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The Schmooze

Was Zara’s Fall Campaign Inspired By Orthodox Shabbat Attire?

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A woman slowly glides through a darkened, overstuffed living room; the light from a projector flickers, casting gloomy shadows across her face. The scene is typical of a fashion commercial for a major brand — in this case, Zara advertising its fall 2018 collection with a film by Fabien Baron. But what caught our eye was how utterly Orthodox it all looked.

Like this photo of model Kris lounging on a velvet tufted loveseat wearing a high-neck, long-sleeve black maxi dress with a playing card print:

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The photo, shot by famed fashion photographer Steven Meisel, is like a commercialized version of the Friday night ‘Shabbos robe’ — a long floor-skimming frock worn by some religious women to usher in the Sabbath because of its simultaneous elegance and ease of wear.

And just to underscore that Shabbat vibe, the model has a gold scarf wrapped around her head without a single hair showing — even her ears are tucked under the shiny material so that the nearly-impossible-to-cover errant sideburn hairs is concealed from view.

Even model Meghan — in a gorgeous ruby red dress with matching tichel (headcovering) — is covering so much hair that her headscarf is practically covering her eyebrows.

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It’s like she went to seminary in Israel, “flipped out,” and married a guy who will learn in yeshiva the rest of his life, but then missed the Haredi memo that bans wearing the color red.

Or, consider model Julia — whose makeup is so subtle that it is practically nonexistent, like a truly frum housewife who just wants to throw on her most basic headscarf and Shabbos robe and call it a night.

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With the rich colors and Julia’s RBF, the shtetl never looked so chic.

Sure, the collection isn’t entirely suitable for the ultra-Orthodox woman in your life, given this velvet micro-floral print three-piece pantsuit worn by model Blesnya.

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And this billowing leopard print jumpsuit worn by Fei Fei that would be perfect for a getaway in Marrakech.

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But overall, it’s almost as if the executives at Zara spent a Shabbos in Boro Park and came away inspired — not by the spirituality of it all, but by the extravagance of the clothes the women wear, and emerged with a love letter to all the religious women (of all faiths) who regularly patronize the high street brand.

This newest campaign is most likely Zara’s pivot to cater to its Muslim consumers (across 96 countries) — with the international modest fashion industry valued at approximately $254 billion and growing, and more and more brands like Uniqlo, DKNY and Mango releasing Ramadan collections.

While Zara declined to comment on the inspiration here, one thing is for sure: We won’t be shocked if the collection sells out by Rosh Hashana and becomes a key part of Orthodox women’s holiday wardrobes. See you in shul, ladies.

Michelle Honig is the style writer at the Forward. Contact her at [email protected]. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.


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