As a Muslim woman of colour in fashion, modest dressing is a part of my dichotomy and style. It came from the music I listened too and my beliefs. As I set out on a fashion professional path, modest was the business style dress that suited me. For me, it was about covering my well-endowed bosom while in a professional setting.
It also spoke to my rebellious side. Covering my hair and wearing long dresses with sneakers was always a go-to outfit for every day. It was an act of rebellion when scantily clad dressing was the norm.
The style preference was because I wanted to be taken seriously. Hence why I started a modest fashion agency. A lot of the style ideas comes from Nordic countries where there is also a modest fashion vibe. Why I believe Modest Dressing is the Ultimate Act of Rebellion. In today’s social media culture, covering up is now rebellious and articulates more than one voice or culture.
“Modest is not just for religious women. A lot of us dress modestly for work.”
Partnerships with modest designers and influencers, combined with a greater focus on sustainability, could help big Western brands succeed in the Islamic world. While also tapping in and talking to all types of modest consumers. As the market continues to grow globally, modest fashion is not a trend anymore. It is a cultured vibe.
“In its original form, the modest fashion industry was a grassroots movement borne out of a growing generation of young Muslim women wanting to assert their Muslim identity,” says Shelina Janmohamed, vice-president of Ogilvy Islamic Marketing (an arm of the creative ad agency Ogilvy).
The Beautiful Drip & Potential of the Modest Fashion Industry
The market has expanded beyond traditional elements such as the hijab, including loose-fitting and less revealing clothing. Western labels now try to win a slice of the market. In 2018 the global modest fashion industry was worth US$283bn—a figure that is expected to balloon to US$402bn by 2024. That growth is spurred primarily by 1.8bn Muslims who, by 2050, will account for 31% of the world’s population. Two-thirds of all Muslims are under 30, making them the world’s youngest consumer segment.
These Mipsterz have complained that retailers do little to engage with them, but that is slowly changing.
From conversations on Clubhouse about modest fashion, you can enter rooms where woman discuss these topics and find emerging designers who cater to their market by answering their call for fashionable modest clothes.
With Ramadan coming, we hope to see more High-street brands launch more Ramadan collections. As well as see a return from luxury labels such as Dolce & Gabbana and DKNY to create Ramadan collections. Continuing to cater to market like the high-end online retailer Net-a-Porter. Who runs an annual “modest edit” featuring exclusive designs from Oscar de la Renta, Jenny Packham and Dubai-based SemSem.
Sporting brands Nike and Adidas have also entered the game, with both now offering a sports hijab. We are also sending a trend in casual sportswear and sneaker culture for some Muslimina’s. They embrace their favourite kicks and don a hoodie to cover their hair. Another trend is holding a scarf on their heads with a baseball cap. A trend that was seen in many high fashion runways.
Magazines and catwalks are growing more inclusive too. In 2017 Halima Aden, an American of Somali descent, became the first hijabi woman to make the cover of Vogue. While an H&M campaign last year featured its first hijab-wearing model, Mariah Idrissi. Also, hijabi models are increasingly sought after to walk the runways of mainstream global fashion shows. That is why our inclusive agency is so important in today’s market. Even Haute Coture styled shoots appear in our favourite titles, and we see more hijab’s on the runway.
Modist Dressing Digital Explosion
A model appeared in a hijab in an online campaign in the past few years; it went viral within seconds. Model turned stylist Rawdah a.k.a rawdis, is also making her fashion skills known. So it has become obvious to brands that there’s a huge appetite among religious consumers who love fashion, and style is an emerging market.
Brands have responded by enlisting Islamic influencers who use social media to teach their followers how to compile modest looks. Meanwhile, a growing number of modest e-retailers are enabling these brands to reach shoppers across the world.
Modest Dressing & Online Shopping
That is not to say the industry is immune to the challenges facing other retailers. Compared to Net-A-Porter, the Modist—a Dubai-based online store —closed its digital doors in April of 2020, citing the coronavirus pandemic as the cause. Modest brands and retailers face funding issues as awareness among investors of this niche industry, and its potential remains low. Yet. Farfetch pushed into the modest dressing realm to but what went wrong with marketing it better?
The problem lies in how designers and brands understand the culture. They need to dive in and get an understanding of the rules. Muslim consumers want to wear brands that everyone else wears.
The challenge for brands is to find creative directors who understand the esthetic. Who can design items that speak to their spiritual fashion side? The provocation is how to retain that look for a modest market without just taking your core collection and sticking some long sleeves on it. Which brands have not quite figured out how to do yet.
Many garments are transparent, so layering has to become how you style it skill for most women. This is a discussion many modest dressing women have issues with. Not just Muslims.
Modest Dressing & Sustainability
If you look at the Muslim market alone, it comes from cultures that already dress sustainable. Sustainable and ethical fashion is a growing priority among modest labels, linking planetary and social responsibility as part of their ethos. Essentially most emerging designers of our age are also moving in this direction.
The Ultimate Act of Rebellion In Fashion?
“It might be part of my ethics to cover my body in a certain way, but if the way the textiles were grown is harming the planet, or the factory in which they were produced is underpaying staff, then that’s not ethical,” explains Professor Lewis.
In 2021 there is space for brands to grow their limited Ramadan collections and high fashion pieces that consumers want to purchase. The important thing to remember would be providing collections for various tastes and modesty versions for all types of cultures and women by looking at different demographics and trends from a global perspective. Taking all the colours from creating an inclusive collection.
Brands have to understand the market is not a one-size-fits-all approach for the modest woman. Market research is key before diving into the market. For most Modest Dressing today is the Ultimate Act of Rebellion for young women. Because we cannot deny that after a decade of modest fashion growth, young Muslims are hungry for fashion and clothes that allow them to express their own personal style.
The opportunities are endless in this sector. Our question is, will our favourite brands get it? Or will there be emerging brands that capture the market? Do you think Modest Dressing is the ultimate act of rebellion too?