Paris, London – Italy’s Gucci will stop using fur in its designs from next year, joining a growing number of fashion houses looking at alternatives after coming under pressure from animal rights activists and changing consumer tastes, Reuters reported.
Gucci, part of Paris-based luxury group Kering, has seen a rise in sales during the past two years under the administration of creative director Alessandro Michele.
Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s chief executive, said the brand would drop fur starting from its spring and summer 2018 collection and that its new approach had been agreed on with Michele.
“In selecting a new creative director, I wanted to find someone who shared a belief in the importance of the same values. I sensed that immediately on meeting Alessandro for the first time,” Bizzarri said.
Anti-fur protesters have been known to demonstrate outside catwalk shows at fashion weeks around the world to call for an end to practices many see as cruel to animals, and luxury goods buyers – especially younger generations – have become more sensitive to environmental issues, too.
London – The Middle East region has been a perfect hub for international fashion designers after it stole the lights in the past years following the growing economic crisis which was mainly caused by the slowness of the Chinese economy. New investors, who chose the Middle East to launch their new markets, have focused on the Arabian style and introduced designs that respond to its needs – jewelry designers work on the Arab woman’s favorite stones, diamonds and Emeralds.
Some designers like Dolce & Gabbana saved efforts and time and introduced a line of Abayas that made imaginary profits and raised envy among other hesitating fashion houses. For example, in Qatar, the D&G Abayas were sold out in no time despite being rejected by many clients and designers in the region.
Apparently, Dolce & Gabbana studied the market well and understood that the Arab lady is a good listener as long as she feels respected; this respect was emphasized in decent designs with long sleeves, high collars, and unopened skirts. In the past, these designers failed in the Middle East after they introduced a low level-style that featured clichés and designs with exaggerated embroideries to justify high prices.
However, they finally reached an equation that provides them with profits and which also respects the taste of the Arab woman who desires a look with modern elegance that suit her environment and convoy trends at the same time.
“Net-a-Porter.com”, the global shopping website has introduced a line of evening dresses specially designed for the holiday season. The site has requested five international designers and fashion houses to provide one design that can be wore by the eastern woman. These designers are Elie Saab, Etro, Roland Mouret, Dolce & Gabbana, and Alexander McQueen.
The results were magnificent and designs were full of luxury and elegance for the Arab woman with a touch of uniqueness.
Net-a-porter’s Retail Fashion Director Lisa Aiken said that after studying the sales’ activity in the Middle Eastern market, the website chose the best selling designers; it worked with them closely to introduce a unique collection that respects the taste of Net-a-porter’s clients. This collection has been available exclusively on the website since the 11th of November.
There are certain fashion designs that surprise us and make us question whether they were inspired by a personal concept of fashion or designed in favor of a certain environment that shall be promoted in the coming 6 months. Long sleeve dresses, high necklines, long skirts with scarves, hats, and turbans that cover the head might merely be an idea inspired by the designer after a movie or a romantic novel, or they might also be a concept that carries out whole cultural and ethnic features imposed by markets and customers that enjoy remarkable purchasing power.
In all cases, the consumer is the first benefiter in general. Over the past years, runways have been overshadowed with designs that are both decent and elegant with eastern inspirations that sometimes focus on rich fabrics and other times on ethnic prints and embroideries.
Designers expound that time has changed and the concept of attraction has changed with it and thus no longer concentrates on revealing body charms. As a matter of fact today, attraction is based on intellect and culture. Although it seems the new concept flatters the East, and particularly Arab women, it has succeeded in attracting women from all over the world regardless of their nationalities.
Ten years ago, Channel’s designer, Karl Lagerfeld said that fashion is part of people and all ongoing events around the world; pointing to the incidents taking place in the Middle East. Years have passed and many collections were introduced by different designers who adopted and reflected the same “decent” spirit, however some of them only aimed at achieving financial profits by introducing typical and stereotyped attires that lacked uniqueness and did not fully respond to the demands of modern conservative women.
Valentino, which is partially owned by the Qatari firm “Mayhoola for Investments”, was the best in embodying the trend of decent fashion and in introducing designs that feature femininity as an equivalent concept of attraction. Obviously, the new fashion styles have served the Arab woman’s taste, as it showed that femininity doesn’t mean the revelation of body charms and body details.
Professor Reina Lewis from London College of Fashion (LCF) implemented many researches in this field and discovered that decent designs were increasingly spreading among the young generation regardless of factors like religion, ethnicity, and nationality.
Lewis also found that young ladies are imposing their styles in the market, like the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, who insisted from the beginning on waiving seduction and choosing a classic elegant style, including her royal wedding dress and attires she chose in her official appearances.
Designers say that the success and self-esteem of the modern women, who don’t feel that they need to reveal their body charms to fulfill their ambitions, has encouraged them on adopting this style in their lines. They add that while women in the past used to wear revealing attires to feel appreciated and attractive, the new generation insists on choosing comfortable and flexible clothes to wear.
Menswear shows are being gradually airbrushed from the fashion industry’s calendar and combined into the women’s events, mostly as an accessory.
For instance 10 designers have decided not to showcase their collections this year in Milan, in shows that began on Friday for men’s fashion week, including Calvin Klein, Ermenegildo Zegna and Kering’s Brioni and Bottega Veneta.
Other brands, including Burberry, Gucci and Tom Ford, have announced in recent months that they plan to stage combined events in future, to take advantage of time by displaying both collections to buyers and customers.
However some industry insiders and analysts say separate men’s fashion shows cost thousands of dollars by the time they are not worthy of the money for luxury brands, especially that menswear make less money than womenswear, despite the hit by the global sales slowdown.
“They (brands) are focusing on what has the highest return on investment,” said Bernstein analyst Mario Ortelli.
On the other hands, celebrities such as George Clooney and Beyonce are usually front rows of women’s shows draw attracting crowds of news photographers and broadcasters while men’s catwalk don’t turn as many heads with their low-key guest lists.
In the market, annual designer menswear sales are expected to reach more than $40 billion in 2020, up 6.8 percent from 2015, according to Euromonitor International, while womenswear sales are expected to rise 7.7 percent to about $75 billion in the same period.
Threats on male models rushed four months ago when both Burberry and Tom Ford said they would hold combined shows. Italian luxury brand Gucci followed suit in April, announcing it would merge its collections and shows starting next year.
“Although menswear has acquired more of a standing over the years, the women’s shows are still the most important … with many more brands focusing on women,” said Vick Mihaci, President of Elite Management, a leading model agency.
London: Several Western designer houses are clashing in their trials to attract the Arab client before the start of the Ramadan month, but fail to understand Arab’s shopping needs, and only look at these clients’ capacities to spend large amounts of money on daring accessories and expensive products.
In Great Britain and every year during this period, designers get prepared for Arab clients by offering new products and getting rid of the old, before their arrival in the summer.
There are some designer houses that understand, or at least understand the culture of their Arab client whose need for shopping increases during the month of Ramadan due to women’s need for elegant clothes and accessories when attending all the Iftar invitations and the family entertainment evenings.
These houses are now targeting the client in his own ground, by offering a unique collection specially designed for the month of Ramadan. Such attempts witness an acceptable success, because the designs often respect the eastern milieu and the Ramadan spirit, and at the same time, offer women new choices, instead of providing designs that only look at financial profits.
In other terms, many Arab women saw nothing different in the abayas designed by Dolce & Gabbana from the ones already made by Arab designers. The mistake of Dolce & Gabbana was their interest in iconic pieces with deep cultural meanings, that could only be understood by people living in this region or orientalists who had spend years studying Arab culture.
Such mistake drove Burberry fashion house to take a totally different policy by using a more simple language in dealing with the Arab client. The British fashion house decided to celebrate the opening of its immense shop in the U.A.E. last April with its traditional iconic trench-coat, by photographing leading Arab figures, wearing it, each in its own way.
Burberry also offered a unique collection ahead of the month of Ramadan, without referring to the abayas or caftans to reach Arab women’s wardrobe, but, instead, it kept its style as a British designer brand by respecting the Arab environment and the spiritual milieu of Ramadan.
Burberry Creative Director Christopher Bailey suggested a collection of long evening dresses, in addition to silk scarfs, stone embellished sandals, and expensive leather handbags, all designed in London and produced in Italy in small quantities.
In the month of Ramadan, Burberry and other designer houses discovered the increase of selling in the region. Therefore, some of these brands knew how to please their clients by offering modern styles that could be appreciated by Arab women rather than using traditional Arab pieces to reach Arab clients’ pockets.
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—As soon as cold winter winds start blowing in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, inhabitants rush to wear the farwa, a warm winter clothing that has accompanied the people of the Arabian Peninsula through the freezing cold for a very long time.
The farwa is a long piece of clothing that resembles the abaya in that it covers the entire body. It is usually padded with sheepskin, but rabbit hair or ostrich down can also be used. More recently, imported petroleum products from Asia have been used to manufacture faux fur, making the final product cheaper and more accessible.
Dayf Allah Al-Janouby, the chief executive of a fur and winter clothing company based in Saudi Arabia, estimated the value of the winter clothing market in the kingdom—including the farwa and the mislah—at about 320 million US Dollars. He indicated that the number of customers increased by around 85 percent as the winter cold intensified, making the season the most profitable for fur factories and import companies.
Janouby added that most of the manufacturing of fur products was carried out locally, with imported products making up no more than 45 percent.
Bandar Al-Amer, who sells winter clothing in Riyadh, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the farwa was an essential item for the Saudi winter, giving protection from the bitter cold of the desert in winter.
Fur products vary in style and quality. Amer explained that as well as those that cover the length of the body, there is another garment that only cover the torso, called a sadri. They also vary in quality and, consequently, in price.
Ibrahim Dhiab, a clothes salesman, also highlighted the variety of fur clothes and the different materials that were included in the first stages of manufacturing. Industrially manufactured faux fur is one example, which is usually aimed at female customers, and is usually decorated with traditional ornaments and trimmings.
Some of the most prominent political figures and world leaders seen wearing regional fur products include King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, former US presidents George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush, as well as former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Dhiab told Asharq Al-Awsat that the conflict in Syria had widely impacted the import market due to a fall in production in Syrian cities. Consequently, products manufactured in Jordan, China and elsewhere have gained popularity, competing against each other for the best combination of price and quality as demand for fur clothing increases.
Tehran, Asharq Al-Awsat—Zahra Eshraghi is an Iranian human rights activist who is well known for her outspoken, feminist views. She also happens to be the granddaughter of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Eshraghi gives her view of the situation in the country following the election of moderate leader Hassan Rouhani. She discusses the controversial police enforcement of women’s dress code in Iran, pledging to overthrow the traditional black chador (robe) and ignite a “color revolution.”
Eshraghi granted Asharq Al-Awsat an intriguing insight into the life of the granddaughter of the country’s founder, claiming that she inherited her unique dress sense from her family, adding that Ayatollah Khomeini himself did not favor wearing black. Eshraghi, who is married to Mohammad-Reza Khatami, the younger brother of reformist former president Mohammad Khatami, also discussed Iranian music, fashion and her hopes for the country’s future.
This interview has been edited for length.
Asharq Al-Awsat: Despite being the granddaughter of the founder of the Islamic Republic, you are famous for wearing colorful dresses and jeans. Has your family ever commented on your dress sense?
Zahra Eshraghi: My family are just like me—my sisters, my mother and my grandmother. My grandmother always dressed properly and her dresses were more beautiful than ours, her grandchildren. My grandmother was a well-educated poet, extremely beautiful and always well-dressed. If my dress sense is different from that of the daughters of other well-known religious families, it is because of my family background.
I think that everyone dresses according to their attitude. I have always opposed the way female officials dress. If they want to promote Islam, they can do this while wearing more fashionable veils and dress.
For example, my grandfather—Ayatollah Khomeini—always said that the color black is not a good color to wear. That’s why I attribute my own dress sense to my family background. I even planned to issue a call to Iranian women via Facebook to begin dressing in happier colors. I want to start a color revolution. Psychologically, color can have positive or negative effects. With Mr. Rouhani in power, there is a good opportunity to do this. Both Rouhani and his foreign minister [Mohammad Javad Zarif] are always dressed smartly.
Q: What about the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham?
I am opposed to the way she dresses and I think that she has to reconsider her dress style. I think that she should dress in light colors. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson is viewed across the world. Clothes are very important. You must know that Mr. Khatami, who won an election, did so not just because of his attitude. It was also due to his appearance and apparel. Unfortunately, some people in the regime do not take this issue into account. Men’s dress may have gradually changed to some extent, but I regret to say that women’s dress has remained the same. If we can gradually create a color revolution, that would be great.
Q: You are very active on Facebook and other social networking websites. You must have seen the photos of violent police crackdowns on women due to their flouting of dress codes. What’s your view of this?
I am opposed to any police crackdown on the dress code because I believe that such measures will have no effect. As long as this law is in effect, we have to object to it. The entire dress code law must be annulled. However, conditions have changed in Iran and they have improved to a great extent. I hope that Mr. Rouhani will bring an end to the police crackdowns over the dress code. A couple of days ago, I posted several photos of myself without chador [robe] on my Instagram account; several religious women told me that my dress was inappropriate. I replied: That’s me. [If you don’t like it then] don’t look at me!
Q: Is it realistic to believe that the hijab could no longer be compulsory in Iran one day?
I was talking to one of my friends who is a political activist. She said that this will be in effect within two years’ time. Nobody knows what the future holds for the Islamic Republic. Who imagined that a telephone conversation between the Iranian and US presidents would ever take place? We would have laughed at anyone who raised this possibility just three months ago. Therefore, we cannot rule out anything.
I agree that there are some harsh restrictions in Iran, but the most stylish boys and girls in the world are found here in Tehran. Some time ago, I returned from a trip abroad and I discovered that Iranian girls are more stylish than the Europeans, despite the restrictions. While there were even more stringent restrictions in the past; these have been eased now. For instance, my son can go to university dressed in brightly-colored T-shirts and jeans. Conditions have changed—and I hope for the better.
Q: There was a sense of hope in Iran following the 1997 presidential elections and the arrival of reformist Mohammad Khatami. This is a sense that has perhaps returned with the election of Hassan Rouhani. How would you compare the May 1997 election of Khatami and the June 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani?
I don’t see any major difference [between these two events]. The last elections, which brought Mr. Rouhani to power, were a continuation of the May 1997 elections. This showed that the Iranian people still want reforms. Despite an eight-year hiatus and the unfortunate arrival in power of an anti-reform government, people showed that they still want reforms.
All of this happened despite voter apathy dominating the election campaigning and the main contenders being disqualified from running for the presidency. This election showed that people are not disappointed. I don’t see any difference between this election and the 1997 election. I think that people want reforms and calm in the country.
Q: Is it possible that the current administration will meet the same fate as the reformist administration of Mr. Khatami, namely with it being succeeded by a president with a completely opposing agenda?
I’m not disappointed. The May 1997 election was an emotional and unprecedented event. Both the reformists and their opponents were inexperienced. I think that even opponents of reformists have become a bit more reasonable and understood that the violent methods they resorted to during those days are no longer effective.
I think that both sides have become more moderate. While I doubt that the anti-reform groups have opted for any level of moderation, I think their leaders have embraced a bit of moderation. I don’t think that the violent atmosphere that prevailed during that period could return. The conditions have changed now. Tough economic sanctions, failed foreign policy, and sanctions are all legacies of the Ahmadinejad Administration, and so I think everybody is seeking a way out of these woes. So I don’t think we will see a return to this period.
Q: You noted that both reformists and conservatives have embraced moderation. How have reformists been moderated?
They have been moderate in their discourse. At the time, they failed to correctly assess the conditions. They controlled the administration and the parliament, but some of them pursued a radical discourse and the regime feared that some of them might be subversive.
Q: Your husband, Mohammad-Reza Khatami, is a senior reformist figure in Iran, while you are a well-known human rights activist. Have you ever been at odds over political or social issues?
Our differences are minor. Both of us are reformists and we want reforms and calm in the country. He does not accept all my views, nor do I accept all his views. He is stricter than me on some issues.
Q: How often do you travel abroad?
I love foreign trips because one can see the customs and more of different countries. My last visit was to visit my daughter. I have never traveled abroad simply for tourism and entertainment. I often travel with my husband, who is a medical doctor, and is often invited to attend seminars abroad.
Q: Which countries in the region have you traveled to?
I went to Lebanon many years ago, I have also traveled to Dubai and Syria—which is now in chaos. I also went to Turkey, with my husband, for a medical seminar.
Q: Do you speak any foreign languages?
Just a bit of English. Just enough to understand daily conversations.
Q: Do you have satellite at home?
Yes, we do.
Q: What kind of channels do you watch?
I often watch BBC Persian, Al-Jazeera, and Al-Arabiya. But my Arabic is not good. Reza often follows news on the Arabic channels. I also like to watch films and music.
Q: What is your favorite television series?
I often watch NBC, which broadcasts the latest Hollywood films. I watch [Turkish soap opera] “Magnificent Century.” Of course, this is if the channels are not being jammed. I also like to listen to music.
Q: Who is your favorite singer?
It depends on what I feel like listening to. Everyone loves traditional songs, particularly those by Mohammad-Reza Shajarian. I also like Homayoun Shajarian and Ehsan Khajeh Amiri.
Q: Do you listen to any female singers?
Yes, of course. I can’t say that I love Googoosh; that will cause a media storm. [Googoosh was banned from singing after the Islamic revolution.] I love Hayedeh’s voice; Hayedeh was a prodigy of Iranian music. I love Hayedeh’s song about Imam Ali. Hayedeh and [her sister] Mahasti are popular female singers. I also like pop music, but not the new songs. My children are like me and share my taste. Life is meaningless without music. I think that life without art and music is spiritless.
Dubai, Reuters—Dubai unveiled plans on Saturday to become a center for business that follows Islamic principles in areas from banking and insurance to food processing, tourism and education.
With a freewheeling commercial culture and a diverse population with cosmopolitan lifestyles, the booming emirate of 2.1 million people is not known for its Islamic scholarship.
But in the past few decades, Dubai has used its international ties to become the Gulf’s main center for finance, trade and travel. Officials said they would now focus on business related to the religious beliefs of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.
“The total foreign trade of the Muslim world is USD 4 trillion. This shows the potential that is available for Dubai,” Mohammed Al-Gergawi, chairman of Dubai Holding, a conglomerate owned by the emirate’s ruler, told a conference.
In finance, Dubai wants to become a top center for the issuance and trading of Islamic bonds, which are structured to avoid the payment of interest. It aims to rival the main hubs for Islamic bonds, Kuala Lumpur and London, by creating a set of clear, commonly accepted standards.
Abdulaziz Al-Ghurair, chairman of the authority overseeing Dubai’s financial center, said the emirate would also focus on Islamic re-insurance. In conventional insurance, risk is transferred from one party to another; under Islamic rules, risk is shared among members of an insurance fund.
Because there are only 19 Islamic re-insurance firms globally, Islamic insurers are forced to transfer some of their risk to conventional re-insurers, creating a business opportunity for Dubai in establishing more firms, Ghurair said.
He predicted the global Islamic re-insurance market would grow to USD 20 billion by 2020, from USD 11 billion at present.
Islamic endowments, estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars globally, are another area which Dubai is targeting. Analysts say many of them invest their money passively and inefficiently, creating potential for economic gains if they are reformed.
Dubai intends to establish by the first quarter of next year an International Endowment Authority, headquartered in the emirate, which will promote best practices in the global industry, officials said.
The emirate will get involved in the business of certifying halal food and other products that are prepared under Islamic principles. It plans to set up an international laboratory and accreditation center by the first quarter of 2014, aiming to gain 10 percent of the global market in the next three years.
Officials said they would also promote Dubai as a center for Islamic tourism, education and fashion, though they did not give details of those initiatives.