The Australian Muslim foray with Modest Fashion took an interesting leap this year when presented with an opportunity to be part of a global initiative which originated in the streets of downtown Detroit, USA.
In June 2013, I was midway through curating the Melbourne exhibition content for ‘Faith fashion Fusion: Australian Muslim Women’s Style and Identity’ for the Immigration Museum when I received a Facebook message from a ‘Langston Hues’, a photographer from Detroit, USA.
I was familiar with his work having seen his incredible images of modest street styles, including renowned fashionistas overseas, commencing with his hometown and now across the US coast. When he reached out to include me in his Modest Street Fashion book, owing to him observing my fashion sense through social media, I experienced a surreal moment.
The pressure of curating a fashion exhibition had propelled me into a frenzy of ‘strategic sartorial selfies’, in a bid to promote the upcoming event. And it appeared my efforts hadn’t gone unnoticed in the online Muslim fashion world, knowing that my work ethic would be the catalyst in linking me with Langston’s project and potentially organising his visit to Australia. I was grateful for the contact on Facebook; my selfies juggernaut at last paying dividends.
After our initial conversation I realised the logistical issues impairing my involvement in the book given Langston was in the US and I was knee-deep curating in Melbourne. I recall candidly mentioning, “Well unless you’re planning to include Australia in your book, I can’t be in it.”
Not long after Faith Fashion Fusion officially opened to the public in October, I immediately began exploring the viability of Langston’s Australian tour.
Several weeks later, consisting of calls and emails to bloggers, boutiques and industry colleagues across the nation, the programme was planned. Langston’s reputation as a fashion photographer aficionado was currency enough to garner their sponsorship.
In early February 2014, seven months after our first chat, this well travelled, amiable and boundlessly energetic fashion photographer landed in Melbourne airport. In the ensuing week of Langston’s visit, I scheduled shoots with bloggers, fashionistas and boutiques in Melbourne and Sydney, before he took off to Indonesia, via Perth, for another prearranged shoot.
Traveling with Langston, I observed him to be the consummate photographer, evidenced in the way he engaged his subjects before and during photo-shoots, capturing truly exquisite portraits. I often wonder if he appreciates the magnitude of his talent.
Further, I observed Langston impressively engage in public forums and media interviews with an intelligence and candour beyond his years. This guy was a genius, keenly aware that he was a male taking part in a Modest Fashion conversation, dominated by women. Through respect, he deftly navigated his role as a documenter of this phenomenon while acknowledging his niche in this burgeoning industry that allowed him to visit over 18 countries and photograph in excess of 400 subjects. He was clearly doing something right.
Langston and I spoke at length about the way a book like Modest Street Fashion might provide a counterpoint from which Muslim women’s identity could be gauged, rather than be forever dissected by those outside the community. It is noteworthy that it took a male to deliver a highly awaited publication in Modest Street Fashion for a western market, representing a platform for females to emerge as flag bearers of identity on their terms.
For this artistically inspired and socially relevant book that is bound to engage supporters, enquirers and critics alike in vibrant conversation, I commend Langston.
*Langston Hues debut publication, ‘Modest Street Fashion’ is due for release in November this year.
Images: Behind the scenes as Langston photographs Sara Yousef (dress) and Patrice Katehos (pants) at a location in Surry Hills, as part of the Sydney leg of his Australian tour.