Ramadan is upon us. For many Muslims it is time to try to get spiritually closer to God. Many believe that it is just about fasting from dusk till dawn but it is much more than that. The entire body, mind and soul should be fasting as well, by avoiding doing bad things, and focusing on increasing good deeds.
For me Ramadan is many things: sleepless nights, trying to top myself in the kitchen, being bloated, trying to be more modest, reading the Koran more. Never has it been about fashion or getting a new wardrobe ( even when Eid is approaching). Ramadan is equal to austere times.
However due to recent travelling in Muslim countries during Ramadan, I came to see the holy month in a new light. Ramadan is a celebration. In Dubai for example, I would see advertisement for Iftar parties held in posh hotels or product promotions. Even in India, gossip magazines would focus on Iftar parties hosted by celebrities. It became more and more certain to me that Ramadan for some was much more than a deeper spiritual connection with God, it was also a way of socializing, thus requiring shopping for new outfits.
To respond to this Ramadan rush, special collections are appearing here and there. The most recent in question is the capsule Ramadan collection from DKNY. It is designed by two Muslim ladies from the Middle East and consist of modest yet trendy clothes. Almost immediately posts for and against the collection starting popping on social medias. Some were being happy about the collection, others simply called it the devil.
It got me thinking: is Ramadan a new fashion season, something that we can expect between Spring/Summer and Fall/ Winter?
For many years the fashion Industry has been ignoring the Muslim woman. Some of them would find inspiration by the way Muslim women dress but it would stop there. However, many affluent Middle Eastern women love luxury fashion brands like Chanel, Dior and such. They would travel to European capitals to get the latest designer clothes. With the economic crisis hitting many fashion houses hard, and oil money being the only steady thing in this world, more and more luxury brands (even high street) have turned to the Middle East to stay afloat. It all started when they wanted to redesign the Abbaya or black cloak Muslim women wear, then they practically would have shows in the Middle East instead of the usual places of New York, London, Paris and Milan. Now, it seems they want to start a new season and open more fashion outlets.
Actually the Ramadan season is nothing new. Many designers in Muslim prominent countries would have collections during that time anticipating Eid. Last year while I was back home in Senegal during Ramadan, I watched a fashion show on TV where young local designers were presenting their collection for Eid. I was impressed that the process of purchasing an Eid outfit was easier as one could just visit a local fashion house as opposed to a few years back when one had to have it custom made from the neighborhood tailor well in advance.The entire talk of Ramadan season just hit the roof because it was a major fashion house doing it. Just imagine how social media would react had it been Chanel or Louis Vuitton?
I am all for fashion. But I find it to be devious to have a special collection for Ramadan just to get more money. But isn't it what fashion designers have been doing for years? They go where the money is. They could go on and on about fashion being a way to express their creativity but at the end of the day, it is also about making money. And they are doing it shamelessly. In these tough economic times they find ways to reinvent themselves and avoid bankruptcy. Why do we have more and more collaboration between luxury fashion houses and mass producers like Target? Why do we have the resort collection ? They are just strategic ways to get the business flowing. Plus let us face it, who in the world can nowadays afford to put thousand of dollars on bags that will be out of season as soon as they hit the shelves? Not royalty or old money ? Not your average modern woman. But oil money and nouveaux riches.
I also find it interesting that some Muslims would shone the collection. They are being judgmental to call for a boycott of the collection just because DKNY dared to make a Ramadan collection. It is funny to see minority complain that they are not being considered by the fashion industry yet when one fashion house starts we all scream foul play. DKNY is not a Muslim business, it is just a business, which wanted to cater for Muslim women in this collection. You may like or dislike the collection but why proclaim that it has ulterior dark motives? I even read somewhere that since DKNY is being owned by LVMH, buying their collection would be like buying alcohol. It made me laugh the same way I laughed at my best friend who refused to buy a Michael Kors bag just because he was gay. Maybe they are right: we should all try to do our best to follow our religion. However how can we call for boycott of this and that when we are not even sure that what we are consuming is 100% Halal? Where do most of our clothes come from, our houses, our cars, the food we eat? Let me answer that: most of our clothes are either being made by Chinese or by Bangladeshi women who work in horrifying conditions. Our food ( at least in the meat section) come from Brazil or America - by farmers who uses interesting ways to produce more ( by the way have you ever seen how bulls are being castrated and cows are being inseminated ?). Japanese and Korean design our cars, South African miners dig our diamond and Indian lower class look for our gold. Banks are owned by Jewish who handle our money. Do not even get me started on movies we watch and electronics we use. Even the social media outlets we use to blast our messages, who owns it? Think about it: can we really talk about living in a world where everything is done by Muslims for Muslims, the Muslim way? That is highly unrealistic. Unless you are living in a farm, isolated from the world eating what you produce and wearibg what you sew. No. We are living in a world where everyone and everything is related. We are all connected whether we want it or not. Therefore before criticizing a fashion house for finding new ways to increase their business by targeting Muslim women, we should take a good look at ourselves first.
On top of it all, Ramadan should not even be about Fashion and dressing up for Iftar parties ( oxymoron much?) I am all for Fashion, but Ramadan is a special time, a precious time to reflect on spirituality and abandon everything superficial. Instead of putting big bucks on that new dress, why not give that money to the poor. Instead of shopping for that Eid look, why not put aside clothes you are not wearing and donate them to charity. It dawns on me that it would be just the Muslim thing to do.
As for myself, I find this debate highly irrelevant because I just cannot afford anything on that DKNY Ramadan collection. End of the story.