- Critics argue that by jumping on the Muslim fashion bandwagon, European brands are encouraging the visible public expression of Islam in Europe — and promoting Muslim separateness rather than integration.
- “When fashion brands praise the skinny image with anorexic models, we say this is dangerous for the health of young women. We can also say that those same brands, when they promote Islamic collections, they promote an image that is dangerous for the rights and freedom of Muslim women in France. … in many French neighborhoods, we see fewer and fewer women outside on the street, in cafes. We see that fewer and fewer women are living freely in their neighborhoods.” — Laurence Rossignol, France’s Minister Families, Children and Women’s Rights.
- French feminist Elisabeth Badinter warned that cultural relativism was preventing the French from seeing the alarming rise of Islamism in France. She added that tolerance “has turned against those it was meant to help” with the result that “the veil has spread among the daughters of our neighborhoods” due to “mounting Islamic pressure.”
Left: Marks & Spencer’s Paisley Print Burkini. Right: An outfit from the Dolce & Gabbana Abaya and Hijab Collection
“The Ramadan collection may seem to be focused on Muslim women, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t suitable for every woman. These clothes are only slightly wider and they cover more. Apart from that, they’re just as elegant and fancy as those of other collections. A fashionable way in fact to show the outside world that covering up isn’t the same as being oppressed.”In July 2014, the New York-based fashion label DKNY launched a special fashion collection for Ramadan, available exclusively in stores in the Middle East. In June 2013, Italian designer Giorgio Armani launched a line of alcohol-free luxury chocolates made especially for Ramadan. The product, “wrapped in a precious box with motifs and geometric shapes inspired by Arabic architecture,” was available not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe and North America. Other Western fashion designers, manufacturers and retailers tapping into the Islamic clothing market include Tommy Hilfiger, Oscar de la Renta, Monique Lhuillier, Uniqlo, Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi. According to Fortune magazine, Islamic fashion is an untapped market:
“Globally, Muslims spent $266 billion on clothing and footwear in 2013. That’s more than the total fashion spending of Japan and Italy combined, according to a recent report from Thomson Reuters. The report also notes that that figure is expected to balloon to $484 billion by 2019.”In an interview with Fortune, Reina Lewis, a professor at the London College of Fashion, said:
“Globally, the Muslim population is a youthful and growing demographic. This makes Muslims a very important consumer segment for anything. “The market for Islamic commodities started out looking at food and finance. I’ve been saying for the last few years that fashion is going to be the third ‘F’ — and this is indeed what is beginning to happen.”French officials have been especially vocal in their criticism of European brands that cater to Muslim women. France banned the burka in 2011. The European Court of Human Rights upheld that ban in 2014. France’s Minister Families, Children and Women’s Rights, Laurence Rossignol, said Islamic fashion was being promoted in Europe by Muslim activists and Salafists seeking to impose political Islam on everyone else. In a March 30 interview with RMC Radio-BFMTV, Rossignol said:
“What is at stake is social control over the bodies of women. When European brands invest in the lucrative Islamic fashion market, they are shirking their responsibilities and are promoting a situation where Muslim women are forced to wear garments that imprison the female body from head to toe. … “You cannot pass off as trivial and harmless the fact that big brands are investing in a market that puts Muslim women in a situation of having to wear those garments. It is irresponsible on the part of those brands. … “When fashion brands praise the skinny image with anorexic models, we say this is dangerous for the health of young women. We can also say that those same brands, when they promote Islamic collections, they promote an image that is dangerous for the rights and freedom of Muslim women in France. … “What strikes me is that the managers of these brands insist that it is just about the clothing, that they are not promoting any particular lifestyle. As if there is no link between clothing and lifestyle. Of course, we observe that in many French neighborhoods, we see fewer and fewer women outside on the street, in cafes. We see that fewer and fewer women are living freely in their neighborhoods. … “Our role should be to help Muslim women, to support them by putting them in a position to confront political Islam.”In that same interview, Rossignol compared Muslim women who wear Islamic clothing to “American negroes who approved of slavery.” Her use of a racial epithet ignited a firestorm of criticism, with some Muslims calling for her resignation. She defended her remarks, saying that she was quoting from “On Negro Slavery,” an essay about abolitionism written by Montesquieu in 1748. In a subsequent interview with Agence France-Presse, Rossignol said: “Apart from the error of language, I would not retract a single word of what I said regarding Islamic clothing.” Responding to Rossignol, the director of the Observatory Against Islamophobia, Abdallah Zekri, asked: “Does a minister have the right to meddle in the way a woman wishes to dress as long as she respects the laws of the French Republic and does not hide her face?” In an interview on RMC radio, former French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet was asked her opinion about the growing popularity of Islamic fashion. She responded:
“I do not like it. Islamic clothing is all about hiding the female body, and also a part of the individual. For me it is the opposite of fashion. For me, fashion is the expression of originality, a temperament. For me, [Islamic fashion] is something absurd.”Echoing those views, French fashion mogul Pierre Bergé said that Muslim women in Europe should “learn to live like most of the women in the rest of the world.” Speaking on the French radio station Europe 1, Bergé said:
“Fashion designers have no business being in Islamic fashion. I am outraged. I have always believed that the job of designers is to make women more beautiful, to give them their freedom, not to be an accomplice of this dictatorship which imposes this abomination that hides women and makes them live a hidden life. “I am not an Islamophobe. Women have the right to wear headscarves, but I do not understand why we are embracing this religion [Islam] and those manners that are incompatible with the freedoms that are ours in the West. “Creators who are taking part in the enslavement of women should ask themselves some questions. All this to make money! Excuse me, but I think that belief must come before money. Give up the money and have some principles.”In an interview with Le Monde, French feminist Elisabeth Badinter called for a boycott of brands that are profiting from Islamic clothing. She warned that cultural relativism was preventing the French from seeing the alarming rise of Islamism in France. She added that tolerance “has turned against those it was meant to help” with the result that “the veil has spread among the daughters of our neighborhoods” due to “mounting Islamic pressure.” According to Badinter, many French citizens are afraid to speak out about the Islamization of France because of fears of being accused of Islamophobia.” Back in Britain, the Daily Mail celebrated the Marks & Spencer burkini as “the ultimate proof that Britain is truly multicultural.” Others disagree. Allison Pearson, a columnist for The Telegraph, asked:
“What on earth is our own dear M&S… doing lending its name to something which is so alien to this country’s values? It is yet more dismaying evidence that our own culture has failed to stick up for itself and is allowing misogynist attitudes to sneak in under the radar. “Not long ago, a German court ruled that a young Muslim girl must attend mixed school swimming lessons because the ‘social reality of life in Germany came above her religious beliefs.’ Yet in the UK we go on making the same mistakes; failing recently to clamp down on Sharia courts which regard a woman’s evidence as worth half that of a man. “And now, unbelievably, we have one of the nation’s favorite retailers marketing the burkini as if it were just another jolly beach outfit, not a restrictive, quasi-religious garment that treats the female form as lascivious and shameful.”Guardian columnist Catherine Bennet echoed this sentiment: “It is legitimate to ask why a secular fashion business would produce women’s clothing for which male clerics created the entire market.” A Muslim-American commentator has noted that efforts by international brands to cater to Muslim consumers will lead to the mainstreaming of Islam in the West. Writing for the fashion industry website Racked, Fareeha Molvi observed:
“They signal a possible sea change for the way Muslims are viewed in America. The fact that big corporations are willing to invest in marketing and branding specific to Muslims has to constitute some level of acceptance of us, right? “The thing about corporations, though, is that they rarely do things out of sheer human goodwill. Financial gains are a far greater motivator, and the recent foray into Ramadan marketing could be the next lucrative frontier…. “Historically, economic mechanisms have been the catalyst for much social change…. Could capitalism be the answer for the normalization of Islam in America as well?”Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. His first book, Global Fire, will be out in 2016. Source: GATESTONE]]>