic, in her thinking.

“I am very interested in post-colonial theory, black literature and post-black literature,” she explains, in a quiet, determined tone. Writing and research is tangled up with designing. When graduating from Central Saint Martins, she voluntarily produced a 10,000-word dissertation along with a collection.

Wales Bonner is an anomaly in fashion, beyond her ability to think deeply: a female, mixed-race designer, designing menswear. Only three years after launching her label, Wales Bonner, in 2014, she is the undisputed star at London men’s fashion week, the menswear shows that took place last weekend. Awards are an annual occurrence: she won emerging menswear designer at the 2015 British Fashion awards, and the LVMH young designer prize, judged by Phoebe Philo and Karl Lagerfeld, the following year.

She has done all this with ridiculously little self-promotion, quite a feat when you consider that Wales Bonner is a card-carrying millennial who is supposed to love nothing better than talking about herself. I meet her – tiny, hair pulled back into a bun, wearing Adidas trainers and a jacket of her own design with a striped crochet collar – in the cafe underneath her Hackney studio. The interview took five months to arrange. This isn’t because she is difficult or even slightly diva-ish. It’s because, reading between the lines, she has far more important things to do than meet journalists. For her, work is the thing. She’s almost unnervingly self-possessed, the only time she even slightly squirms is when we veer off topic. What does she do for fun? Pilates, cooking, meditation. The kind of monkish pastimes that would sound Gwyneth Paltrow-ish if her mind wasn’t so radical.

The audience at a Wales Bonner show can expect to feel out of their depth and in need of Google. She has used references including Malik Ambar, who went from Ethiopian slave to Indian ruler in the 17th century, and Haile Selassie in the 1930s. Her most recent show, Blue Duets, took place on Saturday evening in a church in Holborn, central London. It came with a handout worthy of a university lecture, where famous names such as James Baldwin and Chris Ofili mixed with Carl Van Vechten’s nudes of young black men in Harlem in the 20s, an essay on Baldwin by Hilton Als and a poem by Essex Hemphill. It also included an additional bibliography. Not the usual press release knocked up the night before, then. The designer is now such a big deal in fashion, though, that she persuaded the great and good of the industry to forgo their beloved front row and stand up to watch her show, resulting in some wry smiles from notebook-toting reviewers.

A cast of mostly non-white models wore leather trousers, open shirts and bare feet, building on her reputation for clothes that are opulent, gender-fluid and slightly retro. Prints of Ofili’s and Van Vechten’s work featured on some of the shirts. The young men crossed each other’s paths in the space to the ominous strains of a post-minimalist Julius Eastman score. It felt urgent, languid and raw all at the same time – like a love affair. “It was sexuality instead of sensuality,” she said afterwards. “I was thinking about a day, and then there’s a transition and it becomes night and they dress up to go out. The finale is that they have stayed up all night and have learned something from the experience.” Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, which chronicles a gay relationship with the backdrop of after-dark Paris bohemia, was an inspiration.

Wales Bonner is one of a number of non-white designers finally joining fashion’s elite. London menswear is leading the way – Martine Rose, Nicholas Daley and A Cold Wall’s Samuel Ross are among other notable names. Her own circle includes musicians Dev Hynes and Sampha, as well as painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye who wrote a poem for her January show. The hiring of Edward Enninful, who was born in Ghana, as the editor of Vogue, has also been hailed as a triumph. Wales Bonner, in her old soul way, is wary of calling these changes a shift, however. “There’s still a long way to go,” she says. “I guess I don’t think of the fashion industry exclusively, I am more interested in the bigger picture.”

Wales Bonner is not overtly political, like some of her contemporaries in the industry. She doesn’t use her work to bang a drum, she’s not one to rant on social media. Instead, her work takes the long view. She is drawn to similarities across the centuries where black male identity is what she calls “gentler” – a contrast perhaps to the contemporary mainstream ideal of a black man, who is typically athletic in build and alpha male in character (see Idris Elba, Usain Bolt and, to some extent, Kanye West). By contrast, the models in Wales Bonner’s shows are mostly willowy and arty-looking. “I remember seeing these images from 100 years ago of these quite tender relationships between black men, being very beautiful, princely characters,” she says. “I don’t like to say fluidity, because it has been quite overused, but it is more about a kind of openness and a hybridity.”

The designer grew up in south-east London, between Dulwich and Stockwell, where her business-adviser mother still lives. She was the middle of three daughters that her parents had before separating, and she says that exploring her father’s heritage – his parents came to the UK from Jamaica in the 50s – has fuelled her work.

“I have had to work things out, things haven’t been told to me,” she explains. “I have had to educate myself about my background so it’s always been something interesting to me, to make sense of things.”

Her own mixed-heritage identity seems to be where her mind naturally leads her. “It’s working out how I could be and that I didn’t need to prove anything to be who I was,” she says. “At school, I had some pressure to prove my blackness. It takes you a while to work out being ‘this’ doesn’t mean that you have to be ‘that’.” In fact, being neither definitively one thing or the other is where she feels most comfortable. “I have to be between places, because that’s a creative space for me,” she says. “I guess that is the foundation of what I am doing, a meeting point and collision of cultures.”

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