Frankees Samad, a senior at the University of California Davis, debuted her womenswear line at the Signature Collection Fashion Show earlier this month. Hosted by the Runway Designers Club at the Performance Art Institute in San Francisco, the show presented the senior projects of 25 fashion students at UC Davis. As expected, models sashayed down the runway in gauzy, floaty gowns, wildly exuberant accessories, and deconstructed garments typical of any student fashion show (a dress decorated in hundreds of glass fragments, anyone?).
Samad’s collection, however, stood out from the crowd. Yes, each of her models strutted down the catwalk in festive silks, and posed with hand on hip like every other model, but, they did so with hijab in tow, or on head, if you prefer.
As many a hijab-o-nista will tell you, it’s more than a little tough finding clothes that fit, flatter, and conceal. Samad tackled the modesty issue head on by designing attire that fully covers the body, and doesn’t require that a woman wear a cardigan over, a long-sleeved top under, and leggings below. Yet Samad achieved the trendy look of layering with the help of sewn-on vests, ruched side panels, and pin-tucked sleeves in contrasting fabrics, all of which double-dutied as modesty enhancers.
Samad explained that she, like many of her Muslim sisters, struggles to find fashionable clothing that obscures the female figure while still embracing femininity. And let’s be serious, fashionable is a key issue here. Most stylish hijabis are loath to shop at frumpy, mumsy stores geared towards their grandmother’s friends, and replete with garments in brown, beige, and more beige. Samad was attuned to this need for contemporary Islamic clothing, and paid homage to the fashion industry’s recent mania with color blocking. Vibrant shades of raspberry and tangerine dominated her collection, with accents of grass green and turquoise peeking through now and again. The prints were inspired by traditional (and trendy) ikat designs, which Samad hand-painted onto the silk garments herself. She accessorized each of her ensembles with stacked wooden bangles and metallic heels.
The spritely and bubbly Samad, who bears an uncanny resemblance to teen sensation Miley Cyrus, hopes to stay in California after graduation and continue designing modest clothing geared toward Muslim women. If this exquisitely rendered debut collection is anything to go by, we anticipate her success and wish her well. And while we’re at it, can we please get our hands on those magenta silk harem pants?
Saimah Ashraf is the writer of the fashion blog Street Number Eight.