The debate over the burkini proves that fashion is no trivial pursuit. Designer Masaba Gupta reflects on the freedom of visual expression
The burkini has made it to international news and is under scrutiny in Europe. Is the issue racist or is it religious? Is it just another fashion trend, or is it a ban on the freedom of expression? While people are divided on the topic, I choose to reflect on fashion and the role it plays in societal perception.
For those of you who aren’t following the reports, a burkini is a garment that allows Muslim women to swim while preserving their modesty and adhering to Islamic standards of covering their body. France has banned this full-body piece of swimwear saying the outfit is not compatible with French values.
We can find parallels on home turf, of what is considered revealing and too sexy. At any given time, an attire can be hailed as a symbol of body confidence by one segment of people, and it can be slammed as provocative by another. To me, fashion provides an avenue for every individual to express themselves. Fashion says, “This is who I am” and “This is who I would like to be”. Fashion plays a role in defining societal perceptions, and society, in turn, inspires and influences fashion. In that sense, they are symbiotic.
As a progressive person, I don’t feel the burkini should be banned. Everyone has the right to choose what they wear, and to follow certain dos and don’ts of their faith. While I support being body confident, and having the freedom of expression, I also advocate dressing for the occasion, time and place.
A low-cut gown for your evening out, a bikini on the beach — all are appropriate and fashionable. What looks sexy for a date or a night out may not be proper for the workplace or a place of worship. We’re a generation that has evolved and no longer define ourselves as either sinner or holy. Honestly, most of us are trapped somewhere in between.
Gupta is a leading fashion designer. She tweets as @MasabaG