PARIS (Reuters) – Models in brightly colored pant suits and ankle-length dresses graced a Paris catwalk this week in what organizers said was the city’s first show of modest fashion that highlights styles popular with Muslim women.
The event was part of the Oriental Fashion show held on the sidelines of the city’s haute couture fashion week, which showcases designers from Asia and the Middle East.
Organisers said modest fashion had met resistance in France because of its religious associations but there was demand for the styles in the country and beyond.
“We’re French and in France we want to address this French demand, because firstly there’s a French market for this and also an export market,” Oriental Fashion Show general director Hind Joudar told Reuters.
“France’s resistance to modest fashion has nothing to do with the fashion itself it has to do with religion,” Joudar said.
Modest fashion conforms to conservative social standards common in the Middle East. In recent years, it has attracted mainstream interest and brands including Dolce & Gabbana, Uniqlo and Burberry have entered the sector.
Spending by Muslims on clothing and apparel is projected to reach $368 billion by 2021, according to the 2017 Reuters State of the Global Islamic Economy report.
France, under former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, was the first European country to pass a law banning burqa and niqab garments that conceal the face in public. Belgium later followed suit, as did the Swiss canton of Ticino.
Authorities said the full-faced veil is a security risk because it inhibit identification. France has the largest Muslim minority in Europe, estimated at 5 million, and some of Europe’s most restrictive laws about expressions of faith in public.
Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg