Debenhams becomes 1st major UK department store to sell hijabs & abayas
Iconic British retailer Debenhams has become the first major department store in the UK to sell hijabs, a traditional Muslim headscarf. Predictably, the decision has divided opinion.
The department store will begin stocking products from the international brand Aab in its shops from May.
Behind the controversy lies Aab’s range of “premium modest clothing,” which includes traditional Muslim garments such as full-body covering abayas and hijabs.
The brand will first appear at Debenhams’ flagship store in central London, but will soon be sold in Birmingham’s Bullring mall, the Trafford Centre in Manchester and Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester.
“We started Aab almost a decade ago as a label that redefined modest fashion and one that caters for everyday modern wardrobe staples,” said the brand’s founder, Nazmin Alim.
“The partnership with Debenhams opens up some very exciting opportunities for us.”
The launch comes as the department store opens a series of branches in majority-Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Indonesia.
“Adding the high quality fashion range to our product mix enables us to offer collections that are highly relevant in both international markets and to our domestic customers,” said the shop’s international trading director, Jeanette Whithear.
Shoppers were not all pleased with the new collaboration, however, with some suggesting a boycott of the chain altogether.
“@Debenhams You are a disgrace, the Hijab is a symbol of oppression. I am now boycotting your store, and will push for a petition #traitors,” said one Twitter user named Mart31.
Others thought the move could be anti-feminist, with another user Therese Hirst wondering on Twitter whether it is “wise” for Debenhams to sell clothing that is a “sign of patriarchal oppression.”
Other British clothes shops like Marks & Spencer and John Lewis have been selling Islamic swimsuits, also known as burkinis, for some time. Debenhams is believed to be the first to sell a whole range of dresses and other items specifically made for Muslim women.