Dolce and Gabbana unveils discreet designs for Muslim women

A model wearing a creation of the Dolce&Gabbana Abaya line, a collection of abayas and hijabs billed as capturing the "allure of the Middle East" , on January 8, 2016More

Dolce and Gabbana, designers best known for womenswear inspired by the sultry sensualism of southern Italy, are attacking the booming middle Eastern market for high fashion with a collection of abayas and hijabs.

The Abaya line, which conforms with the modesty requirements of most versions of Islam, was launched this week in D&G's boutiques throughout the Middle East, as well as in Milan, Munich, Paris and London, popular destinations for well-heeled shopping tourists from the region.

The mini collection, billed as capturing the "allure of the Middle East", has generated a stir of interest on social media with designers Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce generally winning praise for demonstrating that dressing modestly does not have to mean dressing drab.

A spokeswoman for the designers said there was no particular agenda other than catering for their customers' requirements. "It is not the first capsule collection Dolce and Gabbana has designed and dedicated to a specific market," she told AFP.

"In the past, they have created collections for the China market, as well as Brazil, Japan and Mexico. So it?s a collection without any ideological or polemic attitude."

The company describes the pieces as "a reverie amidst the desert dunes and skies of the Middle East: an enchanting visual story about the grace and beauty of the marvellous women of Arabia."

Ankle-length dresses come in both subtle, sandy shades and dark, almost black, hues.

Some are embellished with the bright motifs that featured in D&G's main spring/summer 2016 collection: daisies, lemons, white dots and red roses.

Fabrics include Georgette, a type of sheer crepe, and charmeuse, another lightweight material, with much use made of lace for trim and inserts.

Oversized jewellery and sunglasses also give the collection D&G's distinctive signature.

According to a report by management consultancy Bain, sales of personal luxury goods in the Middle East totalled $8.7 billion in 2015, up nearly 28 percent from 2014.

Other top fashion brands have already attempted to boost their sales in the region with collections tailor-made for the market, notably Oscar de la Renta, DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger.

Last year saw Japanese retailer Uniqlo enlist British designer Hana Tajima to design a range aimed at Muslim women in the run up to the fasting month of Ramadan, while Sweden's H&M cast its first hijab wearing model, Mariah Idrissi.

Idrissi said D&G's entry to this particular market was "definitely a positive thing."

"I think (fashion houses) are realising; let's not just do it in that one month, let's make this something to stay, because they've realised the potential and how much Muslim women spend on fashion," she told Britain's Daily Telegraph.

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