D&G unveils Middle East line

Italian fashion house sets sights on region's booming market with modestly designed abayas and hijabs

ROME • Dolce & Gabbana, best known for womenswear inspired by the sultry sensualism of southern Italy, is attacking the booming Middle Eastern market for high fashion with a collection of abayas and hijabs.

The Abaya line, which meets the modesty requirements of most versions of Islam, was launched last week in D&G's boutiques throughout the Middle East, as well as in Milan, Munich, Paris and London, popular destinations for well-heeled shopping tourists from the region.

The mini collection, billed as capturing the "allure of the Middle East", has generated a stir of interest on social media, with designers Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce generally winning praise for demonstrating that dressing modestly does not have to mean dressing drably.

A spokesman for the designers said there was no particular agenda other than catering to their customers' requirements.

Dolce & Gabbana has won praise on social media for its new capsule collection of hijabs and abayas. -- PHOTO: D&G

"It is not the first capsule collection Dolce and Gabbana have designed and dedicated to a specific market," she said.

"In the past, they have created collections for the China market, as well as Brazil, Japan and Mexico. So it's a collection without any ideological or polemic attitude."

The company describes the pieces as "a reverie amid the desert dunes and skies of the Middle East: an enchanting visual story about the grace and beauty of the marvellous women of Arabia".

Ankle-length dresses come in subtle, sandy shades and dark, almost black, hues.

Some are embellished with the bright motifs that featured in D&G's main spring/summer 2016 collection: daisies, lemons, white dots and red roses.

Fabrics include georgette, a type of sheer crepe, and charmeuse, another lightweight material, with much use made of lace for trim and inserts.

Oversized jewellery and sunglasses also give the collection D&G's distinctive signature.

According to a report by management consultancy Bain, sales of personal luxury goods in the Middle East totalled US$8.7 billion (S$12.5 billion) last year, up almost 28 per cent from 2014.

Other top fashion brands have already attempted to boost their sales in the region with collections tailor-made for the market, notably Oscar de la Renta, DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger.

Last year, Japanese retailer Uniqlo enlisted British designer Hana Tajima to design a range aimed at Muslim women in the lead-up to the fasting month of Ramadan, while Sweden's H&M cast its first hijab wearing model, Mariah Idrissi. Idrissi said D&G's entry into this particular market was "definitely a positive thing".

"I think fashion houses are realising; let's not just do it in that one month, let's make this something to stay because they've realised the potential and how much Muslim women spend on fashion," she said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'D&G unveils Middle East line'. Print Edition | Subscribe