The Arab World is writing a new future; the pen is in our own hands.—Abdallah II of Jordan
In a move that really isn’t all that terribly surprising, Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana introduce their first abaya collection on Style.com/Arabia yesterday, making them the first major Italian design house to directly embrace the growing Arab market. The label, which has focused heavily on themes involving family the past two seasons, has created a line of lightweight abayas and hijabs that invoke some of the themes from their spring/summer ready-to-wear line while maintaining the dress code required for public wear by many Muslim women.
Putting all politics aside, which one should do as often as possible, the Arab market is one the fashion industry as a whole, and the luxury labels in particular, have ignored far too long. There aren’t that many people still alive who remember when Arab fashion was every bit as strong and attractive as that of the West and Arab women have long been customers of luxury handbags and shoes. This is a vital piece of the market and it is growing.
Expect every other luxury house in Europe to be watching to see just how well this special collection sells. Even before matters in Syria and Saudi Arabia reached their current levels of tension, the Arab clothing market was growing. Thomas Reuters estimates that the Arab clothing market will reach somewhere around $484 billion by 2019. That prediction was based on pre-exodus numbers, though, and as millions of refugees flee to Western countries and begin to take up residence there, it is not unreasonable to expect that number to grow even higher. Whether the majority will retain traditional clothing or assimilate to Western fashion is anyone’s guess at this point, but many fled with only the clothes on their back so they will definitely be strong wardrobe consumers in the coming years.
Be aware, this isn’t the first time the Arab community has gotten some attention from a major designer. Tommy Hilfiger and Donna Karan (through her DKNY brand) have previously done capsule collections directed toward this market, as have a couple of other designers. What makes this important is that none of the previous brands have carried the weight or attention that Dolce & Gabbana do. The duo is a critical player in the whole Made in Italy campaign. Should Dolce & Gabbana do well with this Arab line, don’t be surprised if others such as Prada and possibly even Armani follow suit.
This is overdue. Fashion has ignored the Arab world for far too long and I’m idealistic enough to believe that the industry has the ability to mend some of the bridges that politicians so carelessly burn. The collection is quite attractive. We hope this goes very well and that others follow quickly.