With the latest launch of Dolce and Gabbana’s abaya and hijab collection, Islamic Clothing has seen a surge in interest from renowned Western designers. Last summer, the Spanish-founded company Mango debuted a Ramadan Collection consisting of full-length, modest dresses and the year before that, Donna Karan, owner and creator of DKNY, followed suit by dipping her toes into the Islamic Clothing scene and launching a hijab-friendly Ramadan collection as well.
Although these designers are non-Muslim and their designs don’t necessarily follow the strictest Islamic standards, we can’t help but admire their bravery by delving into an issue that is nowadays considered controversial in the Western world, if not outright taboo. We also can’t help but be curious to see if this has now somehow become a new trend among acclaimed fashion designers. Will we see more collections from highly-respected clothing designers aimed at Muslims and the Middle East in general, or will this somehow cause a backlash in the revered Western fashion universe?
We made our own list of “For or Against” and how we think the Islamic fashion industry will either benefit or be sabotaged from this seemingly new trend in marketing to Muslim consumers.
- It was a cultural breakthrough, helping ease social tensions about Muslims by showing that we are just regular people who appreciate common things like fashion just like everyone else.
- It normalizes Hijab and makes it more acceptable amidst a society which has been led to believe nothing but the worst about Islam and its followers.
- It opens doors for other fashion designers and gives them more of an opportunity to expand their creations and collections and present them to other parts of the world.
- It was just a purely commercial initiative, taking advantage of the Muslim market.
- From a fashion point of view the designs were nothing revolutionary – local producers have been designing and producing high end, trendy abayas for years, if not decades. These establishments are late on the scene.
- The designs only appeal to a specific segment of the Islamic clothing market – the traditional, abaya-wearing Gulf countries (and only very wealthy ones at that). What about all the creative styles being brought out by hijabi bloggers and Islamic clothing companies elsewhere?
- It undermines local companies who can’t compete with the marketing and PR of a famous global fashion brand.
- It raises religious concerns, given that Islamic clothing is meant to be modest, covering the body and not overtly ostentatious, whereas this collection and its promotion was immodest in many ways (see-through abayas, short abayas showing the legs, the women’s chest showing etc) and very flashy (big sunglasses, excessive use of eye-catching embroidery and design, and promoted as high-end fashion). Is the point of Islamic clothing to dress to please God, or is it to look good to please others, feel attractive etc?
It remains to be seen whether this initiative will eventually benefit the Muslim world in terms of fashion, but also in political and social terms. Will this finally be the move that breaks all barriers between the East and the West and opens lines of normal communication, or will it backfire and make things even worse for already-shaky relations? Will we be seeing Hijabs and Abayas grace the Fashion Week runways in New York and Paris in the near future? And the question is – do we even want to?