March 19, 2015 By Lauren Cochrane

Fashion blogger Dina Torkia: ‘There’s a fear factor around the hijab’

Dina Torkia

In a lot of ways, Dina Torkia is a typical fashion blogger. The 25-year-old’s Days of Dolls site is full of pictures of her trying out new trends against an urban backdrop and has the usual smattering of self-promotion (for her recently launched clothing range). Torkia – who blogs under the name Tokio – also has the requisite social media stats: more than 33,000 followers on Instagram and videos on Youtube that average around 30,000 views. Torkia fundamentally differs from the likes of, say, Stylebubble’s Susie Lau. She is part of a wave of “hijabi bloggers” – Muslim women giving voice to their love of fashion while wearing their hijabs. In all pictures on her site, Torkia is wearing a headscarf, and her clothes – however fabulous they may be – conform to Muslim standards of modesty. “I think of dressing smartly as a way to represent myself and my religion,” she says. “I don’t understand why you can’t be interested in fashion and be a Muslim.”

The relationship between the two did have an impact on her own trajectory, however. Half English and half Egyptian, Torkia grew up between London and Cardiff. Always interested in fashion, she stopped herself studying design at university “because I wore a scarf and that would be weird, I’d stick out”. Instead, after dropping out of three different courses “studying things I had no interest in,” she started her blog in 2011. It was a way, she says with a verbal eye roll, to show “the world that you could look amazing and wear a scarf”. It was initially a hobby – she worked in a call centre alongside blogging – but she was able to work on it full-time two years ago, and is arguably the most high profile hijabi blogger in the UK. On top of her clothing range, she also has a collaboration with Liberty on a range of scarves under her belt. Her graphic designer husband Sid now also works for the business.

Torkia could be side-stepping into another career this month – as a TV presenter. She is the subject of Muslim Miss World, a BBC3 documentary to be broadcast on Thursday. It details her entry into World Muslimah, a beauty pageant for Muslim women that takes place in Indonesia every year or, as Sid dubs it in the film, “Miss Universe but with hijabs.” With contestants from Indonesia and countries including Iran and Bangladesh, Torkia learnt about “how the hijab is worn in so many different ways based on different cultures, not religion”. The discussion continues online this week: BBC Taster, an interactive site, will have a page airing thoughts on the hijab from Muslim women around the world.

Indonesia was an eye opener for Torkia – as a place where the hijab is the norm for women, rather than the other way round, as in the UK, where it could be seen as a mark of difference. “You have pop stars with hijabs,” says Torkia. “Can you imagine that happening here?” Perhaps not yet. But, as observed in the documentary, Torkia herself is getting close to celebrity status. She increasingly gets recognised on the street, just like a pop star. “It happens in Asian areas in Birmingham and London,” she says. “It used to be really strange but now I realise they’re just being nice.”

Torkia says she doesn’t “want to be a poster girl for anything” but is happy to bring her point of view to the more mainstream fashion world, as with her collaboration with Liberty. “That’s something that lots of non-Muslims will see,” she says. “There’s a fear factor around the hijab because of what people see in the news, but this is just me styling scarves in the way I like to.” Then there’s breaking into the wider fashion blogosphere. “In the hijabi blogging world, I’m quite well known,” she says “but there I’m still a nobody. I wouldn’t mind being as successful as Zoella.”

Muslim Miss World is on BBC3 at 9pm on 19 March

courtesy: The guardian


Posted in: Articles