As part of a new series by photographer Nina Manandhar and Getty Images, The New Mods explores style, identity, and religion
While hijabi and modestly-dressed models are slowly beginning to infiltrate catwalks – with the likes of Ikram Abdi Omar walking for Molly Goddard, and Halima Aden appearing at Yeezy and scoring herself a Nike campaign – young Muslim women are still woefully underrepresented in both fashion and the wider media. Setting out to change that, though, is photographer Nina Manandhar, who teamed up with Getty Images to create new series The New Mods.
Depicting a day in the life of a group of friends at home and out and about in West London, the photographs offer a snapshot of the next generation of Muslim women, their relationships, and their individual style. It also marks a move towards a more diverse, inclusive future for Getty. “They’re really focusing on real people with authentic stories, with an emphasis on style, which I love,” she explains. “I’d seen the images that Campbell Addy created for them recently, and I was aware they were really working to diversify their collections, so I got in touch with Josie (Gealer Ng, art director at Getty) and it went from there.”
The project follows on from Manandhar’s book, What We Wore, in which she explored how youth communities express their allegiances and individual identities through their style – “in this case, I really wanted to delve into how they negotiate and express their sense of religious identity in the 21st century,” she says. “Josie and I also really wanted the images to capture a genuine sense of friendship and energy between the girls. And it was Ramadan during the time we had decided to shoot, so none of us could eat until after the sun went down – it kind of felt like we were capturing a ritual, too, something that is a big part of their lives.”
Here, we hear more from the group featured – Johar, Aba, Fatin, and Fatma – about their friendships, their religion, their style, and what dressing modestly means to them.
JOHAR AMER, 19
“Modest style to me doesn’t only stop at Muslim-wear or hijabs, as I see modesty is required in other religions as well – it’s just a form of respect towards the religion and towards other people. I would describe my identity as religious and modern. My whole life I was known as ‘the religious one, but she’s cool’, and I guess that’s true. I was raised in an Islamic way, and Islam is more of a lifestyle than just a religion, but I’m still part of this generation, and I love fashion and expressing myself through style and art, so being known as religious and cool is fine with me.
The internet has played a big role in spreading the idea of modest-wear, and through that we’ve built communities and supported each other. And there were people who I look up to, like Dina Tokio, who really changed things with her blogging and her style.”
ABA SHARIFF, 19
“Everyone has their own idea of what modest fashion means – for me, I cover up to fulfil religious requirements, but also to attain a certain level of comfort. The Muslim sisterhood is a really supportive community which inspires and motivates me to try new things. The internet can honestly be a great place if you know how to use it. I actually work with a collective called Redefining Concepts, which is a platform for young creatives that started in London, but now operates globally. We aim to explore and reimagine culture, diversity, and modesty through creative editorials and features, and I even met my best friend through social media six years ago.
That big brands are embracing ‘modest fashion’ and trying to appeal to a different audience – an audience which I am supposedly a part of – is great, but I don’t believe clothing needs to be labelled as ‘modest’ necessarily. You can easily find clothing and make it modest. It’s all about your creativity and whether you’re willing to experiment to make it work.”
FATIN JAMEEL (RIGHT), 20
“It’s very difficult to describe my identity, but I would say I am a Muslim, a woman, an African, an Arab, and British. But, altogether, I’m me, and I demonstrate that through my clothing and my style – which allows me to express all corners of my identity and its complexities. Something as small as wearing a necklace with the African continent on it, or wearing my headscarf in a turban style highlights all that I am. Modest style for me means being able to show my personality, my uniqueness, and myself through clothing that follows the way of Islam. It’s the best of both worlds.”
FATMA SADIQ, 21
“My identity is simple: I am a Muslim. My style has allowed me to express this as people automatically associate it with my religion. In essence, dressing in a modest way is an act of worship: it means you put God above conformity and dress in a way which does not take into account fads or fashion. Fashion changes, modest style doesn’t.
On the one hand, I think that brands are embracing ‘modest fashion’ is brilliant, as it is definitely helping to dismantle the narrative that covering up or dressing modestly is offensive or oppressive. On the other, I still feel that high street brands have a narrow perception of what it means to dress modestly, which aligns with Western standards of modesty – which of course is fine, given we live in Western society. But while effort is being made and progression is evident, I still don’t think high street brands have a firm grasp on their audience.”
Check out the full shoot in the gallery above.