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Style for Believers

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  • Style for Believers

    In a city where skintight fashion rules, it can be hard for Muslim women to dress well. Moscow's first specialized clothing store aims to fill the niche.

    By Alisa Oleyarnik
    Published: October 14, 2005

    Located in the basement of the historic mosque at 28 Bolshaya Tatarskaya Ulitsa, Al-Barakat is no ordinary clothing store. When it opened in April, it became the first boutique in Moscow to specialize in Muslim fashion.

    Al-Barakat, which means "blessing" in Arabic, sells clothing for women only. Visitors to the store are greeted by several mannequins, just like in any other clothing store. But the display of headscarves and the rows of long dresses hanging from the racks -- with minimum decoration and nothing superfluous -- won't let you forget where you are.

    The boutique offers traditional hijabs, or long one-piece dresses, and more businesslike costumes with tops and trousers. "We produce clothes for those who feel strongly about Islam, as well as for those who have just started to learn about their faith," said Zhanna Umm Abd-Rakhman, the designer of the clothes, during a recent interview.

    An ethnic Russian, Umm Abd-Rakhman converted to Islam about eight years ago, after she and her husband visited a family of practicing Muslims and decided to adopt their way of life. Reading about the religion, she learned about its expectations for clothing. She sewed her first hijab even before officially converting.

    As it turned out, it was not easy to find proper Muslim attire in immodestly dressed Moscow. "Wide skirts were available in at least some places, but it was still hard to find one of the right length and with no slit," Umm Abd-Rakhman recalled. "Ankles are not supposed to be visible."

    As a result, she started sewing clothes for herself, and then for a limited number of Muslim friends who liked her hijabs. The undertaking rapidly developed into Al-Barakat, which she started five years ago. At the time, the company had no store and it sold its clothes at the Cherkizovsky market. Only this spring, when the mosque's administration decided to open a store, did Al-Barakat move into its current premises. Umm Abd-Rakhman has never regarded the boutique as a business -- first and foremost, it was her contribution to the women's community at the mosque, she said.

    Al-Barakat is not the only place in Moscow to buy clothing geared toward Muslim women. Other stores attached to mosques sell hijabs, which are typically made in China and imported from Turkey, Egypt or the United Arab Emirates. But many such garments are made of silk -- an inconvenient fabric for rugged Moscow. "It often rains here in Russia," Umm Abd-Rakhman pointed out. "Plus, it's not usually hot enough to wear a silk hijab." Her store offers dresses made of more practical synthetic fabrics.

    Besides adapting her clothing for local weather patterns, Umm Abd-Rakhman has adjusted it to fit the needs of local women. That is why she invented a sport-suit consisting of a jacket and a wide skirt fixed with an elastic band below the ankles. "A lot of Muslim women in Moscow have a college degree and lead an active life," she said. "So the proper clothes they wear should also meet their everyday active needs."

    But Umm Abd-Rakhman aims for beauty as well as practicality. For instance, one of her goals is to teach women to tie headscarves in a way that is both beautiful and in accordance with Islamic custom. In her view, many of Moscow's Muslim women are afraid of covering their heads because they are worried it would look ugly. She summarized the message of Al-Barakat as follows: "Modesty in clothes should not be associated with ugliness."

    Al-Barakat is located in the mosque at 28 Bolshaya Tatarskaya Ulitsa. Metro Tretyakovskaya. Tel. 951-8448.
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  • #2
    masha allah sounds good
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