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Contemporary, modern and Muslim: Hijab House at Fashfest

A Canberra girl raised a Catholic is the head designer of an Australian fashion house specialising in contemporary and sophisticated - but still modest - designs for Muslim women.

Sydney label Hijab House is well-known among the Muslim community - designs sell-out during the festival that follows Ramadan - but it will be making its debut in a mainstream fashion show at Fashfest in Canberra from April 30 to May 3.

It’s another indication of how Fashfest, to be held again at the Brindabella Business Park at the Canberra airport, is trying to be forward-thinking, according to organisers.

The label, owned by businessman Taric Houchar, started in 2010 and has quickly built a devoted following. In the past six months alone, its Instagram followers have grown from 8000 to 28,000.

Sophie Loader, who grew up in Canberra, attending St Clare’s College and studying fashion design at CIT, has been with the label for two years, responsible for producing looks that are attractive and culturally relevant.

Ms Loader, 25, said she simply answered an advertisement to work for the label and found herself opened up to a whole new world of fashion.


‘‘It was something I fell into. I’m not from the Islamic Muslim background, so I’ve learnt a lot about a culture different from my own and it’s given me a great perspective on their culture and traditions,’’ she said.

Hijab House marketing manager Nadine Kanaan said the general rule in the designs was to show only face, hands and feet but the label was not about adhering to religious strictures but rather ensuring it was culturally relevant and appealed to the market.

The designs were often belted to provide a shape, for instance, and were a long way from the all-enveloping burqa. A new release of printed hijab head scarves could sell out in a day.

‘‘The fashion  is very contemporary at the moment because all these girls have been brought up in western society. Their parents have come out here and the girls have been born in Australia and they have very modern views about their religion,’’ Ms Loader said. ‘‘It’s a great time to open people’s eyes that there is a whole new generation of Muslims out there now.’’

Ms Loader said her outsider’s perspective was actually an advantage in tailoring the fashion.

‘‘We look at overseas trends and make it more into a modest fashion,’’ she said.

‘‘We just make sure necklines are appropriate, sleevelines, hemlines are all appropriate. There’s a lot to play with and a lot of restrictions but there is a beautiful outcome in the end.’’

Ms Loader, whose parents Jenny and Bryan Loader live in Farrer, said having the Hijab House designs showcased in her home town at a high-end event such as Fashfest was a wonderful opportunity.

‘‘I think it will open up the audience’s eyes,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s a big niche market and there’s no reason to hide it.’’

Meanwhile, tickets for Fashfest are selling fast, with sales for the 850-seats-a-night event up on the same time last year. A VIP experience has been included for the first time including guaranteed front-row seat, backstage tour and gift bag among the attractions. To buy tickets go to www.fashfest.com.au.