Islamic Fashion Flourishes in Muslim-Friendly Japan

TOKYO – As Japan prepares for 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Muslim fashion exporters are vying to enter the Japanese market for “modest” clothing, capitalizing on the success of halal products for years in the Asian country.

“Through Muslim fashion, we aim to have Japanese understand Muslims, as well as to have foreigners understand the Japanese,” Shinichi Orita, president and chief executive, of the Japan Muslim Fashion Association (JMFA), told The National newspaper on March 26.

Estimates of the Muslim population in Japan vary between 70,000 and 150,000 among the country’s total of more than 126 million people.

The Japanese general fashion market is huge as well and forecast to grow to US$72.72 billion by 2020 from $63.72bn last year, according to the data compiler Statista.

Orita, the president of the body formed in April 2015, said he was optimistic about Muslim fashion exporters’ chances of success in Japan, due to the Japanese culture to cover.

“The environment for Muslims is steadily improving here. In addition, the Japanese kimono has an affinity with ‘Muslim fashion’, as there is a [traditional] culture to cover the skin” among Japanese people, he added.

Yo Nonaka, who specializes in Islamic studies and is the faculty of policy management professor at Keio University’s Graduate School of Media and Governance, echoed Orita’s sentiments.

According to Nonaka, many Japanese women do not think that revealing skin is acceptable.

“I think that Japan, like other Asian countries, has traditionally had a culture that hides the skin,” she said.

“So, in fact, Japanese women’s affinity with Muslim fashion is strong,” Nonaka added.

Nonaka says big Japanese brands such as Uniqlo are now using the term “modest fashion” and she believes that is something exporters and local designers should consider.

“I think that using the term ‘modest’ is a declaration that the market is not limited to just Muslims, and that would make the fashion more appealing to non-Muslims.”