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My Apologies D&G, It’s Not You. It’s Me.


There have been two knee-jerk reactions in response to the release of Dolce and Gabbana’s hijab and abaya collection: The Allure of the Middle East; First came the yay-sayers (for want of a better term) who with true Arab-style ululation lauded the fashion house for taking such a bold stance regarding highly politicised garb, that too during a particularly sensitive time. This category suddenly felt validated and instantaneously proud of their Muslim dress and identity. Then arrived the cynics, who took serious offense at this shallow attempt to represent Muslim women and their fashion needs with D&G’s insignia and uncharacteristically-Muslim embellishments on what is traditional Muslim apparel. ‘Ain’t nobody got time fo dat,’ so to speak.


The fact of the matter remains that D&G have themselves made no outright claim at either. While there is of course contention over the extravagance of the new line and how the overkill of ornamentation contradicts the simple modesty of what is Islamically expected of a Muslim woman’s dress, anyone visiting a high-end shopping district in any of the monied petro-states of the Middle East will be instantaneously brought to the realisation that D&G (and numerous other high-profile, luxury names) know exactly what they’re doing here. The hijab-abaya combination -previously a quiet representation of feminine modesty- is now the quintessential sartorial piece of the wealthy Gulf states – charmeuse, stonework, and all the (lace) trimmings. All D&G is trying to do is to capitalise on a market with a spending power that is estimated at more than $8.7 billion a year – and they are quite likely to succeed.

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While the philosophy of orientalism is oft-associated with socio-politics and perception of world order, there is an increasingly discernible divide brought about by orientalists of the fashion industry.

The dichotomy is clear, if not obvious; The Asian and Middle Eastern dress (particularly those of womenfolk) has always been ingrained in Western psyche as quaint, traditionalist, and bound by the many social shackles that come with any country that is non-democratic in governance. The West on the other hand, are the prophets and prophetesses of vogue – visionary, current, and a representation of all that is free.

This would explain the great sense of social attestation we feel when deemed ‘worthy’ of the runway from the powers that be, following a move such as that of D&G’s and many others before them, all the while ignoring the fact that we as Muslims too have fallen in line to strut the catwalk, becoming increasingly vulnerable to capitalist bait. There is nothing quite as oxymoronic as the label ‘Muslim consumer.’

While my opinion is that D&G are faultless for having been honest about their intentions with this new gilded modest-wear collection, and that any claims of political stance and representation are inadvertent, this does bring to light however the increasingly worrying trend of Muslim marketability.

For Western brands have pounced many a time at capitalising on the exoticism of the ethnic. Let’s not forget the instances we’ve misconstrued cultural appropriation for flattery, basking in the heady glow of social and sartorial attestation. Remember the ‘dress-over-pants’ rendition of the South Asian shalwar kameez that filled our fashion pages early last year? Also recollect Paul Smith’s ‘Robert sandals’ – a not-so-subtle attempt at plagiarising the ubiquitous Peshwari chappal. Where were the fashion police when you needed them?

I digress. While cultural appropriation is a power dynamic worthy of a rave on its own, what truly needs to be lamented about is the devaluation of our dress, proportionate to its increase in bankability. Now I’m not one to over-extol the virtues of the hijab, but the headscarf and abaya are undeniably, a testament to all that is anti-capitalist and anti-establishment. By choosing to don the headscarf, the Muslim woman of the west –either consciously or unwittingly- signs up for a wilful disregard for modern convention in deference to her faith. Her attire revolves around what she feels is acceptable as an ambassador of Islam, and not what is dictated by a consumerist agenda.

D&G (image)It is true that in the Middle East (the Gulf particularly) the abaya does not necessarily represent something as consequential in that it is more an expression of cultural symbolism than one of spiritual or ideological choice -which is perhaps what makes them all the more sought after by the likes of D&G in the first place- but the preservation of ideals and everything else the attire of Muslim women represents is a collective Islamic responsibility all the same.

Surely alarm bells should sound when fashion houses renowned for leaving less to the imagination with their seasonal revisions of what’s in and what’s not, take a sudden interest in modest-wear? We’d be naive to assume that genuine feel-good altruism is behind these highly-publicised shows of ‘catering to the stylish Muslim woman.’ Muslims around the world spent $266 billion on clothing and footwear in 2013 alone, amounting to more than the total fashion spending of Japan and Italy combined.  That figure is expected to reach $484 billion by 2019. Big brands like to make big money, and they will tap into wherever it is that profits them best. And they can’t be faulted for that.

Rather, as hard as this is to swallow, the accusatory finger from the arm concealed in a bejewelled abaya sleeve points back at us. We have only ourselves to blame when we need a billboard to finally convince ourselves to endorse our own attire. We have only ourselves to blame when a global fashion house learns that Ramadhan, rather than being our holiest, most devotional month of the year, is instead ’a month of extravagant spending rivalled only by Christmas.’ We have only ourselves to blame for allowing a designer label to be sewn onto the hem of a garment worth far more than all of this season’s best fabrics combined.

We’ve surrendered our shields to the other side, only for us to have to buy them back, albeit much prettier, but stripped of purpose.

So let’s spare D&G the tirade, and give ourselves the talking to we truly deserve.

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  1. Sabrina

    January 18, 2016 at 1:43 AM

    I understand that cultural appropriation as a way to attract consumers may bother you but im not sure what is wrong with the picture of the hijabi on the article. She is dressed modestly by Islamic standards so I do not understand the problem. But in the end Allah knows best.

    • Raashid

      January 18, 2016 at 2:30 AM

      The article runs significantly deeper than an image. If one were to analyse the effectiveness of a glamorous abaya in satisfying requirements of covering the awrah, then it possibly succeeds one hundred percent. But there are much deeper issues that need to be analysed, which the article dwells upon.

      It may be said that a man prays extremely dutifully, but if those prayers are an instrument to be ostentatious then it is for the wrong reasons and nullifies the virtues of his prayer.

      Prayer, independent of other associated facets is insufficient, in the same way that an attire that only covers the awrah is insufficient.

  2. cliveey

    January 18, 2016 at 5:34 AM

    What a lot of fuss over nothing really. Im my experience the wearing of ‘modest’ headware does not correlate with a lack of sexual awareness or assertiveness. There are some very nice but sadly repressed women who do fit the image and itbis important to be kind to them. There are also a great many youngbwomen who can swear like troopers. BUT the big question is why young men are not so constrained and greatly enjoy their freedom not just over dress but other mattets too.

    • Sarah

      January 18, 2016 at 10:46 PM

      “In my experience the wearing of ‘modest’ head wear does not correlate with a lack of sexual awareness or assertiveness“.
      Lol, Duh… I could`ve told you that as a young Muslim women student :)

      • cliveey

        January 20, 2016 at 4:05 AM

        Good for you Sarah. Be happy.

  3. Fahd Khan

    January 18, 2016 at 6:13 AM

    Agree with cleveey…men can rock Js and wear name brands, Y not women?

    Main point of hijab is too cover up your hair/chest… Whether it’s done with a a brand name or not…no issue with rocking nice clothes and brand names…

    You want a nice house a nice car a nice purse, so why not a nice hijab/abaya…least of our worries should be on judging someone wearing a D&G Abaya or Jordan sneakers… Lets not question their intentions for wearing them… That is what would be considered HARAAM.

    Next time buy the more humble car or purse, but don’t look down upon a sister rocking a name brand Abaya… Be hard on yourself and soft on others… before you criticize other people’s halal choices.

    Fashion is not anti Islam

    • Aiyah

      January 18, 2016 at 4:52 PM

      it is not about the name brand. it is overly done and would attract attention. the abaya is not to be all decked out and bedazzled and made to stand out. what’s the point in covering your body if the details on the garment draw all kinds of attention to those areas? a Muslim women can be stylish while not flashing a neon sign that says oh please look at me. i personally think they are overdone and tacky. now if it was a great quality material with a simple design fine but these are more like something a sister may wear on eid. these are not everyday practical abayas.

      • S Malik

        January 23, 2016 at 3:31 PM

        I just wanna point out that we can not complain that the D&G abayas are overdone, too fancy, etc. You can find the fanciest and embellished abayas in Saudi Arabia. If D&G wants to make abayas because they know a lot of Muslim women (especially from the Gulf) will purchase them, in my opinion, D&G is just a smart company! They are not the first and/or only place to buy these abayas.

  4. Fahd Khan

    January 18, 2016 at 6:16 AM

    And Islam is not anti fashion

    • Amatullah

      January 25, 2016 at 9:05 AM

      Islam is not anti Style. Fashion, on the other hand, is designed to get people to overspend and waste. In other words, to be extravagant. Extravagance is against Islam.

  5. Hifat

    January 18, 2016 at 7:16 AM

    Yes, Islam is not anti-fashion but is pro-modesty and anti-extravagance. And the designs are not per the islamic sharia, they are without a doubt attractive. Islam protects women with hijab just as the shell and sea protect the pearls for WE muslim ladies are nothing less than that, even more to be honest. :)

    • Fahd Khan

      January 18, 2016 at 8:00 AM

      Extravagance is relative…. A woman who can afford. If she pays her zakat.. She has the right to spend her money as she likes.

      “And the designs are not Shariah complaint!? You can’t be serious.

  6. Kanjikoppa

    January 18, 2016 at 8:30 AM

    Some of the comments above are quite laughable really. It is quite clear that the writer is neither moralising nor commenting on the level of islamicness of the women who patronise them. It was hardly a critique of morality or good character, it comes across more as an internal assessment of Muslim women when one of the most prominent symbols of predatory capitalism with a board probably full of white men decided that they have a clientele in Muslim women. This says a lot of where the status quo of Muslims (men & women) stands.
    There are allusions above as to how Muslim men can wear designer clothing and yet an article such as this crops up when women are given the luxury (pun intended) of designer abayas.
    Two basic facts have been overlooked, D&G or any other outlet of similar ilk have not targeted ‘Muslim men’, they have targeted men in general and Muslim men happen to be within the confines of Islamic sartorial ethics if they favour designer clothing, even if it goes against the grain of Islamic tenets of simplicity and modesty. It must be noted that ‘Muslim women’ in specific have been targeted in this instance. Let us be careful not to get into Guardian type equivocations of secular delineations of male/female equality. Islamic modesty, though applies equally to men and women, their manifestations may change – let’s not get stuck in 2016 – right throughout history it is to be noted that the popular western trend for males were sometimes in line with Islamic ethics and at times popular western trends for females were in line with Islamic ethics. It so happens that today, men happen to have an easier choice for clothes, because the Western definition for female fashion is something of increased scarcity which obviously is antithetical to Islamic definitions.
    It is important that this is understood.
    Islam isn’t anti fashion, and as was pointed above, it certainly is pro modesty. Extravagant abayas go against Islamic trends as do extravagant suits for men.

    • Quran Classes

      January 18, 2016 at 4:28 PM

      yup i am completly agreed with your point…But in the end Allah knows best.

    • cliveey

      January 20, 2016 at 4:13 AM

      People who call themselves Socialist, Muslim, Christian or Communist can also be predatory. There are many succesful Muslim run capitalist businesses in my area and sadly some Muslim landlords who exploit their own people. One Pakistani friend was expolited by his culture in having to raise dowry for seven sisters, yet his employment in his uncles shop was harsh, and he was obliged to rent from his uncle at a high rate. He longed to be employed by British people. It is not only multi-national conglomerates who are expolitative or predatory. Local shopkeepers who are relatives can work together to have a monopoly and control prices too.

  7. Ramusha

    January 18, 2016 at 10:38 AM

    Complements to the writer for outlining how ‘subliminal forces inherent is a person is excited by the market forces to profiteer’ by proselytizing with consumerism. Rarely we understand that consumerism is an anathema in Islam. Islam wish to strike a balance between human need and human greed by conditioning the mind through thaqwa. So that we live for purpose and buy for purpose of living than satisfying our unrestrained egos. Consumerism is the foundation of the class based society though goes unnoticed. Islam set the balance between people through Thaqwa as a criterion that differentiates as opposed to consumerism which creates false image through branding and set one competing with another in materialism. Some of the comments given shows sheer lack of Islamic world view. If the worldview is put right there will be a paradigm shift inshallah.

  8. Fritz

    January 18, 2016 at 3:48 PM

    Ultimately we believe in a free market. Fashion labels always have and always will continue to exist. And women (and men!) will like to spend money to dress well. I think if its within your means and the clothing is modest enough I am not sure what one can do about it!

    As you say, Its up to us control ourselves. Business will always act in that particular way and of course the question is where are the brand labels from within our own community? Tricky one…

  9. Kirana

    January 18, 2016 at 5:57 PM

    Let people wear nice things if they like. Your idea of ostentation is another’s idea of craft and beauty. Imam malik liked what was at his time considered ‘lush’ clothes and a friend called him out for it. He replied that he liked beautiful things and so will dress well. His path of worship is teaching and another’s path is their own. Don’t be threatened by other people’s natures. Just remind them if they start to like the clothes more than the Beauty that it reminds them of. Modesty is not defined by the Arabic abaya. The rest of us have clothes that qualify too. Some are embellished, some are gaudy, and much remains low key. There is nothing sacred about an abaya that it should never be touched by fashion and craft. You are helping perpetuate the impression that the headscarf and abaya for a Muslim woman is somehow special worship clothing. It can mean the most sincere expression of modesty for many, sure. But that does not mean it means that to everyone, or that it should. Do not elevate into symbols, mere things.

    • Abu Abdir-Rahman

      January 19, 2016 at 12:39 AM

      Beautifully put… Couldn’t agree more…. People need to realize alot of sisters have just recently put on Abaya or hijab and that everyone is on their own individual journey or path to improvement on getting closer to Allah…if she was wearing a D&G short skirt one day and then Abaya the next… That is improvement for her…

      A sister in D&G Abaya may be more humble or pious than a sister in all black khimar and niqab… Or vice versa.

      One can have “things” in ones hands as long as these “things” aren’t in one’s heart… And only God knows what’s in people’s hearts…

  10. Cliveey

    January 20, 2016 at 3:59 AM

    Why should Muslim women not enjoy wearing nice clothes and having a bit of happiness in life. Are you all just slaves and clones? If the Almighty loving |Creator had wanted that whye were people made who have flair for design, art and creativity? Why were we given the ability to think if we are only allowed to see things one way? What is wrong with simple fun, laughter and being attractive to partners? It is nice to have people in attractive wear within the community, it brightens up life. Jesus spoke of wanting people to have a “Life More Abundant”. That is one where they were not controlled by addictions. He did not want us to acheive that by living ugly dreary lives, locked away from the rest of the community. It is possible to be proud of our appearance without being arrogant. Muslim young men in my area love being admired and are very fashion concious and very aware of being attractive to others (men or women) and they just love it. Why must Muslim women be denied being admired?

    • Kristy

      January 20, 2016 at 9:00 PM

      Unless the Islamic Jesus taught the very unbiblical “Prosperity Gospel”, your explanation of what Jesus meant by “Life More Abundant” In John 10:10 is completely wrong. And having searched for the Prosperity Gospel in the Quran, it is not found there either.

      In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”.

      In the Holy Bible, Jesus owned nothing except one seamless garment. And He famously said to His possible followers, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” A cross? An instrument of death and degradation? Who wants that? Where is the abundant life?

      Well, wealth, prestige, position or power are not exactly heading the top of God’s list of blessings. Unlike a thief, Jesus did not come for selfish reasons like to make money. He came to give, not to get. He came that people may have life in Him that is meaningful, purposeful, joyful, and eternal- in other words, to be like Him while on earth and then to live with Him in heaven where we won’t be taking any designer clothes with us.

      We receive this abundant life the moment we accept Him as our Savior. The Biblical definition of life — specifically eternal life — is provided by Jesus Himself: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

      Now THAT is Abundant Life!

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