I've been thinking about whether to actually post this duo since I first saw Givenchy's fall 2009 collection on every blog on the web. With critics raving about this collection, and it's brazen middle eastern influences, I thought I would take a moment to outline why this collection is so significant. Ricardo Tisci, though an Italian designer, works for the Givenchy, a French Haute Couture label, and the 2nd largest French fashion house under LVMH umbrella after Dior. This new collection was shown in Paris, but the girls all had their hair dyed black, everything was reminiscent of Morocco and the Odalisques in harems which were so popular during the colonial period. The musical accompaniment consisted of musicians playing karkabou.
The reason I'm reiterating all this information, as you've no doubt seen it all over every blog by now, is that you may have missed a significant development in French politics as of late. For the past few years, the "Burka ban" has been gaining support in France, this very country where Tisci works. With the determination of president Sarkozy, the continued efforts to ban religious headscarves which began in schools (France is admirably secular when it comes to government) is now spreading. Calling any kind of religious headscarf (the burka, the niqqab, etc) a "walking prison", French politicians are essentially claiming that a woman's freedom is compromised when she wears one, but that it is their right to prohibit her from wearing it. I won't say anything more, as I prefer to hear your own conclusions, but here is a recent article from The Economist that sums it up (print subscription required to view).
No cover up
France ponders a burqa ban
Jun 25th 2009 | PARIS
From The Economist print edition
The government takes on a “walking prison”
WHEN the French government decided in 2004 to ban the Muslim headscarf in state schools and other public buildings, it set off a heated debate over religious expression and women’s rights in a secular state. Now Nicolas Sarkozy has sparked another by calling the burqa, a head-to-toe Islamic garment, “a sign of subjugation…of debasement” that is “not welcome on French territory”.
Mr Sarkozy’s comments came after a group of deputies, led by André Gerin, a Communist, had called for a parliamentary inquiry into the wearing of the burqa, with a view to a possible ban. This would mean in all public places, since it is already banned in state institutions under the 2004 law. The deputies called burqas “veritable walking prisons”.
France’s strict secularism, entrenched by law since 1905, keeps religion firmly out of the state sphere. There are no religious studies (let alone nativity plays) in state schools, nor may public workers sport the headscarf. The government denies that such policies constrain religious freedom or are especially aimed at Islam. France welcomes private Muslim schools. Mosque-building is widespread. The 2004 headscarf ban outlawed “conspicuous” religious symbols of all faiths. Yet there are growing worries about the spread of hard-line Islamism in the heavily Muslim banlieues.
Now that Mr Sarkozy has publicly condemned the burqa, the chances of a ban have risen sharply. Parliament has launched a cross-party mission to report back in six months. In fact, few women wear the full garment in France. But mayors of cities with big Muslim populations report a steady increase in numbers, due not to immigration but to its adoption by French-born women—often from North African countries where the burqa is not traditionally worn.
Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the official French Council of the Muslim Faith, has suggested that the inquiry would itself stigmatise Islam. A ban might be misunderstood abroad, and not only in the Muslim world. In his recent speech in Cairo, Barack Obama said that “it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practising religion as they see fit—for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear.”
Not so, say many French politicians—including such prominent Muslims as Fadela Amara, the cities minister. The founder of a women’s-rights group, Ms Amara has called the burqa “a coffin that kills individual liberties”, and a sign of the “political exploitation of Islam”.