Haute couture hijabs: appropriate or appropriation?

The world-renowned fashion powerhouse, Dolce & Gabbana, has launched a line of luxury hijabs and abayas aimed at their fast growing consumer base in the Middle East. The range largely consists of modest colours – deluxe black and sandy beige, the hems lined with fine silk and lace. However, the hijabs and abayas also feature pops of vivid citrus hues, as the brand keeps in touch with its Sicilian heritage, a theme that is consistent within the Spring 2016 collection. Many of the abayas have exotic embellishments of printed fruits and flowers, such as pure white daisies and deep red roses, creating an exquisite contrast with the neutral shades of fabric. Dolce & Gabbana has exceeded expectations with the luxurious use of a sheer georgette material, weaved with satin, making the new items lightweight and durable for warm climates. Some of the pieces also feature dramatic, yet lightweight drapes, further adding to the creativity of this eclectic collection.

Dolce & Gabbana is set to benefit hugely from this debut. Forbes noted that the Middle East now represents a US $8.7 billion market and D&G have 13 stores and boutiques open in the United Arab Emirates alone, meaning that it has a significant following among the mass of Muslim consumers. It is widely agreed that Dolce & Gabbana’s new line is respectful to its Muslim customers, thus prompting a multitude of high-end fashion houses to jump on the bandwagon of creating modest garments that are suitable for women of the Islamic faith.

However, Dolce & Gabbana has not managed to accumulate entirely positive press. The public have lashed out via social media in regards to a ‘non-Arabic’ model being used for the campaign cover. Many Muslim women have expressed their concern that this line does not represent them, but rather illustrates how Western designers are capitalising on Eastern culture and more specifically, Islam. Eastern culture is accepted and glamourised when pinned on the Western, white, model, yet shunned when pinned on the Eastern, Muslim, woman. Yet, in response to this backlash, members of the public are arguing that the ethnicity of the model is irrelevant, as being a Muslim is (of course) utterly unrelated to the colour of one’s skin.

It can be concluded that Dolce & Gabbana’s new fashion line is not without its controversy. Despite its claim that it aims to please female Muslim consumers, it has hit a wall of negativity from many Muslim women. Alongside the controversy surrounding the white model showcasing the range of hijabs, there has also been contestation in regards to the hijab being presented as a fashionable item, due to it being traditionally viewed as an item worn to protect female modesty. However, despite the various criticisms, it appears to be popular opinion that D&G’s latest line is undeniably breaking boundaries in the fashion world – particularly in the Middle East.

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