MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now, we just heard one way Orlando is still coping with the Pulse Nightclub shootings, which carry the added weight of having been carried out by a Muslim-American. Meanwhile, a business in Orlando is emerging as a place for dialogue. It's a modest wear boutique for Muslim women, believed to be the only one in a mainstream U.S. mall.
Now, this is happening at a time when clothing preferred by Muslim women has been in the news in Europe because of burkinis full-bodied swimsuits that had been banned in several coastal towns in France before a judge overturned the ban. Burkinis are just one of the items you can find at the Verona Boutique, which was founded by two American-Muslim women seeking both to provide a service to Muslims and to change perceptions about them. Renata Sago from WMFE reports.
RENATA SAGO, BYLINE: Arabic pop echoes outside Verona Boutique in Orlando's Fashion Square Mall. The crowd is teeming with women - in their hands, sleek black shopping bags, on their heads - patterned scarves called hijabs. Maryam Khan is dressed in a chic fuchsia orange and white striped hijab tunic skirt ensemble.
MARYAM KHAN: This is from a company in Dubai, but then you pay a lot of shipping from Dubai.
SAGO: For Kahn and other Muslim women, covering up is a symbol of modesty and spiritual growth. In the U.S., this kind of stylish original and appropriate clothing is hard to find except online.
KHAN: You buy something that's armless, and then we have to find a cardigan or find an undershirt that matches. Plus, it's hot outside (laughter), so to have to wear all that - it's hard.
SAGO: She says a store that stocks long-sleeved kaftans, full-length slitless skirts and hundreds of hijabs is a sign of progress and acceptance.
LISA VOGL: We finally have a story that is so easily accessible, and we don't have to wait online for shipping. We don't have to wait if they're sold out. We just come here and get what we need.
SAGO: Co-founder Lisa Vogl and her partners first launched Verona as an online boutique with one style of dress, two skirts and four hijabs. Today, their store is in this central Florida tourist hub with a fast-growing Muslim community. It feels like a success.
VOGL: We've had people driving in hours and hours to come to the store, and we also have people who are on vacation nearly every day come in and say, I heard about you guys. I want to stop in.
SAGO: In the wake of the June Pulse Nightclub shootings, Vogl closed her store for three days for safety.
VOGL: Us as hijabis that wear the scarf were especially at risk for backlash. The hate is there.
SAGO: Vogl says Verona is a chance to bring fresh styles to the American mainstream and even fresher ideas about who American-Muslims are.
VOGL: This is front, in your face that we are exactly not who you think we are. It is a hijabi-Muslim-run, women-run business. We are strong, independent, business-educated women.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You guys all set?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes.
SAGO: Perceptions aside, pure numbers show the Islamic fashion industry is responding to a real need. Haroon Latif heads research for Dinar Standard. He says there are at least 3 million Muslims in the U.S. now, and that's expected to double by 2050. Latif says mainstream companies worldwide are responding.
HAROON LATIF: H&M, Dolce and Gabbana. In the U.K. in particular Marks and Spencer's is one of the leading retailers, and they have just launched a burkini brand (laughter).
SAGO: He says more than 150 modest wear brands exist now, most less than 5 years old.
Back at Orlando Fashion Square, Vogl arranges a new display of colorful hijabs, just some of the 300 her business now sells.
VOGL: We're having to reorganize because we have so many more products coming out, and we're trying to find the space.
SAGO: They're also trying to find the time to answer calls from customers in need of sizes and from people curious about modest wear fashion and Islam in general. For NPR News, I'm Renata Sago in Orlando.
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