Saint Laurent Co-Founder Bashes Designers Who Cater to Muslims

·News Editor
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Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 2003; a look by Dolce & Gabbana. Photos: Getty; Dolce & Gabbana

Clothing geared towards Islamic women is one of the fastest growing sectors in the clothing industry (the market is expected to be worth $484 billion by 2019) — but one fashion legend isn’t having it.

On Wednesday, Yves Saint Laurent co-founder Pierre Bergé — Saint Laurent’s partner in both business and life until the designer died in 2008 of brain cancer — denounced those labels that are now catering to women who wear hijabs and other religious coverings.

“I am scandalized,” he told French radio station Europe 1 (via The Guardian). “Creators should have nothing to do with Islamic fashion. Designers are there to make women more beautiful, to give them their freedom, not to collaborate with this dictatorship which imposes this abominable thing by which we hide women and make them live a hidden life.”

Bergé’s declaration came the same day that left-wing French official Laurence Rossignol compared Muslim women choosing to wear head scarves to African-Americans preferring enslavement to freedom. (In 2010, France banned anyone from wearing full-face coverings in public, including for religious reasons.)

But despite France’s law, there’s been a recent influx in designers making clothing for fashion-conscious Muslims. In January, Italian label Dolce & Gabbana released a blinged-out capsule collection of Islam-friendly styles, which included 14 abayas (ankle-length dresses) with matching headscarves and hijabs. Fast fashion chains H&M, Mango, and Uniqlo have also begun advertising towards Islamic culture, and in mid-March, British department store Marks & Spencer unveiled a “burkini” — a swimming outfit resembling a two-piece wetsuit with a head covering — for Muslim beach-goers. The same month, sportswear brand Hummel introduced the first soccer kit with a hijab, to be worn by the Afghanistan women’s team.

But clearly, if Bergé has anything to do with it, Saint Laurent, the label — which was headed by Hedi Slimane until April 1, and has yet to announce its newest creative director — won’t be following suit.

“These creators who are taking part in the enslavement of women should ask themselves some questions,” the 85-year-old said. “Renounce the money and have some principles.”

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