When Halima Aden made her runway debut at New York Fashion Week, many speculated that the designer was making a social, or even political, statement. The speculations continued when Aden went on to walk for both Alberta Ferretti and Max Mara at Milan Fashion Week. As Aden is the first fully-covered model to walk for any show at either New York or Milan Fashion Week, this assumption may well be correct. It is, however, entirely possible that her momentous appearance was a well-calculated business manoeuvre, encouraged by Modest Fashion’s rapid growth.
Preserving modesty with Modest Fashion
Modest Fashion refers to fashionable, yet always conservative dress. Though dressing or creating clothing while being mindful of preserving the wearer’s modesty cannot be considered revolutionary, Modest Fashion refers specifically to a movement that has been declared as one of the fastest growing sectors in the retail industry.
Social media has had a great part to play in increasing consumer demands for Modest Fashion items. Social media influencers such as Maria Alia, Habiba Da Silva and Dina Torkia have amassed large followings across a variety of platforms. Through their social media posts, they have been highlighting how one might keep on trend while remaining firmly within the parameters of their faith. In fact, Maryam Asadullah of Sincerely Maryam declares that her aim is ‘to promote fashion modesty and give girls a chance to explore fashion through the lens of modesty.’
This success of influencing through social media has presented clear business opportunities, with a number of small scale retailers such as Hijab Loft and Mirage by Numra now establishing a range of Modest Fashion items, each hoping to capitalise on the new trend’s popularity. Collaborations between retailers and social media influencers are also not uncommon, with a good example being the collaboration between Mode-ste and Saufeeya Goodson, one of the co-owners of @hijabfashion.
From high-street to high-end
With some estimations predicting Modest Fashion to be worth $368 billion by 2021, it is not surprising that the attention of larger scale brands and retailers has been caught. Hoping to attract the conservative consumer, Net-A-Porter has been publishing its annual ‘The Ramadan Edit’ since 2015; DKNY released a ‘Ramadan Collection’ for the first time in 2014, whilst other high-end brands such as Burberry, Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger and Monique Lhuillier are currently taking on similar initiatives. High-street retailers have also recognised the opportunities that have been made clearly available via the popularity of social media influencers, with Mango and Zara also releasing modest, yet fashionable wear to coincide with Ramadan. These attempts, however, neglect the conservative consumer for much of the year, and so the full potential of the sector is not yet being realised.
Nevertheless, greater commitment to conservative fashion can be seen broadly across other high-end and high-street brands. Dolce & Gabbana released their first modest wear collection as part of their 2016 Autumn/Winter ‘Ready-to-Wear’ campaign titled the D&G Abaya collection. Debenhams has begun collaborating with Aab, a small Modest Fashion retailer, selling Aab’s products in their department shops and also, more recently, Nike has announced the release of sport headscarves labelled ‘The Pro Hijab’.
The future is inclusive
Despite the continued growth of the Modest Fashion movement, it must be recognised that the future of the sector is secular. While the foundations of the movement will always relate to faith, the desire to dress conservatively is not always driven by the same faith, or by any faith at all. As this is the case, to allow the movement to reach its full potential, faith in general may have to be removed as the driving factor – an example of this can be found at Uniqlo.
In 2015, Uniqlo began collaborating with British-Japanese designer Hana Tajima. Although the designer is a convert to Islam, and her collection includes both abayas and headscarves, there is no mention made of religion in the marketing of the collection. The ‘Hana Tajima Lifewear Collection’ focuses on ‘the relationship between movement and form’ with modesty considered as the unspoken foundation of each of the designs rather than the point of attraction. While Modest Fashion was never exclusive to only the followers of Islam, Uniqlo has made the open invitation clear. It is this year-round inclusivity that other brands and retailers should wish to emulate in order to attract, as well as maintain, the conservative consumer and realise the opportunity to enter a developing new fashion sector.
Image Source: Instagram user dolcegabbana