Fashion warFashion war

A Muslim models a Jewish brand

Orthodox clothing company takes a stand for inter-religious sisterhood as Gaza-Israel tensions rise

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

This photo of blogger "Hipster Hijabis" wearing a Mimu Maxi skirt set off a firestorm. (Courtesy)
This photo of blogger "Hipster Hijabis" wearing a Mimu Maxi skirt set off a firestorm. (Courtesy)

A fashion war of sorts broke out last Saturday night when an Orthodox Jewish clothing company reposted on Facebook and Instagram a photo of a Muslim woman wearing one of its designs.

Some Jewish customers reacted angrily when Mimu Maxi, a small Brooklyn-based fashion line, publicized a photo of a popular St. Louis Muslim fashion blogger known as “Hipster Hijabis” (real name Summer Albarcha) modeling one of its modest, yet trendy designs.

The main issue was the timing. People wanted to know why Mimu Maxi decided to post a photo of a woman in Muslim headdress while war was raging between Israel and Hamas.

“Let’s face it, Israel is currently under attack, and people, our own brothers and sisters, are living in fear! Many people, who will scroll down their feed and suddenly see a Muslim woman in garb on a frum [religious Jewish] clothing page, will, initially, be appalled,” The Village Voice reported one customer as complaining.

“There may have been nothing wrong if the photo was posted in a different time and place, however, it was posted in a time when our brothers need our support.”

Mimi Hecht, who co-founded the company two years ago with her sister-in-law Mushky Notik, told The Times of Israel she was buoyed by the fact that ultimately, the majority of reactions were supportive rather than critical.

“It was the right thing to do,” Hecht, 28, said of the decision to post the photo. Hecht had sent Albarcha a lime-green maxi skirt to try on. The understanding was that the blogger would post a photo on Instagram of herself wearing a styled outfit featuring the skirt. In return, Mimu Maxi would repost the image on its social media pages and feeds.

“I would never breach an agreement with a blogger for no good reason,” Hecht stated.

“I find it very satisfying that beautiful, feminine Muslim women are inspired by and representing our Jewish brand,” she said. Because of its emphasis on modesty, Mimu Maxi also has a devoted following among Mormons and Pentecostal Christians.

“When we started Mimu Maxi, it was very much about us finally having some amazing modest and trendy pieces. The fact that our brand has somehow been able to bridge gaps with other religions and celebrate the beauty of modesty beyond Judaism is a very, very good thing,” added 25-year-old Notik.

Designs by Mimu Maxi such as these are attracting modesty-conscious fashionistas from a variety of religious communities. (Courtesy)
Designs by Mimu Maxi such as these are attracting modesty-conscious fashionistas from a variety of religious communities. (Courtesy)

Although Hecht understands the visceral reaction of Jewish customers to anything Muslim, especially during a tense period, she is at the same time embarrassed by it. She characterizes Mimu Maxi as an “open, embracing, fun Jewish brand” and she resolves to continue collaborating creatively with Muslim bloggers.

In addition, she strongly refutes accusations that she purposely posted the photo of Albarcha as a publicity stunt to coincide with the company’s release of a number of new items.

“That accusation is really the most hurtful,” she shared.

Hecht said she has been amazed by the volume of supportive messages pouring in from women of all religious backgrounds, like the one from a Muslim woman who has decided to order Mimu Maxi clothes for the first time because of the stance taken by the company.

“The last week has been stressful with the sensitive situation in Israel and Gaza—especially when my social media is filled sadly with racist commentary with both anti-Palestinian/Muslim and anti-Semitic overtones,” the woman wrote. “So it’s been refreshing and hopeful…to see someone highlight the importance of good relations between people of two faiths.”

In the end, Hecht sees the uproar of the past few days as a positive experience. “We’ve broken through a barrier,” she reflected.

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