When you first look at Kim Kardashian as styled by Kanye, it’s clear that there’s more going on than clothes. It’s an attempt to be taken more seriously, as a businesswoman and as the wife of a music and fashion mogul. But last year it hit me: her style isn’t unique. It’s just like that of the first lady of Qatar – Sheikha Mozah. The monocoloured outfits, the long dresses – it’s all classic Mozah power-dressing. All that’s missing is a Hermès hijab with a cheeky fringe poking out – although the way fashion is going, I wouldn’t be surprised to see all the Kardashians in niqab come 2017.
Of course, there are limits to these similarities. Oil money buys certain things that reality TV money can’t. I mean, the emir of Qatar owns Harrods. But Kim’s transformation from Armenian Barbie straight out of the bandage dress factory to ambiguously ethnic video game warlord – and the way it has been emulated – says a lot.
Almost every high-street store is brimming with ankle-length coats, jackets and long dresses in muted palettes. Bargain online retailers such as Boohoo and Asossell out of long, flowing jackets on a monthly basis. Topshop and Monki sell dresses with matching trousers. The classic “oh, this old thing” faux coy Instagram outfit pose (eyes down, hand on hip, leg jutting out) has been taken over by full-length shots of long coat outfits. The palette is mostly white, camel, khaki and black. The long jacket says: “I could show you more, but, like, I don’t want to? So look at my totally comfortable five-inch platform-free sandals instead.” The muted palette says: “I’m not overthinking this.”
The quick and easy way to do this is to drape yourself in a long camel coat – another Kim K staple. It’s bold but effortless, it brings timelessness to any outfit and it photographs well. The camel coat is about aspiration and comfort. It’s as iconic as the MA1 bomber jacket or a puffa.
I only wish these trends had been around when I was younger. Being a millennial hijabi mostly involved a vortex of frumpy C&A Clockwork dresses and kameezes over trousers with a triangular cloth headscarf. Forget smart and casual dilemmas, I was having to dress for three different audiences: mates, parents and bitchy aunties. That’s a lot of changing at bus stops and on the train. In contrast, my little sister has the same outfit for all three audiences. Well, maybe with a blander brand of modesty thrown in for the bitchy aunties.
But this isn’t about how I’m jealous of today’s teens, even though they’ll never know how lucky they are to be able to buy an entire look in Primark and have HD brows from birth. Today’s trends show just how laughable it is that there are still people who have a problem with hijab. Long jacket + jeans = fashion. Long jacket + jeans + hijab = OpRRessED!!! Won’t someone save these poor women? AsRichard Dawkins says, Islam needs a feminist revolution. If we don’t teach Muslim women how oppressed they are, who the hell will write memoirs with a sexy eyed niqab image on the cover? Terrabytes of stock photos of forlorn Muslim women will go to waste.
Thanks to social media, the turnover from underground trend, to catwalk, to high street, to bin, is quicker than ever. But camel coat hijabis are a subculture in their own right. The reason they’re not researched or pandered to as such is because trend forecasters see religion as a no-go zone. Your average trend forecaster has their head so far up Rihanna’s Instagram they probably don’t even realise shisha is a social activity.
A few years ago, I wrote a piece that, without my knowledge, was entitled “Is Muslim fashion finally ‘on trend’?” I was miffed people have a tendency just to read the headline and skip straight to the comments – who’d have thought it? – but I don’t mind any more. Because you know what, it is on trend. Menswear, too – I regularly find myself playing a game I like to call “Art school student or revert to Islam?” With all the beards and long shirts, it’s hard to tell the difference these days. Must be a nightmare for airport profilers.