Saks Showcases Islamic Couture Following France’s Talk of Burka Ban

June 30, 2009 • Magazine

Couture abayas designed by (from left) Blumarine, John Galliano, and Carolina Herrera

Following last week's controversial announcement that the French government was considering a national ban on burkas, several designers found their own creative way to respond to the news. Saks Fifth Avenue arranged an exclusive designer fashion show where some of the most prestigious fashion houses showcased their versions of traditional Islamic garb. Held at the Parisian George V hotel, the show spotlighted the abaya, a floor-length cover up traditionally worn over other clothes, similar to the burka. The participating designers included John Galliano, Nina Ricci, Carolina Herrera, Blumarine, and Alberta Ferretti. Each house was able to put a signature spin on their couture looks, allowing for some creativity and expression to show through the typically monochromatic piece.

Saks arranged the fashion show specifically with their Muslim and Arab clients in mind. Dania Tarhini, the general manager of Saks in Saudi Arabia, organized
the show after she realized women were running around all day with
their lovely designer clothes hidden by plain black abayas. "It is an
obligation to wear the abaya there, but let them feel good about it,"
she said. Paris was chosen to host the show due to it's integral role in designer fashion, as well as it's significant population of Arab and North African Muslims, including various high-brow business owners. As it turned out, the timing of the show coincided with the French government's declaration that it was assigning a panel of legislators to determine whether burkas would continue to be allowed in the country. Though the show was geared toward Saks' Saudi Arabian clientele, the show itself served as a proverbial thumbing of the nose to the French government, for refusing to acknowledge the cultural practices of its people.

The first set of designer abayas, ranging from $5,500 to $11,150, will be
given as gifts to Saks Fifth Avenue's most faithful Saudi clients.
Ready-to-wear versions of the robes will hit the sales floor in Jeddah
and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia
in September, retailing for around $2,500. Most of the abayas in the show were suitable to wear in Saudi Arabia for everyday use.
A few translucent styles, like the bell-sleeved gown by Carolina Herrera embroidered with yellow flowers, was specifically designed to be worn over evening gowns.

Article and Photo Source: newyorkmag

-Alia Rajput

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