According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 1 percent of the estimated 322 million Americans practice Islam. That translates to about 3.3 million Muslim Americans in total, and slightly less than 2 million American adults. (That number could be off, as the U.S. Census does not ask questions about religion in its decennial population count.) Despite its relatively rapid growth the past decade, this demographic — or market — will still be small in 2050, when estimates suggest Muslims will comprise about 2 percent of the population.
Nevertheless, it is still a market. And Muslims can be found in high concentrations in all corners of America. Witness the cities with the five largest percentages of Muslims: Detroit; Washington, D.C.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Philadelphia; and New York City.
So, despite all the disjointed political chatter, Muslims are part of American life and culture, and businesses have taken notice. So have some designers, who are conscious of the fact that Muslim Americans are hardly a monolithic group, from the Arab-American capitol of Dearborn, Michigan, to the Bosnian-Americans who live in and around St. Louis.
To that end, Hana Tajima, a Japanese-British fashion designer from the United Kingdom, has launched a so-called “Modest Wear Collection” with Japan-based fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo. The looks run across the map. Some of the stylish outerwear and tops are perfect for a night out in the trendy Gemmayzeh district of Beirut; the kebayas would be more comfortable for Muslim women from Southeast Asia. Tajima has also introduced a range of hijabs, which are commonplace across Northern Africa and the Levant. The collection also includes Malaysian-inspired baju kurungs and tunics, as well as blouses that Tajima says invoke modesty but would easily fit in within any women’s fashion collection. Tajima also designed a couple of hair accessories made from Uniqlo’s moisture-wicking material, which has long been part of the reason for the company’s enduring popularity in east Asia.
For now, Tajima’s collection is available online and at Uniqlo USA’s 5th Avenue flagship store in Manhattan. Uniqlo’s decision to carry such a line follows a slow but steady trend by leading fashion brands to design collections for Muslim women. Last year Tommy Hilfiger and Barcelona-based retailer Mango released Ramadan-inspired lines in the Middle East. H&M is not quite there yet, but generated buzz by featuring a 23-year-old Muslim woman from London in last fall’s ad campaign. Most Muslim Americans, however, still have to shop for their favorite designs online. Nevertheless, more clothing companies are realizing that there is opportunity worldwide: Forbes estimated that Muslims spent $266 billion on fashion in 2013.
The decision to promote Tajima’s collection is a bold one for Uniqlo, which has struggled recently with its U.S. stores. Warm weather and the consumers’ unfamiliarity with the Uniqlo brand contributed to its U.S. stores operating at a financial loss, but the company hopes a new strategy of focusing on major cities and expanded online stores can turn its American sales around. In addition to shops in Manhattan, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the company has also opened a new store in Chicago and two new locations in New York.
Image credit: Uniqlo USA