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DUBAI: Now, she can look pious in hijab and cool in her shades

November 24, 2009 |  3:37 pm

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Want to observe Islamic dress code while staying trendy in Dubai and Saudi Arabia’s scorching desert heat? 

Put on a pair of gold encrusted BQ shades --  the world’s first sunglasses especially tailored for piously dressed women in the Persian Gulf.

The brand's name BQ comes  from the word burqa --  a face-covering harness worn by women in the Persian Gulf region in nomadic times. BQ's debut collection features modern replicas of the traditional accessory in the form of large, dark aviator-style sunglasses.

Behind the line is London-based design firm Fitch branch in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It hopes BQ will become a hit among young fashionable women in the region by mixing trends with tradition.

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BQ pitches the proposition that burqas were traditionally a type of protection from the sun as well as a religious face veil.

If BQ becomes successful, makers of designer sunglasses may well find themselves facing a new rival in the Persian Gulf market. Large,  extravagant shades from high-end brands are  common among women in the shopping malls of Saudi Arabia and Dubai these days.

Olivier Auroy, head of Fitch in Dubai, hopes that the young trendsetters will drop their designer shades for BQ.

“Instead of wearing Chanel or Gucci, I want them to wear BQ," he told The Times over the phone from Dubai. 

Analysts suggest there might be a lucrative market for BQ, considering the cultural significance of the burqa in the gulf countries.

Khulood Al-Atiyat of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding says that though contemporary women often choose the sunglasses before the burqa, she believes the garment still holds traditional value in her culture.

“The reason why ladies don’t wear the burqas as much today is because of globalization. They'd rather wear sunglasses because it makes more sense. And it’s also to show their sense of style. But the burqa, I guess, will always be part of heritage and tradition and what we are proud of. It’s something I hope we won’t lose in the future,” she said in a video presentation of the BQ project.

It is also BQ's aim to tear down stereotypical views of the burqa as a tool of oppression  and instead market it as a "symbol of culture."

"I want people to think twice and see that this is a pure cultural thing," said Auroy.

BQ exists only in virtual form at the moment but eager buyers can pre-order a pair of shades on the BQ website. There, shoppers  can virtually try on the BQs: The shopper uploads a close-up photo of her face and clicks on a button that positions a pair of BQs on the photo, which can be shared with friends and family over the Internet.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Top photos: A design firm in Dubai is launching the world's first line of sunglasses specially designed for women in the Persian Gulf countries. Second photo:  The designs are drawn from the traditional burqa. Credit: BQ website

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