COntemporary muslim fashions

de young musuem, san francisco

As Women Architects born & raised in Iran with an International Architecture & Design firm based in NY City we often find ourselves engaged in today’s widespread conversations surrounding the Muslim Ban and the women’s movement, and at a time when Muslim women are being increasingly targeted for using their fashion choices to assert their independence and identity. We hope that this exhibition will allow a positive review and examination of a community that’s often talked about but rarely given the chance to speak and present itself.
— Gisue Hariri & Mojgan Hariri

Islam is often presented as resistant to modernity and a mix of contrasting spatial and social codes. In contrast, the architecture of this exhibition intends to create a contemporary, 21st Century environment for exhibiting the diverse, complex and at times contradictory nature of Muslim dress code & its different religious interpretations and cultures worldwide. 

The exhibition design explores the interplay between the seen and unseen, the idea of being covered and protected, and contemporary and fashionable at the same time. “We’ve taken inspiration from head covering as a sign of religious and cultural identity, and the gaze, both the male and female, with the spatial configuration of the exhibition allowing the visitors to be seen and to gaze through openings and portals. While the veil is intended to protect women’s bodies from becoming the sexualized object of the male gaze, the “gaze” in this context becomes a charged signifier of sexuality and power.

Our interpretation of this dark, veiled, un-penetrable environment to the outsiders becomes the existing walls of the galleries that we have painted black. Once you enter, you will experience and are introduced to a completely different and new world that is sensual, powerful, and modern. To do this we have chosen an archetypal element common in the architecture of the Islamic world, the Arch which is both protective and at the same time frames the art and the content of the exhibition. All mannequins are displayed on pedestals showing the respect, power, and beauty of the women in the Muslim world. As you progress thru the exhibition the vaults disintegrate and culminate in a transparent fabric covered domes exhibiting the Western couture collections, focusing on how the western fashion in fact has been influenced by the modest dress code of the Islamic cultures.