Burkini bans in France have boosted sales and interest in the full-body Islamic swimsuit, particularly from non-Muslim women, the Australian credited with creating the design says.
The burkini has created controversy in France, with bans in 15 towns in the south-east and tension after deadly jihadist attacks. But Australian-Lebanese Aheda Zanetti, who claims the trademark on the name burkini and burqini, and created her first swimwear for Muslim women more than a decade ago, said on Tuesday the furore had attracted more publicity for her products.
“It’s just been so hectic,” she said.
“I can tell you that online on Sunday, we received 60 orders – all of them non-Muslim,” the 48-year-old from Sydney said. She usually received between 10 and 12 orders on Sundays.
Zanetti did not have sales figures for the rest of the past week but said she had also received numerous messages of support – and only one disparaging email – since the French bans.
They include messages from cancer survivors and other swimmers who use her lightweight, quick-drying, two-piece garments as protection from the sun.
There are other Islamic swimsuits but Zanetti has said her designs are the first to be streamlined into two-piece swimwear with a head covering.
“A lot of the correspondence … was that they are survivors of skin cancer and they’ve always been looking for something like this, saying, ‘Thank god we’ve found someone like this producing such a swimsuit,’ ” she said.
“The support I’m getting is somehow about empowering women … I feel like I’ve been a counsellor. It’s a cry of need that they want to have this enjoyment.
“Women are standing together on this. It doesn’t matter what race or religion.”
The one critical email questioned why Zanetti wanted to cover up women in France, saying “we prefer our women to be naked”.