Let's put it in this way: the late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, well-known for her controversial positions against Islam and her polemical works published after the 9/11 attacks, wouldn't have liked reading about Dolce & Gabbana's recently launched collection of abayas and hijabs. Fallaci indeed openly criticised the position of women in Islam describing them as "compelled to hide themselves, all bundled up".
Aimed at Muslim consumers, Dolce & Gabbana's collection features abayas (traditional robe-like dresses worn by some Muslim women covering everything but the face, feet, and hands) and hijabs (headscarves) in the brand's signature colourful prints of flowers, fruit and polkadots, or in black and neutral shades of georgette/silk/satin and lace. Some of the pieces in the photoshoot promoting the collection are matched with colourful floral accessories such as sunglasses or smartphone covers, bags in exotic skins and high heel shoes.
No information has been released about the prices of the collection and the regions where they will be available (but you can bet that in places such as Dubai they will sell instantly...).
Though some commentators stated it looked outdated (not to mention the fact that fashion-wise the designs look as if they were made with fabric leftovers from previous D&G collections and, since abayas are not sartorially complicated garments, the collection also saved the duo spending endless days and nights working in their atelier trying to come up with something desperately innovative...), the collection received in general positive responses from fashion fans online with the Italian design duo being praised for catering to Muslim women who want to buy high end clothing.
Announced by Stefano Gabbana on his Instagram page with the hashtag #dgabaya, the collection was unveiled (don't take it as an offensive pun...) on Style.com/Arabia and described as celebrating "the inimitable dolce vita that is distinct to us in the Arab world" (hopefully for them the "dolce vita" part was to be interpreted as a metaphor for "the lifestyle proposed by Dolce (& Gabbana)", because if they were referencing Fellini's eponymous film they may be bordering on the indecent without even having realised it...).
In many ways the collection is not surprising: in the last few years quite a few brands have moved into the Muslim market and have even released Ramadan collections. Tommy Hilfiger and DKNY launched last year limited capsule collections for Muslim consumers; Net-A-Porter offered a "Ramadan Edit"; Zara and Mango provided specially themed collections during the holy month, while Uniqlo collaborated with UK-born Muslim designer Hana Tajima to create a collection of clothing to coincide with Ramadan and H&M enlisted its first Hijab-wearing model last year, Mariah Idrissi.
News may be dominated by mass migrations from the Syrian civil war and fears of Daesh terrorist attacks, but a wide range of brands and luxury houses seem to be more interested in the possibilities that Islamic fashion may offer them. Financially speaking, their choice is easy to understand: while markets in Asia and Russia have slowed down or dramatically shrunk, a few countries in the Arab world offer many opportunities for growth. A report by Thomson Reuters predicts indeed that Muslim spending on fashion and footwear will increase to $484 billion by 2019.
You could argue these brands targeting Muslim consumers are in a way also trying to market Islam in a lighter way, contributing to change people's perspectives and leave behind their Islamophobia, while opening a wider market for designs made with high quality materials (you can bet that more houses will follow D&G's example...), but in Dolce & Gabbana's case this choice seems to be particularly interesting.
D&G are indeed jumping on a financially rewarding bandwagon (while also aligning with the current womenswear trend for less revealing items of clothing), while at the same time moving on to another religion.
As many other designers out there, D&G have successfully exploited for decades the Catholic iconography, reinventing and remixing it: rosary beads were turned into sexy necklaces; ex votos appeared as decorative elements or prints; Miraculous Medals were used as brooches, while a few of their outfits looked at times entirely lifted from the dresses donned by some statues of the Virgin Mary.
Yet Catholicism is not selling anymore, especially after Pope Francis arrived on the scene, encouraged a return to humble mores and redefined Vatican wealth. So, let's move on, D&G seems to say, after all if the Virgin Mary never sued them for copyright infringement, it is unlikely that anything will happen to them if they re-fashion their designs into a garment donned in another country and linked with modesty and religion. In a nutshell, religion can still be used as a great opium for the masses of consumers
In a way, though, it's all so terribly funny: D&G went from creating form-fitting dresses for imaginary sensual widows to covering up women, but both these exercises could be interpreted as fashion objectifying women, telling us one day to look like bombshells and the next to be modest.
You wonder what kind of lethal words Fallaci would have unleashed against D&G if she had still been alive. In a Wall Street Journal interview in 2005, the Italian journalist re-christened Europe as "Eurabia".
Maybe if we purged the term from Fallaci's Islamophobia we could still adopt it to describe this new fashion trend that combines Eastern fashion with Western designers. The problem is that this sudden interest in Muslim consumers proves that the fashion industry is always ready to jump on any bandwagon attached to the capitalist train destined to a goldmine, and it's not producing such capsule collections to encourage people to respect and understand each other, but to make itself richer.
For what regards D&G, who knows what's next, though having tackled two of the three major monotheistic religions, there's just Judaism left, so they may just go for it (mind you, H&M were there before: today the Swedish high street chain had to withdrawn from sale in Israel a striped scarf after social media commentators stated it looked like a Jewish prayer shawl...View this photo), before moving onto another faith...
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos