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Symposium: "Faith, Fashion, Identity: Contemporary Muslim Styles"

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Melinda Looi (b. 1973, Malaysia) for Melinda Looi (est. 2000, Malaysia), Ensemble (dress, turban, earrings, rings, and shoes), Sunset in Africa Collection, 2012

Melinda Looi (b. 1973, Malaysia) for Melinda Looi (est. 2000, Malaysia), Ensemble (dress, turban, earrings, rings, and shoes), Sunset in Africa Collection, 2012. Tie-dyed silk chiffon with feathers, semi-precious stones, and Swarovski crystals, silk satin lining. Photograph by Sebastian Kim

Koret Auditorium

Koret Auditorium

Convened by Contemporary Muslim Fashions co-curators Jill D’Alessandro, Curator in Charge of Costume and Textile Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Laura L. Camerlengo, Associate Curator, with Reina Lewis, Centenary Professor of Cultural Studies, at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, and consulting curator of Contemporary Muslim Fashions.

Held in conjunction with the special exhibition, Contemporary Muslim Fashions, this day-long series of lectures offers focused examinations of contemporary Muslim modest dress codes around the world from a diverse array of international scholars and subject specialists. Topics range from modest fashion marketing to regional explorations of modest style cultures in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States.

Welcome: Jill D’Alessandro
10–10:15 am

Jill D'Alessandro is the Curator in Charge of Costume and Textile Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

Keynote: Faith and Profit: Fashioning the Muslim Consumer by Özlem Sandikci Turkdogan
10:15–11:15 am

Veiling and fashion are two terms that, until recently, seldom came together. Yet, today, we speak of the global Islamic fashion as a thriving market. It is truly amazing that veiling, a practice that has been associated mostly with tradition, oppression, and resistance to modernity, is fast adopting the logic of consumer capitalism and getting integrated to the workings of fashion industry. In this talk, the formation of Muslim consumer subjectivity and the concomitant rise of fashionable veiling will be addressed. The analysis locates the development of veiling fashion within the political economy of neoliberalism, delineates the institutional and individual actors involved in the manufacturing of modest fashions, maps out the changing practices and market dynamics, and elaborates on the tensions, contradictions, and potentials between Islamic piety and marketing ethos.

Özlem Sandikci Turkdogan is a Professor of Marketing at the University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School. She received her MBA degree from Birmingham University and PhD in Marketing degree from the Pennsylvania State University. Her research addresses sociocultural dimensions of consumption and focuses on the relationship between globalization, marketing, and culture. Her work has been published in the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Business Research, Marketing Theory, Business History Review, Fashion Theory, and several other journals and edited collections. She is the co-editor of the Handbook of Islamic Marketing (Edward Elgar, 2011) and Islam, Marketing and Consumption: Critical Perspectives on the Intersections (Routledge, 2016).

Regional Explorations: Saudi Arabia and Turkey
11:30 am–12:45 pm

The Politics of Dress in Saudi Arabia: Constructions of Nationhood, Norms and Transgressions by Amélie Le Renard

Dress has played an important role in the symbolic construction of Saudi nationhood. Dress codes have contributed to instituting distinctive national masculinities and femininities, following binary approaches of gender and nationality (Saudi/non-Saudi). This lecture discusses how young urban Saudi women inhabit, transgress, and/or transform norms of dress. Their heterogeneous practices reveal plural understandings of norms and agency, modesty and fashion, femininity and masculinity.

Amélie Le Renard is a permanent researcher in sociology at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris. She is the author of A Society of Young Women: Opportunities of Place, Power and Reform in Saudi Arabia (Stanford University Press, 2014). She has also published several academic articles about gender and nation, urban lifestyles in the Arabian Peninsula, and gender, race and class in multinational professional worlds. Her current research deals with "Westerners" as a privileged social group in Dubai. 

Between fashion and hijab: Marketing and Consuming Islamic Dress in Turkey by Anna Secor

Since the 1980s, fashionable Islamic dress for women, or tesettür, has become a growing segment of the textile industry in Turkey, yet its meaning and practice remain hotly contested. Through an analysis of the representation of these styles in company catalogs and of the ways in which covered women in Turkey view the styles, this presentation will show how fashion and Islamic dress become negotiable elements of everyday practice. While there may be no easy reconciliation between the demands for modesty that underlie tesettür and the spectacle of ever changing fashion, women accept this disjuncture and knowingly engage in a constant mediation between the two.

Anna Secor is Professor of Geography and the Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh Islamic Studies Professor at the University of Kentucky. 

12:45–1:45 pm

Regional Explorations: USA and Indonesia
2–3:15 pm

Searching Umi's Closet: Black Muslim Women as Innovators and Icons of Muslim Style

This talk will trace the history of US Muslim fashion through the fashion innovations of Black Muslim women in the United States. It begins with the premise that Black Muslim women are the authors of US Muslim Style whose innovations laid the groundwork for today's trends in Muslim fashion. I will show how they approached fashion, from everyday dressing to yearly fashion shows, with cosmopolitanism – drawing inspiration from styles of the African diaspora, Muslim-majority cultures and local Black and US styles. Recognizing that fashion, is personal, political and commercial, it will also examine their impact as entrepreneurs, community organizers and leaders and nation builders. 

Su’ad Abdul Khabeer is a scholar-artist-activist. She is associate professor of American Culture and Arab and Muslim American Studies at the University of Michigan and author of the acclaimed book Muslim Cool. She is also senior editor of the award-winning blog, Sapelo Square. She has written for The Root, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, Ebony Magazine, the Huffington Post, and in 2018 was recognized by CNN as one of 25 influential American Muslims

Inspired Cosmopolitanism: Indonesian Modest Dress in National and Transnational Context by Carla Jones

Fashion design has long relied on forms of creative fertilization glossed as “inspiration.” This process generates a divided global fashion map, in which designers in the global capitals of Paris, London or New York are recognized as autonomous authors of artistic expression inspired by global travels, while designers outside of those capitals are simply conveyors of traditional culture. This talk reverses this dynamic by situating Jakarta, Indonesia, as an alternative fashion capital. I describe how modest fashion designers in the world’s largest majority-Muslim country take the concept of inspiration seriously, treating inspiration as a both an aesthetic and spiritual process. Drawing on diverse textile traditions from across the Indonesian archipelago, and from transnational travel to East Asia, the Middle East and Europe, Indonesian modest fashion powerfully articulates Indonesian conceptions of cosmpolitaneity.

Carla Jones’ research analyzes the cultural politics of appearance in urban Indonesia, with particular focus on femininity, domesticity, aesthetics and Islam.  She has written extensively on self-improvement programs, manners and middle-class respectability during the Suharto and post-Suharto periods in Yogyakarta and Jakarta, and is the co-editor, with Ann Marie Leshkowich and Sandra Niessen, of Re-Orienting Fashion: The Globalization of Asian Dress (Berg, 2003). Her current work situates anxieties about Islamic style in the context of broader debates about corruption and exposure. She is especially interested in the suspicions that settle on covered women in contemporary Indonesia, in which accusations of hypocrisy intersect with gendered assertions about revelation and propriety. 

Plenary by Reina Lewis
3:15–3:45 pm

Reina Lewis is the Centenary Professor of Cultural Studies, at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, and consulting curator of Contemporary Muslim Fashions. A prodigious author, her books include Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures (2015); Rethinking Orientalism: Women, Travel and the Ottoman Harem (2004); and Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation (1996). She is editor of Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith (2013) and coeditor of Contemporary South Asian Youth Cultures (2018, with Lipi Begum and Rohit K. Dasgupta); The Poetics and Politics of Place: Ottoman Istanbul and British Orientalism (2010, with Zeynep Inankur and Mary Roberts); and Gender, Modernity and Liberty: Middle Eastern and Western Women’s Writings: A Critical Reader (2006, with Nancy Micklewright). A frequent commentator on modest fashion in the global media, Lewis is also host of the public talk series Faith & Fashion held at London College of Fashion and around the world.

Concluding Remarks: Laura L. Camerlengo
3:45–4 pm

Laura L. Camerlengo is Associate Curator of Costume and Textile Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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$25 general | $20 members

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