Rahmalia Aufa Yazid, a Japanese-Muslim woman of Indonesian descent, is winning hearts across the world for her innovative take on the hijab and Japanese fashion. As part of their series on highlighting influential women from around the world, BuzzFeed World collaborated with Instagram and featured Aufa for changing the face of modest fashion in Japan.
At the age of 18, Yazid decided to don the hijab, something she was not pressured into. She soon realised that wearing the hijab felt impersonal and she struggled to put together outfits with it on her head.
“Although it was my choice to wear the hijab, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel as though the hijab was, instead, wearing me,” she told BuzzFeed News.
The then-teenager began to feel that she was missing out on some of the most popular clothing trends in Japan and found herself feeling out of place in school, especially because she was the only hijab-wearing student in her major.
“I felt that the hijab was a religious item of clothing, so I was choosing my clothes to match. Not only did I stand out as someone with foreign heritage, my daily outfits now consisted of my mother’s old hijab and outfits that were totally different from designs and colours that were popular in Japan at the time,” said the now 24-year old freelance creator and Instagrammer, who runs her account under the handle @aufatokyo.
The work of Hana Tajima, a mixed-race British-Japanese Muslim designer, inspired Yazid to incorporate the hijab in her Japanese clothing. She describes her encounter with Tajima’s collection as the moment when hijab for her changed from an impersonal religious item of clothing to something that was true to her life.
“Hijabi fashion — Muslim fashion — transcends the boundaries of religion and can be a source of enjoyment for anyone. It’s something that all women who want to look beautiful can empathize with and enjoy,” she said.
“I want to show myself, a Muslim, living strong and beautiful, through my art,” she further added.
Yazid styles her hijab in various ways, similar t0 how Japanese women style their hair —from straight to bobbed, wavy to short haircuts, she does the same by playing around with different colours, materials, and wrapping styles of hijab.