In Depth

M&S burkini: Symbol of oppression or good business sense?

Launch of full-length swimsuit in company's London store attacked for 'letting sexism sneak in under the radar'

Marks & Spencer's launch of a full-length swimwear range has proved controversial.

The "burkini" "covers the whole body with the exception of the face, hands and feet, without compromising on style", says the high street retailer. 

Previously only available in M&S stores in Dubai and Libya, the £49.50 swimsuit will soon be sold in the company's flagship store in London. 

Burkinis are largely aimed at Muslim women who adhere to Islamic dress code, but they are also worn by some – such as TV chef Nigella Lawson - to protect from sunburn. 

The Daily Mail describes the launch as "ultimate proof Britain is truly multicultural" but says the outfit "proved controversial within days of going on sale".

Some argue it is a form of oppression against women. "It shows Britain is letting sexism sneak in under the radar," says the Daily Telegraph's Allison Pearson.

"[M&S] is marketing the burkini as if it were just another jolly beach outfit, not a restrictive, quasi-religious garment that treats the female form as lascivious and shameful," she adds.

This chimes with arguments made against the veil, which implies that "women are dangerous to men and society and must be covered", Muslim author Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has argued.

But others say wearing the veil or a burkini is a personal choice and it is offensive and patronising to believe that all Muslim women lack the ability to make that decision.

Ultimately, M&S says the launch simply makes good business sense. "We have sold this item for a number of years and it is popular with our customers internationally," it said.

The Muslim fashion industry is booming, with women in 2013 spending $266bn (£188) on clothing and shoes that comply with their beliefs. That figure is expected to reach $484bn (£342bn) by 2019, according to Fortune.

These are numbers that cannot be ignored, says Al Jazeera. "The number of fashionistas, entrepreneurs and designers rushing to seize the opportunity this presents is growing by the day."

Recommended

‘Ambushed by cake’: the many defences of Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson
Why we’re talking about . . .

‘Ambushed by cake’: the many defences of Boris Johnson

The anti-vaxxer’s ‘sovereign citizen’ defence examined
Anti-vaccination placards
Getting to grips with . . .

The anti-vaxxer’s ‘sovereign citizen’ defence examined

How to renew a UK passport
Blue and burgundy UK passports
In Depth

How to renew a UK passport

Making money: space diamonds and meteorite collecting
‘The Enigma’ 555.55 carat black diamond is being auctioned at Sotheby’s
Expert’s view

Making money: space diamonds and meteorite collecting

Popular articles

What would a Russian ‘lightning war’ against Ukraine look like?
Members of the Kiev territorial defence forces take part in drills outside Kiev, Ukraine
Getting to grips with . . .

What would a Russian ‘lightning war’ against Ukraine look like?

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik
In Depth

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?

Why is New Zealand shutting its borders again?
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern adjusts her face mask following a press conference
In Depth

Why is New Zealand shutting its borders again?

The Week Footer Banner