Small Italian company plans jeans for Muslims

They're high-around-the-waist, wide-around-the-leg and have lots of pockets for holding watches, bracelets, glasses and other knickknacks. A new line of jeans designed by a small company in northern Italy caters to Muslims seeking to stay comfortable while they pray.

"As far as we know we're the first, at least in Italy ," said Luca Corradi, who designed Al Quds jeans. The bagginess is to ensure the wearer avoids stiffness while bending down repeatedly during prayers. The pockets are for holding all the accessories Muslims have to take off while they worship. And the jeans have green seams because green is the sacred color of Islam.

Al Quds representatives said a year of research and testing went into the product, with models being asked to try different versions of the jeans while they prayed. Abdel Hamid Shaari, president of the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan , said low-priced jeans specifically designed to keep Muslims comfortable could open up a big market in Islamic countries and countries with large Muslim populations.

"This could be a good idea, thinking of the comfort," said Shaari, who used to be a production manager for Italy 's Carrera jeans. "About 90 percent of Muslims, aside from a niche that wants Armani and other top designer-jeans, generally seek jeans that are both resistant and comfortable and not expensive," he said.

Shaari, who is originally from Libya , said Muslims in Tunisia and other North African countries generally wear established brands of jeans or imitations. He said "normal jeans indeed can be slightly stiff to pray and kneel in." Al Quds the Arabic name for Jerusalem has produced an initial 9,500 pairs that it sold to the French retailer Carrefour SA. The retailer has sold an initial batch of about 50 pairs of jeans at a low promotional price of 18.90 (US$22.53) in its centers in Italy , company officials said. Corradi said the regular price would be 25 ($30.44).

Officials at Carrefour and Al Quds said there was no way to know whether Muslims had bought the jeans. Al Quds, based in Udine , hopes to make an impact first among Italy 's 1.1 million Muslims. If successful, it will reach out to the estimated 18 million Muslims living in Europe .

The company's Web site advertises the jeans as "a new expression for an old tradition." Corradi said officials from Carrefour had met with representatives from Al Quds and had "reacted with enthusiasm" to the new line. However, it was too soon to tell whether the French company would buy more. "Let's say we're on the right path," Corradi said.

Carrefour said they did not intend to market the jeans exclusively to Muslims. "We thought the (model) had an excellent quality-price ratio," said Sonia Augenti, a spokeswoman for Carrefour in Italy . "We target everyone. We do not have a political or religious connotation."

Corradi said the idea for the jeans first came to his friend Giorgio Lotta a businessman who had never worked in fashion about a year ago, when he spotted a picture in a newspaper of a sea of jeans-clad Muslims bent down in prayer. Lotta, now president of Al-Quds, studied the market for about a month and concluded there were no jeans designed to keep Muslims comfortable while they pray.

Corradi said the jeans are manufactured at a plant near Karachi , Pakistan that employs about 15,000 people. "I wanted to respect (the fact) that if these are the first jeans for Islam, they should be built by Muslim hands," he said, reports the AP.


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