x

Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

US retail giant Macy’s to launch clothing range including hijabs

The company is attempting to grab a slice of the lucrative Muslim clothing market

A hijab from the Verona Collection which will go on sale at Macy's from February 15. Verona Collection
A hijab from the Verona Collection which will go on sale at Macy's from February 15. Verona Collection

The American retail giant Macy’s is to launch a collection of modest women’s clothes, including hijabs, as it looks to capture a slice of the increasingly lucrative Muslim clothing market.

Its new Verona Collection will appear in stores on February 15, and features long cardigans and full-coverage sweaters that mix elegance with modesty.

It will mark the first time a nationwide department store has sold hijabs.

The idea has already attracted a mix of praise and criticism at a time when the US has seen a rise in the number of Islamophobic attacks since Donald Trump took power.

Macy’s, which has closed dozens of stores in the past two years, as it struggles to compete with new competitors and online sales, joins other major brands such as Nike and American Eagle in developing products tailored to Muslim women.

The items will sell for $13 to $85.

Lisa Vogl, the fashion photographer who came up with the brand, said: “Verona Collection is more than a clothing brand. It’s a platform for a community of women to express their personal identity and embrace fashion that makes them feel confident on the inside and outside.”

On her website, she described developing the idea after she converted to Islam in 2011 but struggled to find fashionable and affordable clothing that suited her lifestyle.

Her range quickly found a market. Vogl set up a shop in Orlando, Florida, and began shipping across the US and internationally to the United Kingdom.

Last year she joined Macy’s development programme, The Workshop, which aims to promote businesses owned by minorities and women.

“Through The Workshop at Macy’s, we want to nurture and support minority- and women-owned businesses to build their capabilities and become the next generation of retail partners,” said Shawn Outler, Macy’s executive vice president.

In so doing, Macy’s gets a share of a growing market.

Consumers around the world spent $254 billion on Muslim clothing in 2016, according to the latest Global Islamic Economy report, which forecasts that the market could grow to $373 billion by 2012.

Several upmarket American designers, such as Haute Hijab, have begun selling head coverings made from chiffon, lace and beads for more than $300. And luxury brands such as Dolce & Gabban and Oscar de la Renta have also been courting fashion-counscious Muslim women.

But Macy’s is targeting a more mainstream market.

Some shoppers at a store in downtown Brooklyn said they looked forward to seeing the collection.

“I come here because they have such a big range of clothes that there’s always something that is the right sort of thing for me,” said Amina Khan, a student.

“It’s great that a designer is taking our needs into account. So I guess if I like the designs I’ll buy something.”

However, Asra Nomani, a writer and activist who campaigned for women to pray alongside men at her mosque, accused Western designers of giving in to conservative values.

“Dear @Macys (@Nike @Mattel), ‘Hijab’ is not a fashion accessory. It's a political ideology that says women must cover their hair to avoid sexually tempting men. It is the ideology of gender apartheid that segregates women in mosques, schools and public space,” she wrote on Twitter.

In December Nike introduced a sport hijab for Muslim athletes and American Eagle came up with a denim hijab, which sells for $20.

Toymakers have also begun incorporating Muslim dress into their products. In November, Mattel began making a hijab-wearing Barbie. It is part of its Shero line celebrating inspirational women and is modelled on Ibtihaj Muhammad, a fencer who became the first American Olympian to compete in a hijab.

Macy’s is the latest iconic American brand to follow suit.

It has been badly hit by a consumer downturn on Main Street as shoppers opt to spend online. Its model of big stores in prime locations looks increasingly old fashioned.

The chain is currently working through plans unveiled in 2016 to close 100 stores, shedding thousands of jobs.