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Cooper Hewitt opens acclaimed 'Contemporary Muslim Fashions' exhibition
Raşit Bağzıbağlı (b. London, 1985) for Modanisa (Turkey, est. 2011); Ensemble (dress and headscarf); Spring/Summer 2018; Polyester chiffon; Courtesy of Modanisa. © Raşit Bağzıbağlı x Modanisa, Spring Summer 2018, "Desert Dream" Collection.



NEW YORK, NY.- “Contemporary Muslim Fashions,” the first major museum exhibition to explore the rise of the modest fashion industry, will be on view in winter 2020 at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, this pioneering exhibition examines how Muslim women—those who cover and those who do not—have become arbiters of style within and beyond their communities. On view Feb. 28, 2020, through Aug. 23, 2020, the exhibition features approximately 80 ensembles drawn from established and emerging designers in high-end fashion, streetwear, sportswear and couture, as well as about 40 photographs that will contextualize the garments on view.

New video content, produced by Cooper Hewitt, will introduce the designers behind the looks and expand on the design process. Through interviews and footage of designers at work in their studios, visitors will be introduced to a new generation of designers—75% of the designers, artists and influencers in the exhibition are female, Muslim and under 40 years of age—and their focus on entrepreneurship, inclusion and sustainable and ethical practices. A spotlight on the rich textile heritage of Southeast Asia, including batik and ikat dyeing and songket weaving, will highlight the craftsmanship and textile traditions that inform many of the contemporary designs on view. A final video will explore how materials research and high-performance apparel make it possible for modest-dressing women and girls to engage in sports at the recreational and competitive levels, from sports hijabs and full-coverage swimwear.

In recent years, there has been increased awareness of Muslim consumers as an important segment of the global fashion industry, and increased visibility for designers and brands whose clothing responds to diverse interpretations of modesty. Featuring garments and styles from around the world, “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” focuses on the intersection of regional dress styles, global fashion trends and personal attitudes toward modesty. It considers how Muslim women define themselves and are defined by their dress, providing a snapshot of the current moment in Muslim modest fashion. Modest fashion refers to garments that are both highly fashionable and provide sufficient body cover to address cultural concerns for modesty. Many Muslim women and men dress modestly, in accordance with their faith, but individual and collective interpretations of modesty vary widely.

As Islam is a multicultural faith, the dress of its practitioners is shaped not only by religious traditions but also by local customs and global trends. “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” looks at parts of the globe where designers are creating and consumers are wearing highly fashionable garments, with a specific focus on the Middle East, Southeast Asia and communities throughout Europe and the United States. Using social media as primary source material, the exhibition credits much of the recent, popular awareness of this sector to bloggers and influencers who took to social media when they could not find accurate representations of themselves in traditional media.

“Fashion can serve as a platform for self-expression and as a tool for positive social change,” said Susan Brown, associate curator of textiles at Cooper Hewitt. “Focusing on the work of young professional Muslim designers and artists, the exhibition celebrates the vibrant global community that has arisen around modest fashion and uses contemporary art, street photography, social media and music videos to bring diverse voices into the gallery.”










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