Fashion conscious 'Hipster Hijabis' reinvent Muslim dress code at Dubai fashion festival

A subculture of Muslim fashionistas who have dubbed themselves "Hipster Hijabis" are taking Dubai's Fashion Forward festival by storm.

The fashion-conscious women don the hijab or head scarf in creative and stylish ways, in a bid to prove Muslim women can be trendsetters while staying true to their faith.

American teen fashion blogger and founder of Hipster Hijabis Summer Bulcher has more than 22,800 followers on Instagram, where she posts her latest looks.

She says she took the alliterative moniker to attract underground style seekers.

"At first I thought it sounded really cute because it matched - and then I also knew that I wanted to inspire hipsters, people who stray away from mainstream fashion .. and hijabis, which I represent myself as a Muslim who wears the scarf," she said at Fashion Forward in Dubai.

The Fashion Forward Festival brings together style aficionados from around the world to sample the latest catwalk creations designed for Arab women.

The festival also discusses fashion issues pertinent to Islam, like modesty in fashion.

Many of the young women say there is a huge gap in the market for people who want modest pieces that are still trendy and cutting-edge.

"I want to stay as modest as I can, which is why I still wear a headscarf, but at the same time I like my fashion so I like to incorporate that into modesty," said Somali fashion blogger Dee Mohammed.

Palestinian blogger Maria Al-Sadek said hijabis had traditionally been conservative, so getting hipsters onboard could make the hijab more daring and stylish.

"Most people tend to do the safer route, they're not really into style as much, and hipsters, I guess, they're the ones who cross boundaries and lines that most traditional hijabis didn't do," she said.

Mainstream brands have been slowly catering to this growing demand, with designer label DKNY releasing a Ramadan collection exclusively for the Arabian Gulf, and Karl Lagerfeld also unveiling designs inspired by Middle Eastern culture.

Some more conservative Muslims have criticised the hip hijab movement, saying it contradicts the Islamic principles of humility and simplicity.

Last year a group calling themselves 'Mipsterz', for Muslim hipsters, drew mixed reactions for their video Somewhere In America, showing young American Muslim women showing off their style.

Some commentators criticised them for wearing skinny jeans and tights, saying it defeated the purpose of the hijab as a symbol of modesty, while others like blogger Fatimah Waseem criticised the women for their "fluffed" and "frivolous" treatment of a sacred practice, even saying it is exploitative.

But these women disagree.

"People are resistant to change and people like to keep things the same, they like normality, you do something different, you wear something different it's just like why? It's a stigma to be stylish and resemble Western wear sometimes, and I just think that you have to be confident and do what you believe in and what makes you comfortable," said Ms Al-Sadek.

"Wear what you want - and it's between you and God in the end whether it's right or wrong."