Haute Couture vs. High Street: The Back-Story of the Rania Drama

Photo: Netty
Have you heard? It's been a tumultuous year thus far in royal watching: Queen Rania of Jordan, ever the fashion icon, released a statement about the estimated cost of her clothing by UFO No More being untrue. "In view of their assessments that is far from reality and truth, we have asked their sponsors not to include Her Majesty in the annual reports of their blog", the Hashemite Royal Court stated saying that "some may deplore the fact that a person of Her Majesty’s status accepts the principle of 'borrowing', but we do not advertise or promote fashion on any of Her Majesty’s pages on social networking platforms, unless the designs are Jordanian."

So in short: The Jordanian court claims that while Queen Rania may be wearing very expensive clothes, she isn't actually paying for them. A lot has been said about the incident in the past couple of days. Both Netty and Sophie, among others, have given interesting views on the matter and I also said something about it as part of a larger conversion over on Luxarazzi. I have made no secret that I stand with UFO No More. I may have done the calculations differently in some instances but the writers have always been very clear and transparent what they included to estimate the worth of the clothes worn by several royal ladies over the past year(s). At no point did they claim that the sum equaled the number spent by a royal lady.

However, that it isn't what I want to talk about here today but the back-story instead. Over the best couple of days, I couldn't help but feel that many viewed this as an isolated incidence. But there is the old saying: A hit dog will holler - and a royal court seldom issues a statement about a topic that doesn't strike a nerve. I'm not living in a bubble and see the world through rose-coloured glasses. I understand that actions have consequences - and so saying something about a royal or any other famous person online may have consequences for them. But instead of lashing out against others - who are, by the way, clearly the weakest link in the chain because the Hashemite Court singled out a blog but made no mention of several newspapers who reported on the matter - maybe the reflections should start with the Queen herself.  

Queen Rania is very fashionable, for many even a fashion icon. But what's more important to this story is that she prefers haute couture (or at least very expensive designer clothes) to high street. In addition, she has a very Westernised taste of style. It's not the best of premises for the Queen of Middle East nation that may be peaceful itself but is surrounded by war and conflict zone, is struggling with a large influx of refugees while parts of the population live in absolute poverty and has no natural resources to speak of. Even if the Queen didn't actually pay as much for her wardrobe as it is worth according to the retail prices because she borrowed the clothes or got them at reduced prices, maybe she and the people surrounding her should also think about the message she sends wearing usually expensive designer clothes, even if acquired at a lower rate.

The Queen may be very popular in many Western nations but back home in Jordan she is a much more controversial figure. The reasons are diverse. For one, Queen Rania is a powerful woman in a conservative and male-dominated world. Her Palestinian origin has been a frequent target of criticism as well due to Jordan’s identity politics: Jordanians are struggling with a supposed loss of influence in favour of an ever-growing number of Palestinians and people of Palestinian origin in the country. In 2010, the Queen celebrated her 40th birthday with a splendrous party in the stunning Wadi Rum desert using truckloads of water in an area with severe water scarcity. While the surrounding villages didn't have electricity yet, the celebrations included a light projection on the rocks. Needless to say, the party attracted criticism. In February 2011, several tribal leaders, the backbone of the Hashemite power in Jordan, alleged the Queen of corruption and enrichment for her own self. "We believe that King Abdullah should stop his wife and her family from abuse. Otherwise, the throne might be in danger,” the tribesmen wrote. More recently, there have been stories that activists from Kuwait called for the country's monetary aid to Jordan to be reduced or even cut citing the Queen's alleged expensive lifestyle.

While I have no doubt that much of the criticism also has a misogynistic background and sometimes is also thinly veiled criticism of her husband who cannot be criticised due to Jordanian laws, I can't help but think that Queen Rania is doing herself no favours with some of her actions, including her choice of expensive clothes at times. Monarchy in the 21st century is probably more a PR game than ever. Other royal ladies do a great job at mixing high street with high end while promoting home-grown designers. The social media game of the Jordanian royal family is already above and beyond many of their European counterparts - so why not extend it to other branches? There is no reason why a royal has to wear expensive designer clothes for day-to-day activities. If you are not in favour to support popular high street brands due to the production of the clothing, simply go for fair fashion. I'm not saying that all royals should cease to wear designer clothing, but - as with anything - a good mix is the key. It's a tough hill to climb but to be aloof yet accessible is the role of royalty in the 21st century.

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