NEW DELHI: Pierre Berge, life and business partner of iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (YSL), has severely criticised fashion houses for abetting the culture of exploitation of women by designing ‘burqas’ and ‘abayas’ (a robe like dress worn by Muslim women) for them .

Berge, 85, while speaking on Europe 1 French Radio said, “These creators who are taking part in the enslavement of women should ask themselves some questions,” as he referred to certain fashion brands like Zara and Dolce & Gabbana who have in past launched a line of such garments.

He further clarified that he is not an “Islamophobe” and while calling Quran a dictatorial text, said, as reported by Agence France Presse, that “Creators should have nothing to do with Islamic fashion. Designers are there to make women more beautiful, to give them their freedom, not to collaborate with this dictatorship which imposes this abominable thing by which we hide women and make them live a hidden life.”

Berge’s comments have come at a time when the issue of Muslim immigrants is still burning, more furiously than ever, in the wake of the Belgian and French bombings. The issue of dressing of Muslim women is a highly politicised one. It made it to the newspapers worldwide first when a sartorial injunction was imposed in 2010 by the then French President Nicholas Sarkozy.According to the new law, people were disallowed from wearing any such garment which covered their faces, which most obviously included ‘Burqa’ and ‘hijab; and not so commonly ‘hoods’ and ‘helmets’.

As it happened, after the new law was enforced there were reported a few incidences when young Muslim school girls were sent back to homes for attending it with their faces being partially covered. Left wing activists have since denounced the law as highly discriminatory and something that betrayed the not so inclusionary tendency of the previous government.

Earlier also, in 2004, then President Jacques Chirac had banned any explicit display of religious symbols in public places, which included signs of cross, Hand of Fatima, or any such totem. The rationale for this action was cited in ‘laicite’, the French term for separation of Church and Government, ecclesiastical and temporal. The concept of ‘laicite’ prohibits any interference of religion in government functions and formation of state policies.

That aside, Berge now has opened a new debate on the ethics in fashion world, which has hitherto been sanitising its image by employing only such gestures as hiring plus size models, and denouncing the fad of anorexic size zero popular among young girls, at least in letter.

Berge, chastising the fashion brands further said, “In one way they are complicit, and all this to make money. Principles should come before money... we must teach (Muslim) women to revolt, to take their clothes off, to learn to live like most of the women in the rest of the world... It’s absolutely inadmissible. It is not tolerable.”