It pretty obvious that more recently than ever, the fashion industry is always looking for ways to celebrate diversity. Sassy, loud and hilarious, Dina Torkia easily fits the bill and has been taking the world by storm with her unconventional attitude that combines both faith and fashion. That’s right – she’s a pioneer in conforming to Muslim modesty while unwavering in fabulousness.
Over the past eight years, vlogger twenty-seven-year-old Dina who after “studying things I had no interest in,” started her blog in 2011. A gorgeous half English and half Egyptian woman, going by the name of Dina Tokio on her various social media, such as her blog, YouTube channel and her Instagram page has used her online presence as a passage for her creativity and to spread awareness about “modest fashion”. She is one of the biggest influences among others as part of a wave of “hijabi bloggers” – Muslim women giving voice to their love of fashion while wearing their hijabs. Growing up between London and Cardiff, fashion was always something she was interested in, but she stopped herself studying design of any sort, or indeed anything related to fashion at university “because I wore a scarf and that would be weird, I’d stick out”
After dropping out of three different courses she took matters into her own hands – with well over a million followers on Instagram and over 720,000 subscribers on YouTube, it’s safe to say that our Muslim muse has had quite the impact ever since starting a Facebook page while at university to share photos of her modelling her self-made clothes. You go girl!
Torkia’s passion for style and flair came from of an overly obvious lack of awareness surrounding the way that Muslim women interact with modern fashion – there’s no denying that we’re all aware that most women’s fashion focus on flaunting large amounts of bare skin, and it’s got to be said that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Yet on the flipside, it doesn’t mean that modesty has to be boring either – she defines modest fashion as meeting the needs of those looking to show less skin, but still, want to slay in their outfits, and why shouldn’t they? “I was really frustrated with the fact that there was no half-decent representation of Muslim women looking stylish, they always kind of looked drab and really religious, which can have negative connotations,” she told The Independent.
“I think of dressing smartly as a way to represent myself and my religion,” she says. “I don’t understand why you can’t be interested in fashion and be a Muslim.” In literally all of her pictures, Torkia wears a headscarf, and her clothes – as chic as they may be, still conform to Muslim standards of modesty. It’s no joke that since she started vlogging about modest fashion that the concept has gained increasing popularity – if you’re still sceptical, look around you in the high streets across the UK: it’s impossible not to find something that suits almost everyone’s needs.
She also points out how one of the biggest challenges for hijabi women face in the fashion world is finding designers who are thoughtful enough to design clothes with Muslim women in mind as part of their normal collections, as opposed to designing clothes that appropriate their culture. “There’s a fear factor around the hijab because of what people see in the news, but this is just me styling scarves in the way I like to”, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this – Muslim women are exceptionally beautiful: they just so happen to take a different route in their style to the rest of us. We live in one of the most multicultural countries in the world, so these differences aren’t as taboo as they’re made out to be from time to time. It must be said that Torkia has noticed that high street brands have undoubtedly become far more inclusive for women who prefer to dress modestly over time
“Seven years ago, when I would shop on the high street, it would be such a mission to find an outfit easily that was suitable for me. It would take me hours,” she says. “I’d have to get a little dress, pair it over jeans and layer it underneath with a long-sleeved top. Back then the style just never looked right.” For the longest time, fashion in Western culture has always been targeted at certain demographics, and it’s difficult to imagine how hard it could be to put an outfit together when nothing ever looks right. But it’s true that times are indeed changing, and since fashion is the future, it’s so important that we get it right, and it’s certainly making its’ way down the right road. “We’re looking for the innovation of the designers just maybe taking a short skirt and making it longer just so we can wear it,” Torkia says. However, while some brands may genuinely be thinking consciously about the modest movement by featuring Muslim men and women in their campaigns, she believes that others may only be doing so as a marketing ploy.
She has since been named one of Vogue’s “New Suffragettes” and is a part of YouTube’s Creators for Change campaign, which aims for equality across the board. “I basically decided to do what I know best which is to talk about Muslim women in a positive light”. In order to achieve true equality, Torkia argues that women of all ethnicities and religions have to be treated in the same way. “We’ll know when we have real inclusivity and freedom of speech and equality in the blogging world and in the fashion world, with every female whether she’s Muslim or not when each one gets the same treatment,” she says. Preach it sister!