ANKARA: Turkish fashion bloggers are proving a big hit across the Arab world as growing numbers of Muslim women seek new ways to express themselves while remaining true to their religious and cultural values.
Wafa Alkhalifa, from Riyadh, has followed Turkish blogger Gulsum Elkhatroushi on Instagram since they met in London last year at a shopping mall.
“I couldn’t take my eyes off her hijab, it was so elegant. So when I asked her where she bought it from, I learned that she was a fashion blogger and at the same time a designer,” Alkhalifa told Arab News.
Elkhatroushi, who is married to a Libyan, is one of the most followed fashion bloggers, especially among conservative women, and has 244,000 followers on Instagram. She is mostly followed by the young and wealthy. “One-third of my followers are from the Arab world and the Middle East. One of my dreams is to set up a branch in that region — which is a big mystery for me — to get closer to my female audience,” she said.
“My fashion concept is to conserve the inherent characteristics of cultural roots and incorporate it into fashion trends. I think Arab women are very successful at this.”
The popularity of Turkish soap operas has helped to promote Turkish fashion and bloggers. Meanwhile, a Turkish magazine, Ala — dubbed the “Vogue of the Veiled” — has offered creative interpretations of Muslim-conscious fashion since 2012.
Turkey’s expanding middle class, youthful population and digitalization of the retail sector has made fashion an increasingly important industry.
The Turkish e-commerce market is set to grow by 17.3 percent this year, according to Statista, an online business intelligence portal. The Turkish e-commerce market was worth $6,605 million in 2018, similar to Saudi Arabia’s at $6,128.2 million, it said.
Gamze Biran, a 30-year-old blogger, said her 124,000 online followers include many Arab women who choose clothes to make them feel better regardless of fashion trends.
“I have a strong audience in the Arab world. I’m glad they like my style and are inspired by me. I get nice feedback about the accessories and foulards (scarves) I use with my clothes,” she said.
“I think that Turkish fashion bloggers are increasingly reaching out to the Arab world and the Middle East because there are many common religious and cultural values. We resemble each other in terms of body shape and beauty concepts.”
Saudi Arabia is Turkey’s third-biggest export market in the Middle East for clothing, worth $169.5 million in the first half of 2017, according to the General Secretariat of Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporter Associations.
Turkish bloggers face competition from Kuwait, Lebanon and Dubai, including Huda Khattan, Hanadi Diab and Najla Kadour, but have carved out an important niche.
Hurrem Ahu Kalfa, who has a Turkish father and Saudi Arabian mother, is a blogger and organizer of fashion events for wealthy and devout women in Turkey. She has 229,000 followers on Instagram.
“For the past couple of years, I have been selling my modern-style hijab caps on Instagram,” she said. “I have many clients within Turkey and abroad, including from Gulf countries.”
Shahad is a young Saudi who recently started to follow Kalfa on Instagram. “The reason I follow Turkish fashion bloggers is that I like Turkish fashion and Turkey in general,” she said. “Following Turkish television was also influential in my decision.”