Museum displays Muslim women's fashion

The travelling show Faith, Fashion, Fusion in Australia.
The travelling show Faith, Fashion, Fusion in Australia.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/ MAASMUSEUM

SAN FRANCISCO • The de Young Museum has drawn big crowds before with shows on Oscar de la Renta, Jean Paul Gaultier and Yves Saint Laurent.

But for its next fashion extravaganza, the museum is entering new territory - and moving from gowns to the headscarves worn by many Muslim women.

The museum's new director, Mr Max Hollein, has scheduled The Fashion Of Islam, the first major show developed since his arrival, for fall 2018.

In Australia, the travelling show Faith, Fashion, Fusion recently explored the market for "modest fashion". Otherwise, few museums have touched the topic.

"There are probably people who don't even think there is fashion in Islam," Mr Hollein said.

"But if you look at Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Beirut, the fashion is really vibrant and it can speak to larger political and social developments, cultural understanding and misunderstandings."

His idea is to approach the subject from different perspectives, examining how Islamic styles are shaped by seemingly polar opposites: religious beliefs, which seek to avoid any appearance of extravagance and arrogance, or calling attention to oneself, and global fashion trends.

One part of the show will look at designs by Islamic and European designers from Iman Aldebe and Hussein Chalayan to Dolce & Gabbana.

Another will display Islamic streetwear and sportswear, addressing the burkini ban controversies that have plagued the beaches of France.

Another section is expected to be more historical and show examples of traditional Muslim dress.

Mr Hollein, who is not curator of the show, noted that his wife - Austrian clothing designer Nina Hollein - is not involved.

Rather, he said, he was working with the de Young's costumes and textiles curators to "put together a group of scholars and experts to develop the project, both in the area of fashion and the history of culture".

In United States museums, fashion exhibitions often depend on sponsorship from the designer featured, making the show look like an extended advertising campaign.

In this case, Mr Hollein said, financing has not yet been lined up.

"Frankly, I don't even want to have funding right away because that would skew us in a particular direction," he said.

"We are not collaborating on this with any fashion house. We want to apply the same scholarly rigour here that we would apply to an old masters' show," he added.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2016, with the headline 'Museum displays Muslim women's fashion'. Print Edition | Subscribe