A model wearing a Dian Pelangi creation at the Indonesian Diversity fashion show in New York. Photograph: Brian Ach/Getty
The hijab and abaya have taken centre stage on the New York runway as up-and-coming Indonesian designers kicked off an increasingly diverse fashion week, hoping to change prejudices in the west.
“We’re not oppressed and we just want to show the world that we still can be beautiful and stylish with our hijab on,” said designer Dian Pelangi, 26, who has 4.8 million followers on Instagram.
She was one of five Indonesian designers who presented collections at the show in Chelsea on the first day of fashion week.
Two of the five fell into the category “modest fashion” – in this instance designed specifically for the affluent, modern, religiously observant Muslim woman – and featured models who covered their hair in Islamic style.
Pelangi was one, Vivi Zubedi, 30, the other. Making her New York fashion week debut, Zubedi felt moved to come partly because of Donald Trump, who has sought to restrict immigration from certain Muslim majority countries.
“Mr President, I love your country and also I love your people, and we will not (do) anything to you or your people. We are all the same, it’s about humanity,” the Jakarta-based designer said.
Pelangi’s elegant collection was a riot of colorful Indonesian materials, Batik print and tie dye covering women from head to toe in full skirts, wide pants, loose fitting jackets and rich brocade. Models covered their hair with scarfs wrapped over and under headpieces inspired by the styles of medieval Europe.
Pelangi said inspiration came from the bestselling book Humans of New York by US photographer Brandon Stanton who documents the diversity of the 8.5 million people who live in the city.
Zubedi’s look was more conservative still and featured her signature black abaya, the loose-flowing, head-to-toe garment obligatory in Saudi Arabia and adopted by strictly observant Muslim women in many other countries.
Sewn onto the back of her colorful gowns were “Mekkah, Madinah, Jannah” – two sites of Muslim pilgrimage and the Arabic word for paradise – and the phrase “all colors matter.”
“I love the US every much and I have a lot of clients here,” Zubedi said. “Hijab is beautiful, we are all still human no matter what religion you are. We are still the same.”
Diversity is a buzz word this season as the fashion establishment makes known its disgust with the Trump administration. Models of all sizes and colors are more prominent and social media is challenging the monopoly once set by editors.
Thursday’s show comes a year after Indonesia’s Anniesa Hasibuan broke new ground by staging the first New York runway show featuring models all wearing the hijab.