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Contemporary Elegance

The Modist is taking part in Contemporary Muslim Fashions at San Francisco’s De Young Museum, giving the public a deeper understanding of how clothing can be used as a means of self-expression, informed by religious identity, local culture, and global trends

Words by Alicia-Rae Olafsson

Getty Images

Women across the world are redefining what it means to wear modest clothing, and the fashion industry is starting to take note. This Autumn welcomes the launch of the first-ever major museum exhibition to explore the complex and diverse nature of Muslim dress codes from a myriad of countries and cultures around the world, organised by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The large-scale display, Contemporary Muslim Fashions, launches on September 22 at the De Young Museum, renowned for its outstanding fashion exhibits including spotlights featuring Oscar de la Renta and Vivienne Westwood, to projects focused on various textiles and costume arts.

An image showcasing at the exhibit, photographed by Brian Daly for The Modist. 

The Selection

Using the freedom of personal choice as a means of self-expression, and confidence, is at the heart of all we do.

– The Modist CEO and founder, Ghizlan Guenez

The exhibit will explore the complex sartorial choices that Muslim women make—including both those who cover their head and those who don’t. The intention is for the public to gain a deeper understanding of how Muslim women use clothing as a means of self-expression, to display their identity as Islam—a multicultural faith—and how their dress is shaped not only by religion, but also by local customs, traditions, and importantly, global trends. It will be an important exploration of what modesty means to modern women from all walks of life.

In recent years, modest dressing has become a focal point throughout the fashion industry at all levels, from luxury fashion houses like Dolce & Gabbana creating a line of luxury hijabs, Oscar de le Renta designing modest collections specifically for Muslim women, to Nike creating a high-performance hijab, and street wear brands such as H&M designing with a modest woman in mind—all of which have all drawn mass media attention to contemporary Muslim life.

The exhibit features over 80 pieces drawn from established and emerging designers, and 40 documentary-style and fashion photographs to contextualise the garments on display. Using social media as primary material, Muslim voices and personal narratives are framed by runway footage, and news clips.

The showcase will include pieces by some of our most-loved brands, including some by our own label, LAYEUR, designed to offer sophisticated, elevated fashion solutions that consider every nuance of dressing modestly, no compromising on style. Other designers included are: Bouguessa, Mary Katrantzou, Peter Pilotto, Reem Acra, Dima Ayad, Osman, Taller Marmo, Rosantica and Maison Rabih Kayrouz.

“There are those who believe that there is no fashion at all among Muslim women, but the opposite is true, with modern, vibrant, and extraordinary fashion scenes, particularly in many Muslim-majority countries,” says Max Hollein, former Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “Contemporary Muslim Fashions is an overdue, much-needed exploration of a multifaceted topic as yet largely unexplored by museums. This exhibition stands out in our long history of outstanding fashion exhibitions and will shed light onto larger political, social, and cultural understandings and misunderstandings.”

The Modist’s founder and CEO, Ghizlan Guenez, will be speaking at the opening event alongside Her Highness Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz, former editor-in-chief of Vogue Arabia, designer Dian Pelangi and photographer Langston Hues. “It’s wonderful for The Modist to be included as an authoritative voice in the launch initiative of Contemporary Muslim Fashions at de Young.” She says. “I feel honoured to be invited to speak alongside powerful women, those who I consider experts in their fields with one shared goal: to shine a light on, and celebrate, a modern modest approach to fashion. Using the freedom of personal choice as a means of self-expression, and confidence, is at the heart is all we do at The Modist.”


Contemporary Muslim Fashions at the De Young Museum, Sept 22–Jan 6, 2019. Learn more here


An image showcasing at the exhibit, photographed by Brian Daly for The Modist.

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