Australian Vogue’s Article “Brave New Worlds” inspired me to further investigate the fashion situation currently evolving in North Africa and The Middle East. It appears that the famous scene, as portrayed in Sex and The City 2, where a group of Middle Eastern women unviel themselves to reveal the latest high-end fashion collections for that season as their undergarments is in fact a fair and, one could almost argue, correct display of whats currently occuring with women and fashion in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Vogue article, written by Robert Sullivan, explores how the fashion landscape in these countries is rapidly changing. The Chalhoub Group - who partner with the likes of Fendi, Saks Fifth Avenue and Chanel, is an example of just one of the many luxury brand markets marketers who are keen to expand beyond the current 115 stores open in the UAE. Sullivan reports that “the size of the middle east’s luxury market was estimated at US$5.7 billion in 2010, and it is expected to grow by at least 10 percent next year and double again within the next 5 years”. Further demonstrations of this love of the glamourous life is at D’NA in Riyadh, where Princess Deena al-Juhani Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia has frequently had to convince many of her customers that “American designers are as sophisticated as European ones”. If we move over to North Africa for a moment, in Morocco, a massive shopping centre has just opened outside Casablanca. This development, opened last December, draws over 14 million visitors to shop alongside fellow Europeans looking to avoid taxes.
These sorts of figures demonstrate some serious spending! It comes as no surprise due to the sheer nature of employment and industry in the area, but as a region so highly dominated by a strict religious regime, one has to ask: are they breaching any religious customs by displaying an evident love for all things luxurious and materialistic?
Allah himself has answered this question with the following: “And those of the left hand: What of those of the left hand? In scorching wind and scalding water, and shadow of black smoke. Neither cool nor refreshing. For they were, before that, indulged in sinful luxury.”[Al-Waqi’a: 41-45] and ll when We grasp the (town’s) luxurious ones with punishment, behold! They started to supplicate.”[Al-Mu’minun: 64]. Therefore - a traditionalist and strict interpretation of this would state that Islam prohibits the individual from luxury, considering it a sin. He even warned the luxurious ones with torture.
so…. the rat asks: is the Western construction of luxury and it’s ensuing ideals which are begining to spread their tentacles in North Africa and The Middle East, arguably as a direct result of a “Western Culture Injection” in these areas, a postivie thing? (say for women, the economy and the arts and culture of the region) Or does it show a severe step away from the traditional practices currently followed by millions of people in these regions?
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