arab fashion and identity
The Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibition showcases the diversity of Arab and Muslim fashion styles and highlights Arab participation in the global and regional fashion industry. Join Cooper Hewitt for an engaging discussion about fashion and identity in the Arab world and diaspora, moderated by consulting exhibition curator Reina Lewis. Panelists include women’s rights advocate and scholar Dr. Lina Abirafeh; artist Mona Haydar, whose music video “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab)” went viral in 2017; and designer, writer, and advocate Céline Semaan, co-founder and Executive Director of Slow Factory.
This conversation will explore the role of style and appearance in the cultural life of the multi-faith Arab global population and the politics of looking Arab or being presumed to be Arab and/or Muslim in different locations in the U.S. and around the world. Drawing from their powerful experiences of melding creativity with activism to challenge gender-based discrimination and to call out Islamophobia, speakers will reflect on the diversity and significance of expressing Arab identity through fashion, music, and visual culture.
This program is organized in collaboration with London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, and the Arab Institute for Women, Lebanese American University.
Reina Lewis (Moderator) is an academic and public intellectual who is Centenary Professor of Cultural Studies at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. Her books include: Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures (2015), Rethinking Orientalism: Women, Travel and the Ottoman Harem (2004), and Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation (1996). She is editor of Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith, (2013), and (with Peter Horne) of Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Visual Cultures (1996). Lewis was consulting curator for the exhibition Contemporary Muslim Fashions and is co-editor of the accompanying catalogue with Jill D’Allesandro.
Dr. Lina AbiRafeh is a global women’s rights expert with decades of experience worldwide. She serves as the Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University, an academic/activist institute covering the 22 Arab states. Her specific expertise is in gender-based violence prevention and response. Abirafeh speaks and publishes frequently on a range of gender issues, most recently on the need for a feminist response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Arab women and girls.
Mona Haydar is a young Syrian-American Muslim performance poet and musician. In 2015, she gained national and international press for the “Ask A Muslim” booth project, created with her husband in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks. In 2017, she broke into the hip-hop music scene with the viral track Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab), which was named by Billboard Magazine as one of the top feminist anthems of all time. Haydar regularly performs her poetry and music, leads writing and activism workshops, and speaks at universities and colleges about art, Islam, feminism, hip hop, theology, and inter-faith dialogue. She earned her Master’s Degree in Theology, focusing on Christian Ethics, from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Céline Semaan is a Lebanese-Canadian researcher, designer, public speaker, and entrepreneur. She is the co-founder and executive director of Slow Factory Foundation, an education, research, advocacy and empowerment organization promoting systemic change towards regenerative social and environmental systems. Her mission with Slow Factory is to support Black, Brown, Indigenous, and minority ethnic voices, change makers, organizations and brands in disrupting exploitative human rights and environmental practices. With a background in art, digital literacy, and open data, Semaan has been working at the intersection of fashion, politics, and climate since 2003 and continues to creatively envision and design regenerative systems. She has penned critical pieces for outlets such as Elle, New York Magazine and Teen Vogue and her work has been covered by the New York Times, Vogue, WWD, Harper’s Bazaar and more.
This free program will feature a moderated panel discussion followed by an audience Q&A hosted through Zoom, with the option to dial in as well. Details will be emailed to you upon registration. This program includes closed captioning. For general questions or if we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation, please email us at CHEducation@si.edu or let us know when registering.
Participants will have the opportunity to submit questions live for the Q&A portion. If you would like to submit a question in advance, please email CHEducation@si.edu. Due to time constraints, please note that all questions may not be answered.
Contemporary Muslim Fashions is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
The Cooper Hewitt presentation of Contemporary Muslim Fashions is made possible by support from the August Heckscher Exhibition Fund.
Additional support is provided by the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery Endowment Fund and Edward and Helen Hintz.
Funding is also provided by the Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program Fund.