By examining Western consumerism and its influence on traditional Muslim Culture, Al-Kouture reveals the tension between Occidental and Arab-Islamic ideologies. Al-Badry plays with symbolism and the impact of globalization as he explores the possibilities of assimilation in a vast, polarized world.
Would the Western World accept the niqab if it were on the racks of luxury fashion designers?
Edward Said wrote “Muhammad ‘Abdu and his remarkable contemporary Jamal al-Din al-Afghani argued either that Islam had better modernize in order to compete with the West, or that it should return to its Meccan roots the better to combat the West.”
The global Muslim clothing market is forecast to be worth $320 billion by 2020, larger than the current markets of Britain, Germany, and India combined. In the last 2 years, Western brands have created clothing to appeal the millions of consumers in these markets. Positioned between the Occident and Arab-Islam worlds, Al Kouture investigates seasonal fashion trends built upon millennia-old cultural traditions.
The baseline of this project is unveiling the contradictions between cultural, religious, consumer, and corporate interests. This entails investigating the relationship between the commodity fetish object as a symbol of modernity, and women as the object of both male and market desires. What happens for the Islamic World by putting seasonal designer patterns/brands on millennia-old cultural traditions? Would the Western World accept the niqab if it were on the racks of luxury fashion designers? These entanglements and apertures form the lens through which the series investigates conflicting ideologies: Western consumerism and its influence on traditional Muslim culture.
Wesaam Al-Badry’s process consists of procuring vintage and contemporary silk scarves from couture houses like Hermes and Gucci. He tailors and re-purposes them into niqabs, traditional clothes some Muslim women wear to cover their faces in public. By toying with symbolism, emulation and consumerism, Al-Badry both questions the political economy of fabric and explores the possibility of assimilation in a vastly polarized world.