How D&G is capitalizing on the Muslim faith

Yara al-Wazir
Yara al-Wazir

Yara al-Wazir

By : Yara al-Wazir

Earlier this month, Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana (D&G) announced that their Spring- 2016 collection would see a line of abayas. An advertisement campaign was also launched alongside to entice average Muslim women like me towards the products. Yet the campaign, the models, and all the beauty and lace that is featured in every abaya does not hide what I believe is the real reason behind this line – to capitalize on a religion. Muslims represent a fast growing market in a slowly declining industry.

Research by Morgan Stanley suggests that the fashion industry sales are declining in America as millennials are spending more money on rent and bills. Conversely, in the Middle East, the industry is booming. The fashion market in this region is expected to grow from $266 billion to $484 billion in annual sales, representing a compounded growth rate of 16 percent per year. The $266 billion figure is greater than the total spend of Japan and Italy combined. Of course it makes sense for an Italian fashion house to try and tap into the market.

The core issue is that religion should not be treated as a commodity to be traded, helping companies rise and fall on the stock exchange. Religion is a deep spiritual connection with God, and while many Muslim women choose to represent this connection through their clothing, this is no excuse for an international company to capitalize on those who choose to express themselves.

D&G is hardly trying to play the role of a mediator in a society that has politicized Muslim women’s choice of clothing.

Yara al-Wazir

D&G is hardly trying to play the role of a mediator in a society that has very much politicized Muslim women’s choice of clothing, specifically the abaya. The abaya and the hijab have left women in the West feeling alienated and sometimes have even led to attacks. In fact, the first quarter of 2015 saw a six-fold increase in Islamophobic attacks in Paris. While there is a lot to be done to include Muslims, particularly women in western society and culture, highlighting and capitalizing the very garment that alienates them is not a valid method.

Lack of authenticity

Muslims come from all walks of life but the models depicted in the advertisement campaign do not remind me of home. There is little authenticity in the garments, which are heavily featured with lace. Many social media users commented on what the models look like, but I will not address that.

Instead, I will address the fact that a number of prominent Muslim women based in the West with active presence on social media would have brought a much needed dose of authenticity to the campaign. A personality such as Dina Torkia, who already has 800,000-member strong Instagram profile would have been the prime model for such a collection.

Keeping our culture local

A large number of fashion houses have tried to capitalize on the growth in the fashion and retail industry in the Middle East over the past few years. This includes Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, and Mango. Sadly, the products manufactured by them are seen as ‘breakthrough innovative products’. This is far from the truth.

The truth is that these products have existed in the market for decades, just without the international branding. Take oud-based perfumes, for example, a staple that I grew up with in the Gulf. The woody scents that once reminded me of my childhood now serve as a reminder of the capitalization of the Muslim faith by Tom Ford, with their range of oud-based perfumes.

The same can be said about abayas – there are dozens of local fashion designers who make truly authentic Muslim garments, preserving the culture and heritage. Women like Alanoud Badr, a Saudi-Lebanese fashion consultant and designer, launched a line of stunning abayas for UHS-boutique.

As the fashion market in the region is growing, we must use this opportunity to allow local Middle-East based designers to grow with it to a point where they take their fashion lines internationally. This will be better than international fashion houses infiltrating the local market.

Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in the Column section are their own and do not reflect RiyadhVision’s point-of-view.


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