In late June, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made it clear that he’s no fan of the burqa, calling the concealing garment worn by some Muslim women a symbol of “subservience.” But right around that same time, a fashion show consisting of only abayas, the requisite attire of Saudi women, hit the runway in Paris.
Abayas, typically black and usually unadorned, are required garb for all women in Saudi Arabia. Saks Fifth Avenue in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital city, cleverly saw this as a business opportunity: Along with selling Western-style clothing, why not offer options for the covering as well, thought the store’s general manager, Dania Tarhini. She enlisted a crop of well-known designers such as Carolina Herrera and Dior’s John Galliano to create their own take on the garment. In an interview with the Associated Press, Tarhini admitted that she encountered difficulties in convincing some of the designers to participate. Considering the beautiful results, Saudi women should be grateful she persevered.