DUBAI - Showcasing the latest trends and designs in Islamic-inspired apparels, international designers are making inroads into the growing industry in Dubai and world capitals with the aim of empowering Muslim women traditional abayas.
"Our designs are there, in part, to empower women and show that traditional Arab women are strong," Rouge Couture founder Sarah Madani told Reuters.
"Our line is both traditional and religious and no matter how far we go with it, our clothes are still modest."
Along large markets in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, the statuesque models clad in black robes and headscarves catch the eyes of shoppers.
Noticing the spending power of Muslim women in these markets, Dubai-based designers of the Rouge Couture line and Christian Dior, are racing to produce Islamic-inspired attire.
Yet, some concerns were raised regarding the growing industry, accusing Islamic fashion hubs of exploiting the faithful for economic gains by producing attire that is labeled Islamic and missing the spirit of Islam.
Such apparel aesthetic appeal owes much more to Western ideals of beauty.
"Rather than looking for conflicting Western and Islamic values ... I would really like Muslims to be more creative themselves in order to revive their cultural wealth," Shaykha Halima Krausen, a German-born Sharia`h scholar, told Reuters.
Modesty and religion are the cornerstones behind the fast-growing Islamic fashion industry, which is making a mark on runways from Indonesia and Dubai to Monte Carlo.
Islamic fashion is part of a growing appetite for Shari`ah-related industries and assets, ranging from finance to halal food.
Hijab is an obligatory code of dress in Islam.
The concept of halal -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.
Now other goods and services can also be certified as halal, including clothing, pharmaceuticals and financial services.
Islamic or Western
Designers confessed that bad choices are always a risk in this growing industry.
"As a designer, you always have to be sensitive to issues surrounding religion," London-based designer Sarah Elenany told Reuters.
Her self-named brand, Elenany, features Western urban fashion such as long sleeved t-shirts, dresses and jackets.
The apparels use prints from Islamic traditions, depicting such images as minarets and hands folded in prayer.
Elenany said her edgy designs are aimed at Muslims who want to celebrate the modesty of their Muslim identity but still blend in with Western society.
Yet, not all Muslim women were satisfied with Islamic fashion carrying a western touch.
"If you're going to wear something called Islamic, it should at least be a part of Islamic culture," said Safaa, an Emirati housewife, shopping at Dubai's Mall of the Emirates.
"Abayas are traditional clothes but jeans and t-shirts are Western fashions with no basis in Islam."
To avoid such a controversy, some designers prefer to remove the label of Islamic fashion, even if their designs included abayas meant for Muslim women.
"A lot of artists use the term Islamic but I think that's where it gets controversial," said male designer Amber Feroz.
"To me, conservative means that strategic places need to be covered but the designs are still sensual garments that have appeal for women."