At the eastern end of Park Street, beyond the intersection with AJC Bose Road, is a seemingly innocuous store that is whipping up quite a storm in urban Muslim households. For, it is turning the idea of traditional Muslim-wear like burqa and coat on its head by transforming drab nondescript apparel into haute couture.
Welcome to Islamic Boutique, the first fashion store exclusively for women from conservative Muslim households where the veil still rules. The 150-sqft shop retails burqas, coats, hijabs, bonnets and gloves in attractive colours and designs, an inherent contradiction, given that these items are meant to ward off attention. The burqas, brightly coloured and black, are intricately embroidered with sequins and crystals in the neckline, sleeves and hemline. The smartly designed long-length corduroy coats, in pastel shades, sport show buttons. The brightly hued hijabs or scarves come in both the stitched format and otherwise. The slip-on hijabs are extremely popular while the unstitched scarves in varying shades and prints can be tied into place with stone studded brooches. While most of the stuff are either from Mumbai or Hyderabad, the high-end burqas, coats and scarves are imported from Dubai.
South City College student Bushra Dilshad sifted through the racks with wonder. This was her maiden visit to the store that she simply chanced upon on Monday afternoon. "I never knew there are designer burqas. My mother is to leave for Haj shortly and I bought her one," she said. The store that opened some time ago, but did not publicise its presence, has become quite a hit among the elite class in the Muslim community with women spreading the word. They are glad that the shapeless dresses they have to slip on need not be characterless any longer.
Yet, that is in itself a hornet's nest. Aftab Alam, whose friend Muhammad Zafar is the proprietor of Islamic Boutique, pointed out: "In Islam, a woman's body cannot be exposed to either a man or woman lest evil creeps in. The Quran advocates that a woman's body be entirely covered from head to toe when she is before men or women beyond her immediate family so as not to incite any sensual feelings. Hence, designer Islamic wear is an oxymoron. We live in interesting times."