– By Thomas Dai –
There’s one scene in Sex and the City 2 that still sticks in my head. It’s one of the few resonant scenes in an otherwise alarmingly dull movie—the segment where Carrie and co are rescued from a mob by a coterie of Middle Eastern women in full length, traditional burqa attire. The Fab 4 are escorted into a private alcove where their rescuers then proceed to strip off their black veils, revealing tribal-inspired ensembles straight off the Louis Vuitton Spring 2009 catwalk. The scene was meant to be an inspirational moment of international girl-power chutzpah that ended up feeling like a back-handed slap at modern Islamic women everywhere, insinuating that Middle Eastern women cannot don cultural garb without seeming antiquated and overtly repressed.
If Reem and Hind Beljafla, the two sisters behind emerging label DAS, have their way; traditional Islamic dress may soon not have to walk hand in hand with stifled femininity. The sisters’ three year old label, an acronym for 3 traditional styles of abaya, is fast gaining a foothold both in the Middle East and in Europe as a collection that caters to modern fashion sensibilities within a traditionally restrictive mode of dress. DAS creates abayas and dresses that are conservative in cut and silhouette yet still modern in their fabrication and color sense. The recent spring 2012 collection featured draped jersey dresses in delicate shell pinks and periwinkle blues, with trailing kimono sleeves, stone inlaid waistlines and patterned hems adding interest to the traditionalist shapes.
Reem Beljafla, the line’s main designer, trained at Central Saint Martins in London before launching the collection in 2008 with the express purpose of infusing traditional Middle Eastern design with “cutting edge style.” Thus far, she has done an admirable job sticking close to her modus operandi. Continually riffing on the same shape is a difficult task for any designer, yet Beljafla has managed to do just that to the classic Muslim abaya with her collections for DAS.