Modest fashion is on the rise, and Muslim designer Hana Tajima is helping Uniqlo bring the style of dressing to the masses. Her collaboration with Uniqlo began in 2015, and following the success of the collection in Southeast Asia, the U.S. and the U.K., it finally became available in Canada in early 2017.
Yesterday, the spring/summer 2018 collection dropped and it includes gorg floor-length dresses with long sleeves, high-waisted trousers in linen blends, and airy tunics perfect for layering.
Last season, the designer walked us through her collection, filled us in on the benefits of having access to Uniqlo’s resources, and told us what modest fashion means to her.
How did you connect with Uniqlo? They were venturing into South East Asia and opening stores there, and they realized there was a demand for a different aesthetic and more modest clothing. So they reached out to a few designers there and with my previous label, I had some presence over there. They contacted me, and it just seemed like a really natural fit because I’m also half Japanese. So there’s a shared aesthetic and approach to designing. They are passionate, but also perfectionists, and the way they approach design is about having something and re-imagining it. Re-imagining what a white shirt is, and then finding the perfect details to go along with that.
Why did you want to work with the brand? I really wanted to explore what life wear would mean from a more modest aesthetic. We found our intersection in this idea that clothes are meant to be worn and what that means from different perspectives. I wanted to focus on how the clothes would move on the body as well as small, sculptural elements. Uniqlo has such wonderful fabrics that it’s a real dream for a designer, and it has been so fantastic for this collection. Using their breathable, moisture-wicking AIRism fabric for something like a headband you’d wear under a scarf for the hijab was perfect. It really needs to be comfortable.
What was important to you when you were designing this collection? Keeping it really accessible and maintaining the idea that it is for everybody. And for me personally, because I have so many different influences in my life, it feels really timely and appropriate. A lot of times, because the silhouettes are oversized, or you’re just dealing with more fabric, it’s important to keep the cuts delicate and elegant, so you don’t feel like you’re drowning. And in general, I’m much more drawn to natural fibers and fabrics that are breathable, especially for spring/summer, and balancing that with the easy care and practicality of something like a polyester. For me, one of the most interesting things about designing is how a piece takes on a life of it’s own after I finish with it, so elements that allow things to be worn a few different ways. You can tie something at the front or the back. There are little details that that aren’t necessarily integral to the design initially but that allow people to explore and rediscover their clothes.
For people who might not know how to work with your clothing, or even tie a hijab scarf, do you have a resource for them? We’ve done two tutorials that highlight two different pieces and the ways you can wear them. Because again, there are some elements that you might not necessarily know going into it and that you can sort of discover on your own.
Modest fashion is definitely a trend right now. How do you feel about that? It’s really interesting because there’s been such a traditional idea of beauty in the fashion industry. There’s this slightly sexualized, very physical version of beauty. But I think there’s a push back into how a woman feels, as opposed to how she looks. So having clothes that are comfortable obviously goes along with that. And aside from women who cover for religious or cultural reasons, there is this other subset of women who just want to wear comfortable clothing or just have a different way to define their femininity. That was also really important to bring into this collection.
Has anyone adopted the trend in a way that you don’t like? It’s gone from this really niche market where you’d go online and get traditional garments, to now where it’s become so diverse. You can have different styles, like streetwear and feminine, girly style. There is something to represent everybody and it’s not just a top-down way of dictating fashion. It’s allowing people to choose and it’s a good sign that there are versions of modest fashion that I don’t like because that means that someone else will be like, “yes, that works for me!”
What would you say to someone who thinks modest dressing means dumpy dressing? That’s a really antiquated way of looking at it, because the fabrics are now used in a way that creates really beautiful silhouettes. We can re-address the idea that oversized clothing just feels like wearing big clothes, as opposed to clothes that look like they’ve been specifically tailored and designed to fit your body in a way that is loose but it has a sense of being fitted to your body and feeling really natural for you to wear. It’s about being comfortable and finding a way to interpret fashion that fits with your own beliefs and your own way of dressing.
What is your go-to outfit? The tencel straight pants I am wearing. They have a bit of a stretch in them, so they’re very practical. Especially in winter, I wear knitwear and turtlenecks, with pants. The pants in this collection were so important because I knew I’d be wearing them for the rest of the year. I did go through a skirt phase in December and came out the other side and was like, “I think I’ll go back to pants.”
What is one thing you had to have in the collection? The long dresses because they are difficult to find in the mainstream market. Long dresses that were also full-length sleeved with a high neckline. That was a thing we thought could be completely different for this collection. They allow full coverage in an easy-to-wear piece that wasn’t a combination of different things.
Has anyone come to you and said that they didn’t have a place to shop until your collection launched? Yeah, a lot of people. It’s really fantastic. And that is the best part of direct feedback, knowing that you’ve helped someone solve a problem for themselves. The U.K. and the U.S. are the first Western countries we introduced it to, and from the press and the customers themselves, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. It seemed like people feel there’s something just refreshing about it, having a different approach to fashion.
See the full spring/summer 2018 collection below.