IKEA has defended the publication of a catalogue for Saudi Arabia without pictures of women in it by asserting that the brochure was intended to feature both sexes, but that all their models had simply got lost in the store during the photoshoot.
“We dropped them off at the front door and arranged to meet at the in-store cafe” said IKEA’s Art Director, “but by the time we had parked up and walked the 2 miles back to the store, they were nowhere to be seen. So we just took the pictures without them.” Aziza Layal, one of the models, disputes this version of the story. “They dropped us off, yes, but gave us a map which they said was of the store. Seven hours later we stumbled into the daylight, exhausted, frustrated and each with a lampshade we never wanted. I’ll never work for them again.” Experts later identified the map as showing the layout of a high-security prison near Stockholm.
The row comes at a sensitive time for the company in Saudi Arabia, with persistent rumours that a group of local businessmen are intent on a buyout and rebranding as the “House of Saud”. And it’s not the first time the IKEA catalogue has courted controversy. The firm’s publicity bosses were in trouble closer to home when the Norwegian and Danish catalogues failed to feature the usual full frontal nudity in the special pull-out sauna section. And in 2005, a photograph in the Greek catalogue mistakenly revealed the existence of a half-man half-bull monster lurking in the “home office” section of its Cretan store.