Muslim bikinis make a splash
The world's first-ever Muslim two-piece swimsuit, the "Burkini," was recently designed by Lebanon-born designer Aheda Zanetti.
Zanetti, who lives in Australia, designed the burkini after seeing a significant need for more modest beach ware in a country that prides itself on its beautiful beaches.
Though other Muslim swim ware exists, no one thus far has come up with the idea of a two-piece bathing suit for practicing Muslim women. There was a "hole in the market that needed to be filled" for more modest beachwear, said Zanetti.
"A lot of girls were missing out, a lot of women were missing out, on a lot of sporting activities, including swimming," Zanetti told the AFP.
"There was nothing really suitable for them to wear if they wanted to participate in sport. And if they did participate in sports with a veil, or whatever they wanted to wear, there really wasn't something suitable. The fabric was not right, the construction wasn't right."
The light-weight, head-to-ankle costumes are the first to be streamlined down to a two-piece suit incorporating a head covering.
The 39-year-old mother-of-four came up with the idea after seeing her Hijab-wearing niece play netball, and realized that a large market would exists for such products.
"And when I was looking at her playing sport with a two-piece veil and a skivvy (long-sleeved, high-necked shirt) and the pants and then her netball jersey on top and then her skirt, I thought, 'Oh my god, there must be something better than this'," she said.
Zanetti works under the motto: "Modesty is number one." In addition, she feels that her designs are part if an important cause in spreading understanding amongst diverse communities.
"It is daunting but we are doing it for a good cause. Not only for our community but for ourselves also. I am doing it for everybody. It's pretty much just like, 'Look at me, I am just like everybody else, the only difference is what I wear'."
The burkini has become a part of the solution to some of Australia's internal tension between Muslim and non-Muslim citizens.
Twenty-year-old Mecca Laalaa, of Lebanese descent, said that wearing a veil and modest clothing had restricted her sporting activities in the past, but that the burkini had changed all that.
"My clothing and what I wear swimming stopped me from being involved in water activities," "The burkini means there's really nothing stopping me now."
"It didn't stop me from playing sport. I would wear long pants and a cotton shirt, it just drained me so much more. I became very easily flustered. It was more water activities -- I stopped for quite a long time swimming."
As a result of the burkini's popularity, Zanetti's company Ahiida receives hundreds of requests from around the country and overseas for the quick-drying, polyester burkinis which cost between $125 to $156.
© 2007 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)