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Hijab design takes center stage at Tokyo

TOKYO--Among the aspiring Asian designers competing for the limelight at Tokyo Fashion Week, one of the most striking was an Indonesian label's bid to blend a traditional Muslim headscarf with haute couture.

The twice-yearly show, which wraps up on Saturday, saw NurZahra roll out its autumn/winter collection “Layers of Fidelity,” turning the modest hijab into sophisticated fashion.

The label — whose name means “the luminous light” in Arabic and takes from Fatimah Zahra, the daughter of Prophet Mohammed — wanted to prove that the female hair-and-neck-covering wrap, common in the Islamic world, could still take on playful elements.

“The modest hijab is not actually a restriction” in fashion, designer Windri Widiesta Dhari told reporters after her stylish designs hit the catwalk.

“It's how you cover yourself and look more elegant in a way that has a loose fit.”

The wearing of the Islamic veil, limited historically to conservative Gulf monarchies, gained ground, including in sports, since the 1979 Iranian revolution and the creation of an Islamic republic.

Use of the veil spread quickly as Islamist movements grew in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.

France has outraged many Muslims with a law against full face-covering veils, while the use of the hijab in sport, including football, has sometimes stirred cultural clashes.

'Wearing hijab is not difficult'

But Dhari sees the traditional scarf as not just a modesty covering, but also a stylish, comfortable accessory.

“We want to inspire people to think that wearing hijab is not something difficult, and could be worn by anyone,” she said.

Her collection also bucks a contemporary design trend for simplicity and minimalism.

Blending cotton or silk into her hijab, she includes natural dye prints that rely on a traditional Japanese tie-dye technique called shibori and the Indonesian batik method.

With patterns ranging from mini mandalas to Turkish geometrics, Dhari plays with multiple layers of fabric to freely shape her silhouettes.

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This photo taken on Wednesday, March 19 shows models displaying creations by Indonesian fashion designer Windri Widiesta Dhari during the Nur Zahra 2014-2015 autumn/winter ...

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