Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan was calm as she prepared for her moment at NYFW: The Shows (NYFWS). Carefully inspecting her creations, scissors in hand, she clipped loose threads from the collection of silk, chiffon, and jacquard dresses, tops, dusters and pants. Her demeanor epitomized the world view of the Muslim woman―quiet, respectful, humble, and polite. But this woman with the sparkling personality and easy laugh, is indeed a powerhouse of creativity. That talent exploded during her show with an aftermath of roaring applause and accolades during a standing ovation.
Aside from the distinction as the first Indonesian designer to show at NYFW: The Shows, her spring 2017 collection “Jakarta,” influenced by the cultural uniqueness of indigenous tribes and foreign backgrounds of her hometown’s residents, was inspired. The collection lit up the catwalk with vibrant colors, shimmering silks, intriguing patterns, and a glamorous, polished picture of the Muslim woman on the worldwide stage of international fashion. Each piece featured the hijab, a head covering that many Muslim women wear. The piece de resistance was a metallic gown with winged sleeves, a floor length pearl veil with an encrusted hijab.
“Creativity is there because you have the passion,” she says. “Restriction makes you more creative.” She truly proved her point, defying all notions of restriction with loose fitting looks alive with a joie de vivre. Dazzling outfits for day and evening incorporated the current trend―layered looks, statement necklaces, wide belts and bows, blinged-out sun shades, and even a bejeweled hijab. The intricate beadwork, incorporating pearls and sequins were breathtakingly beautiful. The rainbow of violets, pinks, greens, golds, and silvers was a visual feast, coupled with sophisticated, yet eye-popping patterns.
“Every woman wants to be pretty, elegant and glamorous regardless of her religious values,” the designer told Fashion Reverie. “That is the very basic instinct of women.” Her contribution to the modest fashion movement, is tied to her personal goal of providing Muslim women with “creative choices” for their wardrobe. “I am trying to show the world that you can express yourself and your passion for fashion, while wearing your hijab and adhering to your religious values,” she said, adding, “that doesn’t mean you can’t be elegant and comfortable with yourself.”
Historically, there are three types of hijab. The most extreme is the entire face covering burqa, with an eye slit, a nikab which covers the nose and mouth, while the hijab worn in the west, is just a head covering which is generally drawn close around the face. But Mrs. Hasibuan’s style is a flashback to the 50s and 60s when American and European women wore head scarves to keep their hair in place, while riding with car windows rolled down.
Her foray into fashion was initially self-serving. “I desperately needed clothes,” she said, due to traveling with her husband on business. “It started as a hobby,” she explained, since learning to sew at an early age. But after showing in London in 2015, she took design courses, which put her on a path toward NYFWS. “The response has been so tremendously positive. This is the time to enter the US market.”
Modesty, she believes, serves a spiritual purpose. “By actually putting on a simple, elegant cut of fabric and great patterns you feel beautiful, although you are covering yourself. With that kind of model your inner beauty will be revealed.”