Notorious for their sultry, scantily-clad collections inspired by the Mediterranean, designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have taken a remarkable step in the right direction by catering towards a more modest and conservative audience, in particular Muslim women around the world.
The stunning off-collection has already been marketed everywhere in the Middle East as well as in select boutiques in cities such as Milan, Paris, Munich and London following the release announced just last week.
According to an exclusive press release, the official label for the unprecedented collection is titled The Abaya Collection: The Allure of The Middle East, and has been described as "an enchanting visual story about the grace and beauty of the marvelous women of Arabia."
D&G may have ventured into unchartered territory towards a more coy advent within high-end fashion, but it has in no way hindered the integrity of the brand's distinct trademark. The luxury hijabs and abayas come in variants of georgette and charmeuse fabrics offered in black, white and beige. Some are intricately embellished with lace, while others feature daisy, lemon, polka-dot and rose prints, a nod to D&G's ready to wear Spring-Summer 2016 collection.
The Muslim market is one of the most lucrative in the world. It has yielded close to $300 billion dollars in the sales of clothing and footwear alone within the year of 2013, and is expected to increase to a whopping $488 billion by the end of 2019. The level of consumerism within this extremely profitable market has been widely recognized and sensationalized globally, which brings D&G's intentions into question of whether they've potentially taken advantage of the severely high level of commerce.
Some have argued that Dolce's hijab and abaya collection is exploitative and has belittled the wearing of these traditional garments by reducing it to nothing more than a fashion statement in order to take advantage of the Muslim market. Others feel that D&G has taken a step in the right direction, exhibiting a genuine desire to cater to all kinds of stylish women across the globe, including those who choose to embrace religion. Many others have admitted that they feel particularly euphoric considering the stigma surrounding Islam and the marginalization of Muslims around the world.
In an on-campus interview, I decided speak to Noorhan Maamoon, a Muslim junior at USC, to get her personal perspective regarding Dolce & Gabbana's high-end hijab and abaya collection. Maamoon is both an observer of Islam and dons a hijab as part of her daily attire.
When I asked about her general thoughts on the line, she stated, "I'm excited! I don't know any other high-end brand that has done this before. D&G is going to be catering to an entirely new audience. I think it's brave of them to make this move, specially considering the anti-muslim movement in America."
In efforts to get a bit deeper into the topic I asked, "On a grand scale, what do you think the launching of such a line will mean for Muslim women around the world?" She replied, "I think having such a high-end and well-known brand embrace Islam, is the message that's going to be interpreted, that the brand embraces our religion. I don't know if it'll have much of a grand effect, though. At the end of the day, it's just a fashion brand and not all religious women find fashion to be a vital aspect of their lives. I'm aware of the image Muslim women have to others such as donning all black and being very covered so speaking for someone who might buy D&G's product, I'd be able to show that that's not all we wear."
I was also curious to see if Noorhan was bothered or potentially offended at all regarding the high-end hijab and abaya line. She explained, "One thing that bugged me is that all the models are white which doesn't fully represent us Muslims across the globe." This was something I also couldn't help but notice and was surprised to see very little commentary surrounding that aspect of the campaign.
I wanted to round up the interview by talking to her about the acceptance of Islam by asking, "Although this is just the beginning of moving towards a more progressive world, do you think something like this has the power to contribute towards more representation and tolerance of religious and or cultured woman in the future, specifically in the states?" Maamoon said that she's unsure, but that she definitely hopes so, adding, "I'm a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, and I know what it feels like to be called a 'towel head' or a terrorist. I know that if more brands, companies and organizations take similar steps; there will definitely be more acceptance. Such a move also shows that Islam is more than a religion, it is a lifestyle. It's food, it's fashion, and it's ultimately about being a good person. I'm all about kindness. That's what religion is truly about to me."
Amen to that.
Whether Dolce & Gabanna took advantage of the profitable and still growing Muslim market in releasing their hijab and abaya collection or not; we'll never really know. Luckily, Muslim women around the world have the freedom to choose their garments and won't be forced to wear Dolce's line should they choose not to. If they do, they'll just be super fashionable while doing it.
Who says style and modesty can't go hand in hand? Dolce & Gabbana sure doesn't!
Reach Contributor Claudia Dayani here.