Dolce & Gabbana's new hijab collection hailed as a smart move – financially
Why Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana's hijab line might be more about money than Muslim women
Italian luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana had internet fashionistas swooning this week with the launch of its first-ever hijab and abaya collection.
A flurry of delicate lace, satin weave charmeuse, and bold, Sicily-inspired floral prints, the collection was hailed almost instantly by American media outlets as everything from "a game-changer" to "an exciting development" for Muslim women.
Actual Muslim women, on the other hand, were not universally stoked by the high-fashion hijabs.
"It's really cool that a major designer is extending its tastes to Muslim clothing items, but are brands finally catering to Muslim women, or are they exploiting them?" asked Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, editor-in-chief of the fashion blog MuslimGirl.net in an interview with Refinery29 published Tuesday.
Pointing out that the model used for D&G's hijab and abaya line is "still a white-passing woman that might not even be Muslim," Al-Khatahtbeh also said that "Muslim women are getting the visibility right now, but not necessarily the inclusivity."
She was not alone in having reservations about the collection, as comments left by thousands of people on Instagram and Twitter show.
I did NOT get threatened, harassed & bullied my entire life as a Muslim for the hijab to become a fashion statement. <a href="https://t.co/x35FrzUXB4">https://t.co/x35FrzUXB4</a>—@falasteenager
D&G needs to chill with their hijab collection bc all of us buy our hijabs at H&M and I'm not going to stop that now bye—@isbarlas
The whole D&G <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/hijab?src=hash">#hijab</a> collection reeks of western double standards. You don't want women to wear it, and yet, you wanna make money off it!—@Fashionopolis
Despite any criticism the brand has received for its new collection, torrents of fans can still be found all over the web raving about D&G's glam abayas and hijabs – with plenty of them expressing an intent to buy.
The fashion house could be well-poised to make some serious cash when its yet-to-be-priced collection finally hits the market, according to finance reporters.
"This week, Dolce & Gabbana made its smartest move in years," wrote Forbes of the collection's launch on Wednesday. "While growth in luxury sales in established markets like the U.S. and Europe is increasingly dependent on tourism, high-end fashion is positively booming in the Middle East."
Booming is almost an understatement.
According to a piece published by Fortune in July, Muslim women spent $266 billion US globally on clothing and footwear in 2013 alone – a figure that is expected to almost double by 2019.
Another report cited by Forbes shows that in the Middle East specifically, sales of personal luxury goods hit $8.7 billion US in 2015, up from $6.8 billion US in 2014.
"Women from wealthy oil states have long expressed their flair for fashion with pricey handbags and shoes, visible when worn with an abaya and hijab," writes Clare O'Connor in the Forbes piece. "Many of these women are already consumers of designer apparel, often wearing brands including Dolce & Gabbana head-to-toe underneath their modest abayas, viewable in the privacy of their homes or among other women."
Indeed, other luxury brands such as Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger and Monique Lhuillier have had great success in recent years selling one-off collections in the region, often around Ramadan – a holiday that is becoming increasingly known for inspiring "extravagant spending."
Dolce and Gabbana realises that ppl in the Middle East have money and now are suddenly hijab-collection-ing <a href="https://t.co/nHas1o8pUe">https://t.co/nHas1o8pUe</a>—@awryaditi
The Atlantic further explores how D&G could benefit financially by tapping into the Muslim market, like Chanel and Stella McCartney, both of which hosted runway shows in "the luxury retail paradise" and "fashion hotspot" of Dubai last year.
"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."
"But on the plus side," she continues, "perhaps a new generation of Muslim fashionistas can now see themselves better reflected in an industry they admire."
Admire, but not necessarily afford outside of wealthy areas like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – where D&G currently has 13 boutiques.
Prices for the hijab and abaya collection have not yet been made available to the media or consumers, but the only floor-length dress in its spring/summer 2016 collection goes for $7,070.00 US. One lemon-printed scarf costs $484 US.