Economic Insights

The Foulard: an Opportune Immigrant

In these roaring days of the beginning of a century except for coffee, Arabian imports do not seem to have the same allure of ancient times.

Beatrice Rangel. 16/05/2017

Al Qaeda; ISIS and Hezbollah seem to have tinted objects and people from the land of the One Thousand and One Nights tale with the sign of terrorism. Accordingly, they are no longer rendered the warm welcome of pre-terrorism days. There however is one import from the land of sheiks that not only slipped through the mist of time but impregnated Western fashion with its ability to turn a simple outfit into a poster for elegance. That silent migrant is the foulard.

The foulard is thus taking a return trip to its land of origin perhaps to modernize women in the Arab world

This piece of clothing through its Western sojourn has turned into synonym of elegance and perfection. Adopted by the leaders of Venice in the 15th century. Turned into royal regalia by the French in the 17th century and embraced by British ladies at cusp of Victorian times, the foulard went into recess during the roaring 20s except for Isadora Duncan.

The rising princesses of Hollywood Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn made the foulard a must wear piece.

Indeed, the great American dancing star died victim of a foulard when it was caught by the wheel of a car. In the aftermath of WW II the foulard gained, once again, traction as it would bring a touch of class to otherwise humble attires springing from a devastated Europe. Soon thereafter the rising princesses of Hollywood Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn made the foulard a must wear piece. In the world of politics, the foulard reigned supreme when adopted by Jackie Kennedy. Hermes began to establish itself as the foulard king. Next was Emilio Pucci.

This piece of clothing through its Western sojourn has turned into synonym of elegance and perfection

By the 1960s and 70s the fashion industry realized there were additional magic properties in foulards. They improve earnings as their cost structure is rather low but can be sold at very high margins because they represent an aspirational product. Also, they are a favorite accessory for women of all ages and a great gift for all occasions. Thus, every fashion brand began manufacturing foulards. Today jewelers and maroquinniers have followed suit.

Hermes began to establish itself as the foulard king. Next was Emilio Pucci.

The industry only in the US reached $400 Million last year (see attached chart) and is poised to grow 10 over the next five years as Millennials increasingly use foulards as a differentiating attribute; as a sign of militancy or as a display of elegance. Likewise, rising middle class Muslin women have transitioned from the traditional chador into refined foulards of all brands. The foulard is thus taking a return trip to its land of origin perhaps to modernize women in the Arab world, just as many centuries ago it propelled the Western women sex appeal.

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