While pursuing an undergraduate degree in journalism and a minor in Middle Eastern studies, Hassanah El-Yacoubi considered fashion a hobby during her time at George Mason University. She launched her blog, known then as PFH: Perfect For Hijabis, with the goal of providing Muslim women with tips on how to incorporate the hijab into modern style.
These days, fashion and blogging are more than just hobbies for El-Yacoubi, who has since changed the name of her blog to PFH: Perfect For Her in order to speak to a larger group of women who choose to dress in a more modest fashion.
“I felt a tremendous sense of obligation to do my part in representing what it meant to be both Muslim and modern,” El-Yacoubi told NBC News about her blog, which highlights everything from modest fashion trends to food to her personal global travels.
“[Perfect For Her] debunks notions that being modest and stylish are mutually exclusive. I’ve made it my mission to cater to this underserved segment of women by offering fashionable, modest clothing options, since the marketplace lags tremendously in providing an acceptable selection of contemporary and trendy fashion that meet the religious needs for Muslim women,” El-Yacoubi said.
She also aims to shine a positive light on Muslim women who have faced discrimination. “The most challenging part is that Muslim women specifically are constantly perceived and portrayed as uneducated, unsophisticated and unstylish in most media outlets, which ultimately has shaped the public’s perception of them,” El-Yacoubi said. “This misconstrued portrayal has caused many Muslim women to struggle with their cultural and religious [identities].”
El-Yacoubi's contributions to changing the conversation has resonated online: with more than 11,000 Instagram followers, her account was recently listed on the Huffington Post's list of “15 Fashionable Muslim Women To Follow On Instagram.”
In a recent blog post, El-Yacoubi praised the announcement that Dolce & Gabbana will release a hijab and abaya collection — a move that puts the fashion house on a growing list of brands, including Tommy Hilfiger and H&M, focused on expanding its reach to Muslim women.
It's a gamble that designers are seeing pay off: according to a recent report on the global Islamic economy from Thomson Reuters, $484 billion is expected to be spent on luxury Muslim fashion by 2019, increasing from $266 billion spent in 2013.
“The ‘new thing’ in fashion is going to be innovation," Melanie Elturk, CEO of Haute Hijab, told NBC News. "Companies need to come up with new strategies to stay relevant and, of course, keep their investors ... So long as the Muslim market is lucrative, the modest fashion industry will continue to grow.”
Elturk adds that the growth in the industry has not gone unnoticed. “I think the Muslim community is starting to finally feel that their very real needs are being acknowledged,” Elturk said.
For El-Yacoubi, who is now pursuing a doctorate degree in Religious Studies with a focus on Islam at the University of California, Riverside, the changing industry is promising.
“We are going to see many more designers and mainstream brands start to cater to the modest fashion market,” she said. “It makes me so excited for a future where our daughters will hopefully not have to struggle to find fashionable, yet modest, contemporary clothing readily available the way we once did.”