mel evans/associated press
Brooke Samad, 27, works in her small studio in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., on a design for her Marabo clothing line.
Brooke Samad’s contribution to high fashion may not be as well-known as Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress or a Vera Wang wedding gown.
But her long skirts with kick pleats and her kimono and Nehru jackets are allowing Muslim women who want to dress modestly, as their religion requires, to be fashionable at the same time.
A year and a half ago, Samad, 27, created Marabo, a clothing line that she designs and sews herself in her small studio in her home along the central New Jersey shore. The clothing line is geared toward Muslim women like herself who’ve had a difficult time finding suitable clothing at the mall or in catalogues.
"There’s not a lot of options, and it’s a hassle," Samad said. Her customers, she said, "want to look put-together. They want to look professional. And to top it all off, they want to look modest ... I don’t think that there’s anything un-Islamic about that."
The words Islam and fashion aren’t usually mentioned in the same sentence, and when they are, many people think of the burqa, a floor-length garment that covers a woman’s entire body, including her face.
But that certainly isn’t the standard of dress for every Muslim woman, and especially not in North America, where Muslim women often wear conservative yet contemporary clothing.
Samad said she she wanted to put her skills to work on clothes she could wear. "For me, it wasn’t fun, the idea of designing stuff that I couldn’t wear myself," Samad said.
Ishraq Zraikat, the New York-based fashion editor for the Jordan-based magazine Skin, said designers catering to Muslim women are few and far between. She said one of the problems is that there are so many interpretations of what is appropriate for Muslim women to wear. "You can easily be scrutinized if your style is not considered Islamic enough," Zraikat said.
Samad said she’s had only two bad reactions to her clothing line — both from men who felt she was making fashion more important than religion. But she said the reaction from customers, even women who dress very conservatively, has been overwhelmingly positive.
"I haven’t had a single woman complain, and that’s what matters to me most," Samad said.