Fashionable Burqas?

A woman wearing a niqab walks near the Eiffel Tower last month.
A woman wearing a niqab walks near the Eiffel Tower last month. (photo: Reuters)

And now for something completely different, here’s a link to an article about how Parisian haute couture fashion designers regard the burqa and other Muslim garments designed to hide women from public view.

Somewhat surprisingly, given the contemporary fashion industry’s embrace of revealing clothing and given the hostility of the France’s secularized government towards burqas and other traditional Muslim attire for women, the designers interviewed by Reuters seem to be okay with such garments:

Last week, a somewhat unlikely group of commentators joined the debate — fashion designers at the haute couture shows in Paris. The niqab and the burqa are, after all, garments, so maybe it should not be surprising that the high priests of fashion have spent some thought on the issue.

In fact, many top French designers make customised abayas (long, baggy gowns [of] some Arab women usually worn with a veil) and other luxury versions of traditional outfits for their Middle Eastern clients.

Speaking backstage before and after their shows, surrounded by half-naked models, most stuck to the middle ground, saying they had nothing against the burqa, abaya or niqab as long as the woman was not forced into it. Couturier Franck Sorbier pointed out that in most hot places, including Corsica, women wear some kind of headscarf.

“If someone tells me, ‘design an abaya,’ why not, I’m proud of that. It’s just a garment,” haute couture designer Stephane Rolland, who has made many abayas for Middle Eastern clients, told me.

Well, that may be. But don’t expect to see wraith-thin models parading down the catwalks in Paris or Milan encased in burqas any time soon — at least not for a few decades until Muslims comprise a majority of the population in many European countries, as demographers calculate will happen if current demographic trends persist there.