An embodiment of her own fashion ideals, designer Rabia Z believes modesty has nothing to do with religion and should certainly not be a hindrance to style.
According to the “State of the Global Islamic Economy” report, Muslim consumer expenditure in the clothing and fashion sector is set to soar to $322 billion by 2018. It’s a figure that’s especially interesting to the UAE-based designer Rabia Z.
“This is a huge number, and very heartening for designers like me,” she said.
The ambitious young designer is considered by many to be a pioneer in modest fashion. She launched her first collection to heavy praise and awards in 2007 and won The Emerging Designer Award at the Dubai Fashion Week. A proud hijabi woman, Rabia extends her sense of style to her work, for she believes in the concept of “conservative chic”.
Born in the UAE, Rabia is a business graduate from the University of Phoenix and Nassau Community College in New York City. Although fashion was just a hobby for her at first—as a child, she wanted to be a doctor—she eventually realised what her calling was.
FINDING HER BRAND
The tragic events of September 11 changed Rabia’s life. It was around this time that she had adopted the hijab and truly established her design ideology. She worked with brands like Valentino, which gave her further direction and the skills she needed to develop her ideas into her own brand—Rabia Z.
"Wearing the hijab in the US at a time when there were no long tops, long sleeves or modest but stylish clothing inspired me to create my own,” she said.
Rabia’s biggest challenge was to create a brand philosophy that didn’t exist in mainstream fashion. “Personally, I don’t call my work ‘Islamic Fashion’, because the term itself is an oxymoron. My idea is to keep fashion modern and universal, appealing to different cultures.”
Fast forward more than a decade and Rabia is thankful that the industry is expanding. “The market has changed greatly from when I first started,” she continued. “Just the fact that modest fashion is now acknowledged as an industry is a huge step in the right direction.”
“This is how we can make fashion more inclusive. We can open our market, and the possibilities for collaborations are endless. There was a point when I wanted to put a scarf on my model on the runway, and people looked at me like I was crazy. Today, brands are openly marketing collections—long dresses, full sleeves, etc.—for Ramadan.”