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Viewing The Burqa Through The Lens Of Fashion Week

The debate over burqas in France continues, and this time, it’s within the context of Paris Fashion Week. It’s been a few months since President Nicolas Sarkozy has made it clear that “burqas are not welcome,” and that he may move to ban them from the country. Yet when the couture shows began opening this year, contradictions came to light when some designers, like Adam Jones, showcased haute couture abayas and burqas. The idea of the burqa being a fashion item hasn’t been considered in the debate, which takes a more political stance. But apparently, there is a demand for such items, and France is one of the prime exporter of such designer headgear. Another couturier, Stephane Rolland said, “If someone tells me, ‘design an abaya,’ why not, I’m proud of that. It’s just a garment.” Just a garment might be a light way of putting things, but it does put the product in perspective as a commodity, exemplified by the existing boutiques that sell large quantities of high-fashion head scarves. However, when it comes to placing the burqa into a category of fashion or religion, it’s clear that the contradiction is confusing. When questioned about the ethics behind the garment, Rolland shied away from the subject: “I don’t want to speak about religion, that’s a different subject. But I don’t want to cover the woman — alas, I don’t want to think about that.” Such a statement would seem to indicate that it’s more of an ignorance, not necessarily style, issue. Where do you stand? [Reuters]

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