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Modest vogue

by Samar Al-Montser

Chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council (IFDC), Alia Khan, tells us what’s the next big trend in modest fashion and toward which direction it’s heading. The Roundtable will be discussing the growing business opportunities in the Islamic and modest fashion industry.

Listed as the top 50 most influential women of the Arab world, Alia Khan, chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council (IFDC) says there’s more room to grow in the modest fashion industry. ‘We’ve just begun,’ she says.

According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy (SGIE) Report 2017/2018, if the Muslim clothing market was a country, it would rank as the world’s third largest after the United States and China.

Its potential market size could reach USD373 billion by 2022 with 12.3 per cent of global expenditure. In 2016, the Modest fashion market was valued at USD254 billion with 11 per cent of global expenditure.

Vogue’s diversity
Modest fashion is certainly creating a global movement. It’s no surprise, now, that for the first time in over a century, Vogue’s May 2018 issue publishes its most diverse cover yet. In an attempt to be inclusive and exhibit diversity, this year’s cover of Vogue magazine features women of all shapes, colours and sizes in various types of apparel.

Alia Khan, chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council (IFDC)

The clothing industry continues to showcase its fascinating styles in mainstream fashion brands. But will there still be space for budding fashion designers and entrepreneurs to compete and thrive? Alia thinks there is. ‘This is a consumer profile that appreciates quality and modesty with style. We still need a variety and range, given that modest fashion is a global player and the demand comes from all cultures, regions, and backgrounds,’ she says.

Though this may seem like a new fashion market wave, Alia says, it has always been there. ‘It’s not like it suddenly shot up from nowhere, the only thing that’s new is the global awareness and vast appreciation of something that many have committed to, based on their values that tend to be a lifetime commitment,’ she adds.

Abaya trend
So, what’s the next big trend in the modest fashion industry? ‘What I’m seeing is more and more creativity with the outer garment often known as the abaya. Although, now, it can be considered a light overcoat. I believe we haven’t even seen the level of creativity this iconic piece will bring. I’m seeing some incredible designers put their ideas behind this and I love where they’re going with it,’ she says.

The current modest fashion market and its consumers, Alia says, is not so big on trends. ‘They’re [Consumers in this market] not big on trends nor do they necessarily care about lingo like what’s in or out. They commit to their own character building as a priority and the way they dress speaks to that,’ she says.

Modest fashion continues to be a global player as it contributes to a diverse display of various cultures and fusion of ideas from around the world. ‘We’ve modest fashionistas appreciating what’s happening in Indonesia all the way to Mexico, irrespective of where they live, they want to know what’s happening everywhere,’ she explains.

Though the initial lack of modest fashion apparel in mainstream stores is what drives its international appeal, now, things are changing. Alia recalls seeing the awareness of modest fashion from mainstream retailers starting about three to five years ago.

At the time, she says, there was no choice but to layer clothes. ‘You would walk into your normal mainstream store and feel so excluded from the fun. There was not much for the modest fashionista, who also had an appreciation for style but needed to remain within her modest guidelines. Now things are changing nicely but we still need more momentum,’ she adds.

Thorough the IFDC, Alia hopes to lead in disruptive ideas and come up with solutions that don’t necessarily exist or need to be further developed.

‘We genuinely see that designers and even other industry players work so hard to build their business and we need to provide real support that makes a real difference,’ she says.

Committing to values
Alia usually stays away from naming her favourite fashion brands as she believes there are many that could be at the forefront if they had a fair shot at exposure. ‘They all have something worth appreciating. Fashion can still be a not so level playing field, I hope to somehow help in providing solutions in this area.

‘I hope people will see that we’ve made an impact with our innovative ideas and global initiatives that have brought government, media, retailers, and international markets directly to the modest fashion industry players,’ she adds.

Her last words of advice for fashionistas is to know your vision and commit to your values. ‘Never compromise even if temptation is all around you, always remember the high purpose you adhere to for the modest lifestyle. And never forget that your style and message will have an impact. So, build your work in ways that only you can,’ she ends.


6 Jul 2018
Last modified: 19 Sep 2018
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