The Thai fashion industry is unarguably huge. But despite its massive size, fashion for Muslims, which requires specific designs and silhouettes to adhere to religious codes, have never really seen mainstream marketing. This despite the millions of Muslims in the kingdom, millions that account for huge purchasing power. While countries like Indonesia and Malaysia support their Islamic fashion designers, Thailand has been very lukewarm about Thai-Muslim fashion—at least, until recently.
At the recent STYLE, the country’s biggest government-funded gifts and fashion trade fair, one brand stood out for presenting beautifully designed Islamic pieces. Musleena, the brainchild of Muslim designer Leena, is probably one of the most stylish Islamic brands in the country. The brand garbs clients in colorful robes, pleated shirtdresses, decorated jackets, silky hijab and embroidered caps—all of which are designed with respects to Islamic culture.
An art graduate of Bangkok’s KMITL and London’s Kingston College, Leena first pursued fashion as a hobby. “I love all things textile. And I like to match my style with who I am, so it became fabric and fashion items that reflect the Islamic culture,” Leena says. One of her first pieces, and perhaps her best-selling one, is a pleated shirtdress called Pleat Abaya, which won an award in a Muslim fashion competition in the UK. She developed the design and later launched it through social media back in Thailand. “I sold 30 on the first day on social media,” she recalls.
Originality and thoughtful function go into every design that Leena produces. Referring to her brand as a “fusion of art and faith,” Leena has fashioned Musleena as the the stylish solution for modern and fashion-forward Muslim ladies. Despite flaunting unconventional color and designs, the brand’s designs still carry traditionally Muslim prints (no prints or patterns involving animals) and silhouettes (clothes should cover one’s hair, neck, legs, and arms with details designed for daily religious rituals). “I call my clothes ‘functional fashion.’” says the designer. “They not only look beautiful but they also to cater to our Muslim lifestyle. For example, sleeves are designed so they can be turned up when we cleanse before daily prayer, or dresses should be made of comfy fabric and must not be too tight or too revealing.” These dresses—if you choose appropriate colors—can also be worn when joining the hajj. “I even have clients from the Middle East.”
But to remain true to her identity, Leena always injects Thai elements and oriental motifs, such as Thai indigo, Thai silk and Thai embroidery— into all her designs. “It’s hard to talk about goals because these all came from my passion. It all happened naturally. I feel like Allah told me to do this,” the designer humbly says. “But since it’s getting more serious, I have a goal to become the first Thai-Muslim designer to be known on an international level.”