Melbourne fashion label slammed for ‘disturbing’ design

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Australians have slammed a Melbourne fashion label for its “despicable” designs after two outfits – which were showcased on a Melbourne catwalk on Sunday – “inappropriately” featured religious language.

The Melbourne Fashion Festival (MFF) has issued an apology after the brand NOT A MAN’S DREAM received backlash for displaying the Arabic text for “Allah” on two of its garments.

Additionally, a headpiece worn by one of the models parading the design was likened to a hijab while the material of the outfit itself appeared to be sheer, causing more frustration among enraged viewers.

One of the two designs which featured the Arabic text for "Allah". Picture: Lucas Dawson PhotographyOne of the two designs which featured the Arabic text for “Allah”. Picture: Lucas Dawson Photography

“We understand certain pieces shown as part of (Saturday) night’s Closing Runway have caused offence to some members of our community,” the festival stated in its apology.

“The Festival did not intend to disrespect anyone and we apologise for any offence caused.”

The statement, which was posted to the festival’s Instagram account, further stated it has been in contact with the brand’s designer Samantha Saint James who agreed to remove the content featuring the designs from their channels.

Saint James added: “I apologise for any offence or disrespect caused by certain pieces I showed in Saturday evening’s MFF runway.”

“I’ve come to understand how some garments have caused offence. It was the opposite of my intention and for that, I’m truly sorry.”

Photos and promotional footage containing the designs have since been removed from MFF’s social media while the label and Saint James have taken a break from Instagram altogether.

It’s understood a spate of angered viewers messaged both parties, prompting them to set their accounts to private before deactivating them altogether.

@monakhalifaxo_ @BABY BILLIONAIRE @Melbourne Fashion Festival i am disgusted that anyone would think this is okay?? Beyond disrespectful and disgusting! #fyp#fypシ#melbournefashionweek♬ original sound – Monakhalifaxo

Meanwhile, not all have come to accept MFF and Saint James’ apologies, including model Mona Khalifa who took to TikTok to explain why the designs were insulting.

“Look how she’s dressed, she’s literally naked and it’s got the word Allah all over the body,” Ms Khalifa said.

“There is no reason for anyone to put the word ‘Allah’ or anything Islamic on something like this.”

She also explained in a post to her Instagram story how God’s name is “very sacred” to the Muslim, and Christian Arab communities.

“It has so much importance in our religion – we don’t put anything with God’s name on the floor or even go to the bathroom with ‘Allah necklaces’,” Ms Khalifa wrote.

“To see it plastered all over a scantily clad model with very obvious hijab-like headpieces too is extremely disturbing and disrespectful”.

Viewers of the outfits have slammed its designer. Picture: Instagram / @nawalsariViewers of the outfits have slammed its designer. Picture: Instagram / @nawalsari

Ms Khalifa said she had been in touch with some models who stated their concerns about the outfits were allegedly “ignored” by the designer prior to the designs being showcased.

“Hey sis, we all were so concerned and confused about this. Some models refused to wear the collection and the designer had disregarded the concerns,” one message to Ms Khalifa read.

Another model who was supposed to wear the design allegedly said the outfit made her “so uncomfortable” because it was going to “offend all her Muslim friends and the wider Muslim community”.

“She stood up and tried to say something to the assistant stylist and designers and everyone was just disregarding her,” Ms Khalifa said.

“There definitely needs to be more accountability from Samantha Saint James and also Melbourne Fashion Festival.

“That apology is a complete non-apology and is a complete cop-out.”

Many viewers of Ms Khalifa’s videos also agreed, labelling the designs as “jaw-dropping”, “blood boiling” and “blatantly disrespectful”.

“I didn’t notice at first until I looked closer and OMG my jaw dropped! This is so sad man,” one viewer commented.

“They are really trying to push it, we do not approve of this blatant disrespect and disregard to our religion. Shocked!” another added.

Mona Khalifa is a model and fashion vlogger. Picture: Instagram / @monakhalifaxoMona Khalifa is a model and fashion vlogger. Picture: Instagram / @monakhalifaxo

Meanwhile Melbourne film director Kauthar Abdulalim said the incident served as a reminder as to why more “culturally competent voices” are needed in the creative industry.

“Something should’ve been done when some models refused to wear those garments in the first place,” she said.

“Sad to even put your models in such an uncomfortable situation. We need to collectively do better.”

NOT A MAN’S DREAM was founded by Saint James last year and is an “androgynous women lead brand” that aims to promote inclusivity and diversity within the fashion industry.

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“Our mission is to empower people and create a sense of freedom through the marriage of art, fashion, and voice,” the label’s mission statement reads. has contacted NOT A MAN’S DREAM for comment.

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