Neither Ms. Vogl nor representatives from Macy’s responded to questions before publication.
Macy’s has for years struggled with lagging sales, aggravated by the rise of online discount retailers. In November, the department store chain announced that sales had slipped for the 11th consecutive quarter. In 2016, it announced plans to shutter about 100 stores, and closings have been carried out since.
The move into Muslim apparel represents an opportunity to capitalize on a robust market.
Globally, consumers spent $254 billion in 2016 on Muslim attire, according to the latest Global Islamic Economy report. The report predicted the market could be worth $373 billion by 2022.
In 2015, Muslim women spent $44 billion on modest clothing items alone, an earlier Global Islamic Economy report said. “The clothing may be modest, the success is anything but,” it stated.
Luxury retailers, including Dolce & Gabbana and Burberry, have taken notice, as have companies that specialize in trendy casual wear, like Uniqlo, H&M and Zara.
Some of these retailers have released collections aimed at Muslim customers who live in the Middle East, but Islamic fashion has also cropped up in the United States in recent years. In 2016, during New York Fashion Week, an Indonesian designer made history with a catwalk show in which every model wore a hijab.
“I believe fashion is one of the outlets in which we can start that cultural shift in today’s society to normalize the hijab in America and other parts of the West, so as to break down stereotypes and demystify misconceptions,” the designer, Anniesa Hasibuan, said at the time.
Of two billion Muslims worldwide, about nine million are in North America, according to a 2014 study released by the American Muslim Consumer Consortium. The consortium’s founder put Muslim spending power in the United States at about $100 billion.
Last year, Nike released a Pro Hijab for Muslim athletes, which is also available on Macy’s website, and American Eagle offered customers a limited-edition denim hijab, which sold out.
The hijab has also been recognized by one of America’s largest toy retailers. In November, Mattel introduced a hijab-wearing Barbie, part of its “Shero” line based on inspirational women. The doll was modeled after the Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American athlete to compete in the Olympics in a hijab.
But as more companies in the United States have embraced the hijab, women in Iran have been throwing off their head scarves, protesting religious restrictions — in particular a compulsory rule to cover their hair with an Islamic veil. At least 29 people have been arrested in connection with the protests. A news report said the Tehran Police were “deceived by the propaganda of a campaign named White Wednesdays” that called for women to remove their veils and wave them overhead on sticks.
Muslim head scarves, veils and burqas have also been a flash point in France for over a decade. Women were barred from wearing full-face veils in public places in 2011, and last year the European Union’s highest court said that companies could bar employees from wearing visible religious symbols, including head scarves. In 2016, several French beach towns banned the so-called burkini — a full-body bathing suit worn by some Muslim women.
Some younger people, though, including in the United States, seem to be gaining an appreciation and an understanding of the hijab. Hijab fashion bloggers on Instagram, for example, are abundant and some have millions of followers. And the website Buzzfeed, whose audience skews younger, consistently publishes content about hijab fashion.
According to the Global Islamic Economy report, Muslim millennials are considered a powerful and growing economic force that will continue to transform the retail space with digital spending. Half of Muslims today are under 15 years old and nearly two-thirds are 30 or younger.
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