ELEGANT, MODEST FASHION FOR WOMEN ISN’T JUST THE DOMAIN OF MUSLIM WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST. IT’S A GLOBAL PHENOMENON THAT MAINSTREAM FASHION RETAILERS HAVE LARGELY IGNORED. THE MODIST, A FASHION E-COMMERCE COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN MODEST FASHION THAT DOESN’T COMPROMISE ON STYLE, IS GIVING CONSUMERS THE GRACEFUL, HIGH-FASHION WARDROBE THEY DEMAND. THIS IS THE STORY OF HOW THEY DID IT.
Setting up a fashion e-commerce company is no small task. Especially when you’re shipping to 120 countries around the world. So it took all of Ghizlan Guenez’s 13 years of private equity experience to get The Modist, her fashion company, off the ground. Founded in 2017, The Modist has a clear mission: to offer women around the world a range of different brands, all carefully selected to be elegant, well made and modest. But defining ‘modesty’ is not what the brand set out to do. Instead, they offer curated collections that prioritize length of sleeves, hems, necklines and opacity.
The Modist’s Chief Operations Officer, Lisa Bridgett, explains, “Ghizlan and her family always struggled to find the right clothing online – sleeves that were long enough, blouses that were opaque enough, necks that weren’t too revealing. But at the same time she wanted to avoid the frumpy version of what one might construe modesty as being. She was constantly curating.”
This eye for finding high-fashion modesty wear led to the creation of The Modist brand. Lisa says, “It’s elegant fashion, but it's also high fashion and a place where people would want to come to look beautiful and on-trend, but still adhere to their value-based dressing. Modesty is a niche way that women dress, but it’s a global phenomenon that hasn’t been dealt with by the fashion market to date.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking The Modist is a site for predominantly Muslim women who want to buy high fashion. But demand for their products goes far beyond religion or geography. “We’ve found that our customer base is broader than that. This kind of elegance and modest-based dressing relates to all religions.” Choosing clothes from The Modist is not the result of religious orthodoxy. The brand's success is down to knowing what women want. “Our website receives IP traffic from every country in the world. Our top five locations are the UAE, US, UK, Saudi Arabia and Canada. Recently we even had hits from the Sahara Desert.”
Big growth markets should be any company's top priority list. So DHL Express’ reputation as a trusted delivery company for brands in the luxury sector helped The Modist appeal to customers in key markets. "In China we've heard that DHL are the number one luxury deliverer from a consumer perspective. When you're a young company trying to build your own brand equity, like we are, it helped very much to be partnering with long-standing and well-established logistic partners."
Has the partnership with DHL Express helped The Modist achieve its targets? "We are looking to achieve 300% growth year-on-year," says Lisa Bridgett. The Modist's success is in part down to the strategy taken by the leadership team – it knew it had to offer a broad selection of brands right from the word go. Lisa continues: "We started with 70 luxury brands and we're now carrying more than 150 – to go from zero to having that assortment of luxury brands is really quite something."
Customers can immerse themselves in a world filled with fashion, beauty and style with their inspirational editorial content that appears across the site. And they also produce a monthly digital magazine, The MOD. The Modist is based in Dubai, and operates a satellite office in London, UK. But its partnership with DHL helps it ship reliably and securely across the globe. DHL helps The Modist ship to up to 120 countries around the world, as well as dealing with parts of The Modist's supply chain.
1. Keep your customer informed. "We use a real-time tracking service – a link that gets embedded into our website that uses SMS technology. So we've got a very strong communications path between us and the customer."
2. Choose your tech wisely. This is fundamental: which website and e-commerce platform you select can shape your success or failure. Will you be posting lots of additional content, or focus on pure sales? Will you mainly be marketing to a single region or market?
3. Manage your pricing with care. Global e-commerce brings plenty of challenges, from needing dependable tech infrastructure to language and translation issues. But pricing is one of the trickiest. Exchange rates and local market disparities mean value isn't always consistent. Managing margins carefully can help you offer competitive prices while still making a profit.