When Kim Shamsiddin was a new Muslimah in the early aughts, she had a tough time finding stylish pieces that adhered to her religion's strict fashion rules. The hemlines were always too short, and separates that grazed her curves in any way, shape, or form, were off-limits.
So three years ago, Shamsiddin, a Wall Street lawyer, launched a collection of Islamic garb she named Al Shams Apparel. From noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Shamsiddin will have the solid and ombré-hued Islamic women's wear available for sale at the Roxborough event space Petite Fete II at a one-day-only pop-up shop. The collection features abayas, traditional loose-fitting overgarments; hijabs, the classic headscarves; and sleeveless dresses. Prices range from $80 to $150m and the collection includes plus-size or curvy offerings for women over size 16.
"We have quite the customer base in Philly," said Shamsiddin, 53, who has hosted similar pop-ups in Baltimore, Chicago, New York, and New Jersey. Sunday's $15-to-enter event will be her first in Philadelphia. Along with Gulf-style abayas with nida fabric, a polyesterlike cloth with characteristics of silk, Shamsiddin said she's bringing along the classic black collection, which is a big hit in Philly because, fashionably speaking, it's a conservative Muslim town.
Although practicing Muslims do not celebrate Mother's Day, in recent years the weekend has become synonymous with Islamic style in Philly. That's because South Philadelphia's United Muslim Masjid holds its annual luncheon and fashion show to celebrate the accomplishments of Philadelphia's Islamic women.
For the last five years or so, Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer, has started shortly after the holiday weekend. Many Islamic women in Philadelphia and elsewhere have been attending the all-women soirees to catch up with girlfriends and get a jump-start on shopping for Eid al-Fitr, the annual celebration that marks the end of Ramadan.
Hence the timing of Shamsiddin's pop-up shop.
"We thought this would be a great opportunity to let our customers interact with us, touch and feel the clothing, and experience first-hand," Shamsiddin said.
Last year, the Global Islamic Economy Report said Muslims will spend $373 billion on clothing by 2022, and the industry has responded.
Islamic fashion has been hot on the runways and in retail in recent years, bubbling over into the mainstream in 2016, when Dolce & Gabbana released a line of hijabs and abayas. In December, Nike began offering hijabs for Muslimah athletes. And in February, Macy's introduced the Verona Collection, a selection of separates, tops, cardigans, pants, and hijabs by designer Lisa Vogl. On the February runways, modest — read: Islamic-inspired — fashions exploded as Dior, Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, Versace, and several other brands created hooded looks, some with scarves, that they paired with generously cut pieces. Last week, H&M released a modest collection of caftan- and kimono-style dresses, ruffled blouses, and long statement skirts.
But although the fashion world has been lauded for its attempts at inclusion, there has been plenty of criticism as the big fashion houses often use fair-skinned models on runways and in advertisements.
Enter the appeal of smaller labels like Al Shams Apparel, which offer more intimate, authentic, one-on-one — thank you, Instagram — experiences. For example, Shamsiddin said, her collection is sourced and manufactured in the United Arab Emirates. And though she uses muted colors in the 15-style grouping, Islamic women can be comfortable knowing that each piece will keep her appropriately covered.
"A lot of my clients are women who are non-Muslim women who are traveling to Muslim countries for business or vacation and want to make sure they dress in a way that's respectful of the culture," Shamsiddin said. "I appreciate that they are mindful of that and I'm happy to help them find something that they feel comfortable in."