If designer Nailah Lymus has her way, you may be seeing a lot more Muslim faces on the runway when New York Fashion Week kicks off on Thursday...
She's just opened Underwraps, a modeling agency for Muslim women that aims to give them mainstream fashion exposure while still allowing them to adhere to religious beliefs, according to Fashionista. "Right now Underwraps has four girls in development, who aren’t officially signed yet," the site reports. "She’ll bring them to industry events during fashion week and let them get a taste of the attention. Besides having a 'look', Lymus believes that the girls have to have strong personalites and be able to handle the pressures of the industry, and also the misconceptions. Especially since 9/11, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about Islam and its expectations of women. Lymus hopes to shatter the more common ones—like that women can’t work or that they have to wear full abayas."
The ultimate goal of the agency is to have Muslim women working with mainstream designers but still observe religious requirements (that clothes be loose enough not to reveal their shape, and that only face, hands, and feet can be exposed). It may sound like a challenge, but Lymus is hopeful: "[Muslim models] come from a background where they dress Islamically appropriate, but to be in this industry and to be a model you kind of have to forfeit that,” she told Fashionista. “That’s why I wanted to start this agency, so you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to lose who you are to be in this business.”
There are a couple of Muslim models just starting to achieve major modeling success--that's Tunisian beauty Hanaa Ben Abdesslem, above, walking for Chanel couture, and she also has a Lancome contract--but steadily working while adhering to religious restrictions has yet to be done on the catwalk. We're champions of anything that helps diversify the modeling industry, so here's hoping Lymus succeeds this season and beyond (it helps that we're entering fall 2012, where the clothes provide much more coverage than in scanty spring!). What do you make of Underwraps? Check out their site and their mission statement, and let us know what you think...do you think Muslim models can enjoy mainstream success in the fashion world? Are you rooting for Lymus and her worthy concept? Do any of you Muslim ladies out there wish you were better represented in mainstream fashion? Discuss!