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Not your mother’s Islam: the stylish women of Istanbul

All images © Monique Jaques

A project about fashion in Istanbul challenges commonly held stereotypes about Islamic women

“Istanbul is such a diverse place, so naturally the fashion world matches that,” says photojournalist Monique Jaques, who lives in the city. “I wanted to highlight the unique relationship women have with fashion – that you can dress in a conservative but expressive, colourful and modern way.”

Jaques, whose work has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Telegraph, began shooting the images for the series in 2011, during Istanbul’s Islamic Fashion Week. She photographed catwalk shows and behind-the-scenes activities for two days, but continues to add to the series, contacting fashion bloggers and magazines about photographing their events and shoots.

“I really love working on this project because it challenges the conventional stereotypes that Islamic women can’t be fashionable,” says Jaques. “The women I photographed jokingly said, ‘This isn’t your mother’s Islam.’ There are many homegrown design houses in Istanbul, such as Armine and Tekbir, as well as Ala, a fashion magazine that translates modern trends for conservative ladies. There is a huge market for high-end conservative fashion in Turkey and a growing demand for it in the Middle East.”

This trend for stylish yet modest garments is played out in blogs such as Mipsters (Muslim Hipsters), says Jaques, who describes Istanbul as a European city in which people dress conservatively, albeit more liberally than in Saudi Arabia or Iran. “All of the women I photographed were very open and excited to work on the project. I believe they were eager to show the world how trendy they can be. For me, this project is about colour and light, and getting that exuberance to shine through the images.”

Find more of Monique’s work here.

First published in the April 2014 issue. To read more from this issue, visit the BJP Shop.