Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Muslim Imprint on New York City Fashion Week 2012 by: Yasmine Yasmine

Scarf & Wardrobe Stylist Yasmine Yasmine looks on as Muslim Model Najah walks the runway in a Pilar Macchione design.
Photo courtesy of Joan Bateman-Cowan, House photographer for NYC Couture Fashion Week

When you think of New York City Fashion Week you probably imagine Lincoln Center bathed in lights with gorgeous, scantily clad models strutting across runways, wearing exquisite pieces from Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Zac Posen and Tracy Reese while paparazzi and fashion icons Anna Wintour, André Leon Talley and Tim Gunn look on. And you would be right. Partially. 

A more robust description would include renowned designers Reem Accra, Joseph Abboud, and Naeem Khan, whose very names hint at the considerable yet often overlooked Muslim presence on the runways. Fortunately, this year’s NY Fashion week presentations did not require you to search high and low or follow trails left by Arabic sounding last names to find Muslim designers. 

A myriad of designers from Muslim backgrounds took front stage during the fashion world’s special month of September, including four young, American women (listed in alphabetical order) Ashley Pecolia, Nailah Lymus, Naimah Muhammad and Nzinga Knight, who showed during the week of September 6-13, 2012.

Ashley Pecolia debuted her AP for Women line at the Small Boutique Fashion Week in the Metropolitan Pavilion. The collection was filled with cheery colors that playfully suggested a spring picnic at the botanical gardens. Indeed, the models seemed to almost skip down the runway as they showcased Ms. Pecolia’s robin’s egg blue, hydrangea fuchsia, cloud-white and canary yellow garments. While Ms. Pecolia’s clothing were modest and compatible with the dress guidelines of most Muslim women I know, it was the flowing materials and classic, unfussy silhouettes that won the crowd over. 

In fact, sitting in the front row I overheard women of varying sizes and backgrounds whisper and exclaim, “I could wear that!” and “I’m going to get that.” As a stylist and friend to many designers I can attest to the fact that while comments like “that’s gorgeous” or “oooh” and even standing ovations are nice, it is when a potential client places themselves into the actual garment and owns it that a designer enjoys the most coveted and meaningful of compliments; a sale.

Designer Ashley Pecolia and two of the fashion designs from her AP for Women line. Photos courtesy of

Now considered the kickoff event of NY Fashion week, Fashion’s Night Out (FNO) is an evening fete in which fashion industry professionals and celebrities mingle with the public, present abbreviated collections and launch new products to support the economy. On September 6, 2012 in the heart of Brooklyn, Nailah Lymus hosted a Fashion’s Night Out and displayed garments from Amirah Creations 2013 capsule collection. 

Designer Nailah Lymus of Amirah Creations with her son. Photo by Sutanah Whitfield. Hot pink Nailah Lymus dress styled by Yasmine Yasmine. Photo courtesy of

While back in chic Manhattan FNO events featured many celebrities, Brooklyn was not to be outdone. Indeed, going by the flyer for the event you would not have known that Khaliq-Art’s CEO and Head Designer Naimah Muhammad was making a guest appearance, however those few who did trek out to Bushwick, Brooklyn were pleasantly surprised to meet and greet Ms. Muhammad, a (reluctant) celebrity within the Muslim community. 

If you are one of the few people who do not know Ms. Muhammad you need only attend the next Eid celebration in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles or Washington, DC and go up to the most fashion forward, modestly dressed woman there and ask her which designer she is wearing. Their response will likely be, Naimah Muhammad. 

Far from being a designer capitalizing on the trend sparked by the current fetishization of Muslim women, Ms. Muhammad has been designing specifically for and catering to the needs of the Muslim community for over a decade. In fact, to honor the loyal supporters and community who have patronized her at countless Muslim events over the years, Ms. Muhammad has vowed never to make a garment that a Muslim woman cannot comfortably wear.

To be clear, Ms. Muhammad’s designs are universally appealing and embraced by people of all walks of life as evidenced by her sold out designs featured during last season’s NY Fashion week and this year’s Afro-Punk celebration. While I appreciated Ms. Muhammad’s willingness to experiment with her previously unseen silky animal print pieces at FNO, I was glad to learn that Khaliq Art’s plans for a solo presentation next fashion week include a return to her most popular medium, denim.

Designer Naimah Muhammad. Photo courtesy of Khalid Sabree. Urban denim outfit designed by Naimah Muhammad and styled by Yasmine Yasmine. Picture courtesy of

Finally, Nzinga Knight was one of a handful of black designers who showed at Harlem’s Fashion Row at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Founded by Brandice Henderson, Harlem’s Fashion Row has for the last five years presented a much needed haven & platform to black designers and Muslim designers. Indeed, Knight followed in the footsteps of Jakia Handy of Ingram Talley and shared the stage with Omar Salam. Ms. Knight’s eponymous Spring 2013 collection included her 2008 Nanami and Twareg dresses alongside a black and white dress decorated with balloon sleeves, a sharply angled bodice, a ruched cummerbund and this season’s ubiquitous peplum, which were compliant with Islamic modesty.

Designer Nzinga Knight and her pale pink Twareg dress and black and white statement dress. Pictures courtesy of 
As a stylist who is Muslim and covers her hair, I am encouraged by the presence of identifiable Muslims on stage, backstage, and in my case, front row of NY Fashion Week, Couture Fashion Week and other fashion events. And I am not the only one. As my VIP guest at Ms. Pecolia’s showing, Nicole Najmah Abraham of Najm Designs was so inspired that she has already begun investing in her NY Fashion Week debut. 

As exciting as all of this is, I cannot imagine that the Muslim community will consider the representation accurate or complete until Muslim Fashion frontierswomen like Lubna Muhammad, Hanifah Abdel-Aziz and Zahiyya Abdul-Karim take the stage and stake a well earned claim on the NY Fashion Week landscape. For my part I would love to see the magic that would surely ensue if the aforementioned designers teamed up with Jewelry designers Yumnah Najah Designs & Imani Aisha Creations, Make Up Artist Chocolate Girl Glow, Hair Stylist Kalizya Hutchinson, Models Najah A.R and Aisha A.M. and Scarf & Wardrobe Stylist Yasmine Yasmine (yes, that is me), all of whom are talented Muslim American Female Fashion Industry professionals.

Yasmine Yasmine is a Scarf & Wardrobe Stylist and Style Commentator from Manhattan New York. Yasmine Yasmine has styled for NY Fashion week, theatrical performances, public figures, presidential fundraisers, TV pilots and red carpet events. Yasmine Yasmine is also a Phi Beta Kappa whose fashion education was led by her mother, a model turned stylist, and reinforced by undergraduate degrees in Anthropology & Psychology and Ivy League graduate studies in Anthropology & Education. You can avail yourself of Yasmine Yasmine’s styling services or invite her to cover your event via her website or follow her on twitter @yasmineyasmine


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