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The Western Double Standards of D&G’s Hijab and Abayat Collection

Italian Luxury Fashion Giant Dolce and Gabbana’s new Hijab and Abayat has caused a huge uproar in the fashion world with Forbes going as far as to call it, “its smartest move in years”. But the politics behind this reeks of Western double standards. The imminent question is about social responsibility and how fashion should be a means of creating a positive change along with the profit perspectives. Pursuing the latter without a social responsibility is sheer selfishness and hegemonic propagation of social irresponsibility.

 

The Money Mind

Finance reporters are claiming that the brand is set to make some serious cash, tapping into the exploitable riches of wealthy women of the oil states. They have long been expressing a desire to join the fashion league, D and G is set to take full advantage of that.

 

“The fashion industry has always catered to lucrative emerging markets, whether in China, Japan, or Brazil,” writes fashion historian Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell. “Hijabs and abayas have become part of the Western fashion mainstream, virtually overnight. From here on in, they’ll be vulnerable to the same trends, knockoffs, and inflated price tags as any other article of Western clothing.” ‘Admire’ vs. ‘afford’ should be the phrase we should be looking at, now, given that a lemon printed scarf costs above 700 US Dollars.

As Twitterati Aditi Mittal points out, “Dolce and Gabbana realizes that people in the Middle East have money, and has now gone hijab-collection-ing.”

 

 

The Fashion Jump

 This collection is a huge move through the lens of fashion that seeks to revolutionize the way Muslim Women present themselves to the world. Many of these women have been clothed in proper luxury brands, but have had to cover that with hijabs and abayas, thereby reducing the visibility of the actual designer dresses. The only other outlet of their style has been through luxury handbags and shoes, which are not hidden by the Hijab or the Abayats. The range is vast, and effectively breaks Hijab stereotypes of all Hijabs being only black. The range has lacy designs, white scarves, etc. which is quite a big move in the world of fashion deconstructing the basic design of the Hijab and transcreating an accessory out of it.

 

Misogyny and the Feministic Fall

 What becomes more interesting is that the Hijab is slowly infiltrating the wardrobes of non-Muslim women as well. A fashion brand created by a gay couple trying to appropriate a misogynistic Islamic tradition used to persecute and oppress women is now a fashion statement.

Explaining a different angle to the question of choice, Alisha Hafiz, a student of Presidency University, says that,

People always come up with ways to cause disorientation and disruption. The sheiks in the Middle East enforce the hijab as a means of male domination over the women. They derive pleasure out of deriding women. But, Islam preaches equality, and any kind of oppression is prohibited in Islam. Hijab in itself is a freedom of expression. It is as much as my choice as is wearing a bikini to the beach or putting on red lipstick to the market.

 

Sana, who has recently taken to wearing a Hijab, agrees,

“Both the hijab and the abaya are often misinterpreted as symbols of oppression, but they in fact indicate the contrary – it stands for true womanhood. Islam instructs both men and women to dress modestly, and women observe this by donning the hijab and the abaya. (…)the obvious critique against the D&G hijab and abaya collection would be their motive to cater to a select section of Muslim women (the elite), and their hypocritical promotion of an idea they do not believe in or encourage. But, at the end of the day, D&G, like any other brand, has profit making motives, and it is a fairly important business concern. Besides, the definition of modesty is not to be equated with drab, passé and boring and a stylish line of abayas and hijabs would be a happy welcome for many Muslim women (and non-Muslim too, because they are basically a cloak and a head scarf) across the globe.”

 

Sadly, this is an example of how the fashion industry is exploiting distortion of choice and harassment and selling it to make money. This is a huge stab to the back of feminism, which has been trying to empower women and asking them to break social shackles and free themselves. In such a situation, especially in sensitive places like the Middle East, making a clothing line out of an oppressive dress is definitely not a move that plans to cultivate freedom. It is high time that these double standards are understood and dealt with.


Article by Sayantan Datta
Edited by Rohini Srinivasan

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