Designers seek to shatter anti-Muslim stereotypes in West
WITTEN, Germany | T-shirts and hoodies declare “Terrorism has no religion.” A head-covering tunic bears the message: “Hijab. My right. My choice. My life.”
A German fashion label is out to tell the world that Islam isn’t just compatible with Western values of tolerance and free expression — it can be hip, too.
The project was born in 2006 as Muslims protested across Europe against Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Designer Melih Kesmen became fed up with the anti-Muslim stereotypes that sprang up over the protests as well as the protesters’ immature efforts.
So Mr. Kesmen, a practicing Muslim born and raised in Germany to Turkish parents, decided to express his feelings through fashion.
“I first created a sweater just for myself with the slogan ‘I love my Prophet’ to take a stand as a peace-loving, tolerant Muslim,” said the 34-year-old designer, sporting designer glasses and a black goatee.
The reaction was huge: People kept stopping him in the street to ask where he had found the top.
Mr. Kesmen quickly realized he’d found a market gap.
Together with his wife, Yeliz, he set out to create Style Islam, a brand of hip, casual clothing with Islamic-themed sayings as its focus.
More than three years on, Style Islam offers 35 different motifs that playfully merge Islam and pop culture. Besides clothing, their collection also features bags and posters.
“Women love buying rompers with the writing ‘Mini Muslim’ across their chest,” said Mrs. Kesmen, 30, who wears a brown hijab, or headscarf, and silver nose stud.