Bridging the Gap in British Fashion and Textiles: Religion and Faith as the Missing Index of Inequality in Muslim Women’s Work-lives

Date & Time:

12th October, 16:00


Hybrid event: C588 (5th floor Curzon B building) and online on Zoom.
The Zoom link will be sent to those who register.


Dr. Saskia Warren's talk explores the experiences of Muslim women fashion workers who work in modest fashion.

Modest fashion is the fastest growing sub-sector of the Islamic Cultural and Creative Industries and one of the fastest growing segments in the mainstream fashion world (Dinar Standard 2021; Lewis et al. 2012; Lewis 2013). Modest fashion lines are now prominent in highstreet chains and luxury fashion brands, in magazines and advertising campaigns e.g H&M, Uniqlo, DKNY, Nike, Dolce & Gabbana, Vogue.  Beyond the experiences of a handful of prominent designers and models, however, little is known about the everyday work-life experiences of Muslim women in this growth industry. With examples drawn from Luton, Leicester and Greater Manchester, in this talk I discuss the labour experiences of Muslim women fashion workers often hidden from view: small brand owners, tutors, designers and tailors. Revisiting Angela McRobbie’s influential piece ‘Bridging the gap’ (1997) I highlight how religion and faith are mostly overlooked – or the ‘missing index of inequality’ (Warren 2022)- within British fashion and the wider cultural and creative industries. Fashion can be read through a post-colonial lens (Spivak 1999; Patchett and Williams 2021) with continued racialised segregation in education, employment and skills around ‘fashion’ and ‘textiles’, or ‘design’ and ‘making’. In an argument developed in my new book (‘British Muslim Women in the Cultural and Creative Industries’, Edinburgh University Press, 2022), I reflect on how these distinctions and hierarchies play into ideas of ethnic/western fashion, and manual/creative labour.  Matters relating to identity in fashion combined with deep geographical, educational, and gendered imbalances serve to shape social reproduction around indexes of social difference and privilege. Inequalities are further evident in intra-family and kinship supply networks that are multi-generational and transnational in fashion and textiles businesses, crossing time and space. Lastly, the paper will discuss the moral and spiritual intentions guiding a number of those aiming to establish careers in modest fashion and textiles, such as modest clothing as human right, educating about Islam, sustainability, and women’s advancement.

Dr Saskia Warren is Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at University of Manchester. She currently holds a Parliamentary Research Fellowship, UK Parliament, working on equality, diversity and inclusion in the Heritage Collections. From 2017-2020 she held an Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellowship, Geographies of Muslim Women and the UK Cultural and Creative Economy. She recently co-curated the contemporary art and textile exhibition Beyond Faith: Muslim Women Artists Today, The Whitworth (2019-20). Her inter-disciplinary work has been published in leading international peer reviewed journals including Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Cultural Geographies and the European Journal of Culture Studies. A monograph relating to the talk, British Muslim Women in the Cultural and Creative Industries, is published with Edinburgh University Press, May 2022. The book is available to purchase, with 30% discount code NEW30, at: