The burkini is made of a knee-length, loose fitting top, with long sleeves and an attached close-fitting hood and trousers with ribbons to attach to the inside of the top. A wide dense graphic transfer is printed across the chest area to stop the garment clinging and preventing a feeling of exposure.
maker The burkini was originally designed in Australia by Aida Zanetti in 2004 for her niece, so that she could properly participate in school sports. Zanetti’s burkini brand has sold over 700,000 pieces worldwide. By 2016 it had been mass-produced by retail brands such as Mars and Spencer and Sports Direct which demonstrates a reaction to changing demographics in Europe.
world 12 years later, this positive act to encourage woman into sports suddenly became a symbol of the fragile national identity politics of a country on the other side of the world. Following a year in which Islamic extremist targeted France with several major terrorist attacks, around 30 major coastal towns tried to ban the burkini from being worn on their beaches. Corsica in particular experienced violent clashes over the matter. The French government initially defended these bans because they were considered to be in keeping with the strict secularism enshrined in law and designed to keep religion out of public life. But it was also a law that led to the banning of conspicuous religious clothing in state schools (headscarves and the kippah) arguing that women should be forced to bare more their body against their wishes is problematic. France’s highest court, the Conseil d’Etat ruled against a nationwide ban on the 26th of august 2016, even though individual town mayors still sought to enforce it.
owner A burkini item – designed by Zanetti – was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum for the Rapid Response collection. The cross-disciplinary Rapid Response collection deals with everyday artefacts made and used in our global society, exploring the politics inherent in manufactured objects. This approach to collecting searcher for the evidence of important events – from technological developments to protests, disasters or censorship – through designed objects. ‘We seek to focus attention and debate around designed object, encouraging visitors to critically assess their interplay with significant social and political events.’