Dozens filed in and out of Seek Refuge’s first clothing line launch party held in the Michigan League’s Hussey Room on Tuesday evening. Seek Refuge is an organization, founded by Dearborn native Shazia Ijaz, committed to bringing awareness to aid refugees, empower women and represent Muslims through its clothing line. The organization currently gives a portion of its proceeds to a refugee aid program and was recently featured in Vogue magazine.
In its mission statement, Seek Refuge stresses the need to empower millennial Muslim women, and says the clothing line combines Islamic messages and aesthetics with American style to produce a forward fashion choice for millennial Muslim women.
The mission statement continues to focus on how Muslim women are misrepresented in society and how “in today’s social and political climate, it is crucial to accurately represent American Muslims in society.”
The mission statement was echoed at the event, as a video played on repeat showing President Donald Trump exclaiming, “Islam hates us” and other Islamophobic comments made by political figures and other figures in the media. The sequence was then followed by a segment with Seek Refuge founder Shazia Ijaz, a University of Michigan alum, who briefly explained Seek Refuge’s message.
Four models sported the four clothing pieces currently released by Seek Refuge as the video, mentioned above, played in the background, and Ijaz spoke with event guests.
Ijaz described the label as,“the world’s first streetwear clothing brand for Muslim women.”
“What makes Seek Refuge different as a brand is that we focus on representing Muslim women through our Islamic designs and not through enforcing a modesty standard,” she said. “We design clothes that work for Muslim women who practice all levels of modesty … And our American street style combined with our Islamic designs allow women who are millennial Muslims to feel like they’re representing their religion and their culture at the same time.”
When discussing her motivation to start the brand and help empower millennial Muslim women, Ijaz cited today’s Islamophobic climate.
“We focus on Muslims, women and refugees because those are three groups that we feel have been targeted since the 2016 election, for example, with sexist rhetoric, with the Muslim ban and with the decreased number of refugees being accepted into the United States,” she said. “These are things that we are actively fighting against with our clothes and our brand and our voice.”
Each of the four models on the platform exhibited one of the clothing line’s shirts, hoodies or jackets. One of the pieces, an ocean blue jean jacket, sported the phrase “Seek Refuge” and an Arabic poem on the back.
Ijaz described the meaning of the poem and its representation of the refugee experience.
“It's written by a Syrian Refugee,” she said. “It is about their journey and about their feelings of being displaced from their home and forced into a country where they don’t feel comfortable … But they can’t go back to their home.”
LSA senior Nazmun Nahar was thrilled when given the opportunity to model for the clothing brand at the event, as she feels the brand gives Muslim women a new way to express themselves.
“I’m a Muslim woman and it does represent me because I do wear street style a lot so I’m really happy that this is a thing now, she said.
LSA junior Adam Bowen was fascinated by Seek Refuge’s efforts to use fashion as a source of activism for refugees.
“I think it’s a really cool mission, the idea of working the fashion industry into activism because it’s something that can be really left out,” he said. “It’s hard to find a way to be progressive with fashion.”
The event was co-sponsored by the University's Muslim Students' Association, the South Asian Awareness Network, Humanity First, the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program, Students Organize for Syria at the University of Michigan, Michigan Pakistanis, Redefine and MPak.
In an interview, Ijaz told Vogue she hopes her brand ensures Muslim women feel empowered as leaders in today's society.
“It’s more important than ever for the next generation of Muslim leaders to feel represented in our society and to represent our religion as it really is: a peaceful one,” she said.