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This is the question that immediately came to my mind when DKNY announced their very first Ramadan Collection making them the first mainstream designer label to create a line targeted directly at Muslims. At first blush I wasn’t sure if they were really, really progressive, or really, really savvy marketers. Do they actually care about the plight of Muslims worldwide and our seemingly never-ending battle with the media or do they just want their share of the multi-billion dollar spending power represented by the international Muslim ummah? These are just a few of the questions I had, and quite frankly, still do.
Large companies marketing their products to Muslims is actually nothing new. Coca-Cola and Pepsi amidst their decades long cola wars have been doing it in the Middle East for years. As far back as I can remember almost every food cart in New York City has been labeled as Halal, despite their owner/operators being mostly anything but Muslim, and recently hundreds of Subway restaurants have gone Halal and eliminated all pork products from their menus (while even being met with boisterous and unsurprising protest from non-Muslims). But in the world of fashion, amongst men and women, a move this overt by a large American brand with a global footprint hasn’t been seen before. But what will be interesting to see is whether or not this move ushers along the sentiment that it’s not just okay to do this in the world of fashion, but that it’s actually desirable because of what it represents, and of course, the fact it will ultimately make great business sense.
We have spoken with dozens of sisters, many of which post their thoughts right here on this site, who have selected their favorite non-Muslim owned brands because they can almost always find great modest pieces that they can work with. But the feeling that comes from a large company directing their efforts at you, should make us feel a little special. Because the truth of the matter is that with only a little effort, many more companies could tap into that multi-billion dollar market I mentioned earlier, but their fear of Islam supersedes their desire for the additional profits that are sure to come. So while I don’t, by any means, think that the move by DKNY signals some sort of mass awakening, I do think that it represents a pioneering effort of sorts, that will eventually send the signal that says, “Hey, we marketed directly to Muslims, and not only did we make some money, but we can also undo some of what has been done.”
But this then presents a direct challenge for Muslims, Muslimahs in particular. To shop or not to shop? Not that this question in and of itself has ever been a real query (for proof check out the closet of any sister you know), but it is a question of then, where do we shop? If brands like DKNY, who definitely risked something in its marketing and design campaign, are to continue catering to Muslims worldwide, we then have to vote, with our dollars, in favor of seeing more collections and campaigns for us. Because if all we do is talk about it, debate about it, and not buy, then they will see our market as potentially forever impenetrable and not worth the excess slack they may have taken for the attempt to begin with. So now more questions: Do the intentions of the company matter? Will we ever know for sure if there are actual friends of Islam in that company? What impact with DKNY’s move have on future brands?
In the end, however, we all must choose. I don’t know any Muslims who only wear brands and clothing made by Muslims. If this were our aim, our choices would be significantly limited. I only bring this up because there will be some who say not to support such an overt proposal for our allegiance because it’s off-putting and could be perceived as disingenuous or only revenue driven. To that I say there have been cases where a brand will overly say they don’t want so-and-so people wearing my brand, and sales continue for them. So we must be mindful to not set a double standard for a company just because they marketed directly to Muslims. I say if you like the brand buy it. I say if an attempt is being made, then support it. Just don’t do it because it’s directly “for” Muslims, and don’t buy just because it’s not.