Licensors Eye Ethnic Fashion

More and more designers, and some character licensors, are including apparel and accessories specific to particular ethnicities or religions among their roster of products. These items include the likes of saris and salwar kameez worn by Indian women; hijabs, abayas, and burkas for Muslims; and kimonos and yukatas for Japanese women and girls.

Designers have long licensed or produced such items within the countries in which particular ethnic or religious groups are centered, of course, where traditional styles are worn on a daily basis or for special occasions. But licensing is growing in importance as women in these regions are increasingly looking for more fashionable and modern options.

Designer label Satya Paul is among the best-known sari brands in India. The label was launched in 1985 and has stores across the country that sell saris, scarves, and other customary dress, as well as accessories such as handbags. Satya Paul has been a licensee of Disney since 2014, selling a broad Disney Monopop collection of saris. And, in Japan, Sanrio has licensed Hello Kitty for kimonos and yukatas (casual kimono-like summer garments).

More recently, the licensing of ethnic-specific apparel and accessories is expanding beyond traditional borders to encompass ethnic consumers around the world, as global designer labels focus on the growing populations of Muslim, Indian, and other ethnic and cultural customers who live in places such as Europe or the U.S. and wear traditional dress.

Selfridges in the U.K. tied in last fall with the Indian retail store Bombay Electric, hosting a pop-up shop that featured limited-edition saris from several British designers, including Mary Katrantzou and Nicholas Kirkwood, as well as a range of apparel from Indian designers such as Gaurav Gupta and Manish Orora.

In February, Uniqlo announced it would offer a collection in its U.S. stores of hijab head scarves, long skirts, outerwear, and relaxed pants styles designed by U.K.-based Muslim designer Hana Tajima. The retailer has previously collaborated with Tajima in Southeast Asia, where this collection will also be available. And the Sweden-born Muslim designer Iman Aldebe creates haute couture hijabs and turbans that are sold in luxury department stores in Stockholm as well as New York, Paris, and Dubai.

Global designers who have created hijabs and other items for Muslim women include Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, Oscar de la Renta, and the latest entrant, Dolce & Gabbana, which announced a collection of hijabs and abayas in January. Spanish-headquartered retailer Mango also offers a Ramadan collection of modest dresses. Many of these ventures to date have taken the form of capsule collections timed to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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