When a fashion house releases a Muslim-targeted collection, I would have expected there to be celebration, that finally, Muslim fashionistas are being recognised by a luxury fashion player. And indeed there was celebration, but not without scrutiny that has been thrown towards Dolce & Gabbana’s latest hijab and abaya collection, named “The Abaya Collection: The Allure of the Middle East”. The collection features an array of hijabs and abayas in neutral hues and floral prints, in fabrics like lace, georgette and satin weave charmeuse fabrics, according to its debut on Style Arabia.
(Image credit: Style Arabia )
Many have lauded this collection as a smart financial move by the fashion house, looking at the worth of the Muslim fashion market. Others, however, see this as exploitation – a move that has ignored years of thriving Muslim fashion and released as a money-making opportunity, neglecting culture, diversity and inclusion that is at the heart of the Muslim community.
What do I have to make of all of this? Here’s what I think.
(Image credit: Style Arabia )
Collection-wise, it is quite pretty, though stylistically it isn’t anything groundbreaking or new in Muslim fashion. As the collection was made for the Middle Eastern market, I don’t think I have the experience or expertise to comment on taste. You can take a look at this article for better insight.
I applaud Dolce & Gabbana’s first step in reaching out to the Muslim fashion audience – this crowd is often overlooked by the mainstream fashion industry. That being said, I believe that recognition for Muslim fashion should grow from representation and collaborations combined with appreciation for the diversity of the Muslim community. Some have criticised the house for stamping a “Muslim” label on ideas that we have seen before. Instead of working separately, creative minds from different houses, boutiques and agencies need to work together to understand what today’s Muslim consumers want and expect from a particular brand. These houses could develop fashion campaigns that engage Muslim creatives – Muslim models, stylists, photographers, bloggers, etc. The Muslim fashion market isn’t a passive bunch – we would love to be involved, so please, let us be involved! As of now I feel like Western brands have just taken their first few steps towards developing Muslim-friendly clothes. Gradually I hope that things will be able to move from just selling to truly engaging, allowing Muslim fashion to contribute to the mainstream fashion conversation.
Over the next couple of years I hope to see more fruitful collections popping up that aren’t just eye-catching but promote a positive image of the brand itself. Despite the many Ramadhan collections that brands have launched over the years (e.g. ZARA, Mango, DKNY), the two brands that have managed to set themselves apart from others, in my opinion, are Uniqlo and H&M. Uniqlo has collaborated, and is still collaborating, with designer Hana Tajima to release Muslim-friendly collections under the brand, while H&M featured Mariah Idrissi in a campaign last year, earning a thumbs up from the Muslim fashion community. Strangely, I noticed that previous Muslim-targeted collections have not come under as much criticism as Dolce & Gabbana’s. I believe that this is probably because the house delved into both faith and culture at the same time when they are separate, though related.
Closing off, I personally believe that to capture the attention of the Muslim fashion community, you need to do more than just sell clothes, you need to market them. Engagement with the community is key and with this, so much potential for representation and inclusion can be unlocked.
Have you read about the collection? What do you think?