When Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle Woods couldn’t get a scallop trim made on the outer hoop skirt of her wedding dress in the film Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde because the material was too delicate, she said the famous words that any fashionista who grew up in the new millennium would remember: ‘If the fabric doesn’t work with you, don’t work with it’.
27-year-old Murcyleen Peerzada, founder of the Murcyleen Peerzada modest fashion label, followed a similar premise when she began to design the ‘healthy abaya’. Born and raised in the bustling city of Mumbai, Murcyleen started off as a stylist and assistant costume director at Yash Raj Films, one of India’s largest film production and distribution companies. Not long after, a personal shift strengthened her connection to Islam and Murcyleen decided to dress more modestly.
After a visit to Dubai in search of trendier options of modest clothes than the subcontinent could offer her, the fashion-savvy Murcyleen fell in love with the quintessentially Arab cloak- the abaya– and decided to bring it back home. After waving goodbye to Bollywood in 2012, Murcyleen worked on establishing her namesake brand, which finally launched it in March 2017, offering a variety of stylish abaya and modest clothes designs to the modest-conscious women of India, the Middle East, and beyond.
But, Murcyleen soon discovered that dressing modestly came at a price. With the majority of her body covered up when out in public, Murcyleen found out that she, like numerous other women who also cover up, had become vitamin D deficient.
‘Vitamin D deficiency is rising at an alarming rate in the regions I’m in – Dubai and India,’ says Murcyleen. ‘Studies show that Muslim women have this deficiency more [ than others] due to their dual layers of clothing’.
With medical research linking low levels of the sunshine vitamin to a bundle of physical and mental and health problems like cancer and depression, Murcyleen decided to do something about it.
She began to search for fabric that would allow the sun to penetrate the skin, while also being thick enough not to be see-through and therefore immodest. After months of tedious testing with various types of fabrics, Murcyleen found the answer in Microsol, a fabric traditionally used for swimwear.
Using the vitamin D-friendly fabric, Murcyleen recently designed and debuted eight abayas that have been dubbed the ‘healthy abayas’. They currently come only in black and customers will soon be able to order them through the Murcyleen Peerzada online store.
When you wear the healthy abaya, ‘you get your dose of vitamin D without the additional harmful components of sunlight’, says Murcyleen. ‘This is the biggest difference between regular abayas and the healthy abaya’. But they are also stylish and affordable, she adds.
Having tried and tested it on herself, she has noticed positive changes in her health.
‘The healthy abaya is something that is close to my heart,’ expresses Murcyleen. ‘I hope this range brings some benefit into people’s lives, especially Muslim women’.
With the abaya industry being one of the most responsive industries in the Arabian Peninsula to innovations in style and design, it’s not difficult to envision the concept of the healthy abaya gaining wide popularity amongst abaya makers as well as the masses, not only because awareness about the dangers of vitamin D deficiency is at an all-time high regionally, but there has also been a noticeable emergence of fabrics with innovative qualities on a global scale too.
For example, Google’s Advanced Technology Projects Group partnered up with researchers from UC Berkley in 2016 to create smart fabric that can change the color and pattern of clothes and textiles, using new technology known as Ebb. Similarly, researchers in Stanford University recently developed a reversible fabric that can cool you down or warm you up, depending on how you wear it.
It seems that in the near future, how clothing looks or fits won’t be your only concerns when shopping; functionality will increasingly rise as an additional, determining factor when more of these advanced fabrics appear in clothes sold in stores.
Sharifah Alhinai is the Managing Storyteller at Sekka.