In online social media forums, critics nonetheless claim that the
glossy, high-end monthly tries to "westernize the idea of modest Islamic
dress," and tries to turn veiled women into the prototype of
Vogue-reading, spend-thrift fashion victims; concepts contrary to
Islamic ideals. The magazine features photos of both professional models
and ordinary readers in Islamic garments.
"To try and squeeze modest Islamic dress into fashion patterns is as
absurd as trying to squeeze Islam into a Western lifestyle", writes
journalist Aysegül Genç in the monthly Genç Magazine. "If this magazine,
already contributing to ongoing degeneration, would like to minimalize
the damage it will cause, it has to think as much about how to be a
beautiful veiled girl as it has to find answers to the question of how
to be a veiled girl with a personality."
Âlâ editors declined to speak with me about the debate over its content.
The chief executive officer of Tekbir Giyim, one of Turkey's largest
textile companies catering solely to veiled women and the first to
organize fashion shows with veiled models in 1992, makes the argument,
however, that fashion and Islam are not mutually exclusive.
"Our religion and the Koran dictate how to dress modestly and which
parts of the body need to be covered up. But that is the only constant:
designs and patterns change and evolve, and as long as these changes
remain in accord with religious rules, there is absolutely nothing wrong
with that," commented Mustafa Karaduman.
Whether or not, strictly speaking, it covers fashion, Âlâ appears to
have found a market. The magazine commands more than 90,000 Facebook
followers and has launched an edition in Germany to cater to Turkish
readers in Western Europe, too.
In a pre-launch survey run by the magazine with 15,000 Turkish women
who wear Islamic head-coverings, the magazine found that "[t]he biggest
problem for conservative women was the absence of communication between
Islamic textile producers and their target group," Mehmet Volkan Atay
told the Turkish daily Radikal. "They said: 'Why does nobody get in
touch with us?'"
Large Turkish cities, such as Istanbul, are dotted with Islamic
clothing stores, but their number depends highly on the neighborhood;
more conservative Istanbul districts such as Fatih, for example, offer a
variety of boutiques for Islamic women, but non-Islamic-oriented
clothing stores easily dominate elsewhere.
Atay underlines, though, that the Islamic clothing market is not an
island unto itself. Most covered women interviewed reported not liking
to shop in stores selling only Islamic clothing. Younger women, in
particular, prefer to mix and match, he said.
Tekbir Giyim's Mustafa Karaduman asserts that his company answers
that demand, as promoted by Âlâ. "Our designers have been interviewed in
Âlâ. We are not opposed to designing clothes that appeal to younger
veiled women, as long as they correspond with religious rules."