The modest fashion industry has undeniably taken the world by storm. Raking up a whopping US$277b worth of a worldwide market, with growth expected to hit US$311b by 2024, global brands have a shining new opportunity to dip their toes into.
However, modest fashion isn’t a style one can simply acquire overnight. Unlike fast fashion trends that are underpinned by the specific aesthetic they offer, modest fashion carries cultural, religious and personal values — often, all in one.
In its simplest definition, the modest fashion market comprises consumers who want to dress modestly because of three main reasons: religion, culture and personal style
While its growth can be attributed to the increasing global Muslim population who predominantly dress modestly for religious reasons, cultural and personal inclinations towards this trend is apparent.
We delve into the intricacies as we expound on ways your brand can cater to the modest fashion market for greater success.
The idea of modesty differs across religions, culture and even individuals. For some, only a headscarf might be necessary. Others may prefer longer sleeves and higher neck lines. A few may choose to wear clothing that covers their knees, at the very least.
As such, someone who seeks modest clothing pays attention to the amount of coverage it offers, which minimally:
Does not reveal cleavage
Sewn with sleeves
Falls to the knee
That said, paying attention to cultural and religious sensitivity is necessary to avoid cultural appropriation and disrespect to one’s faith. There’s no need to look too far for examples: the 2019 controversy around Banana Republic’s line of hijabs proves the point. Modelled together with a short-sleeved shirt and a slit dress down the runway, the brand had not taken into account the religious significance of the headscarf don by Muslim women around the world.
For the uninitiated, the hijab is a piece of garment, used collectively with others, to veil a woman’s “awrah”, referred to as any part of the body to be covered once she reaches puberty. Muslim women in the presence of unrelated men are typically fully covered, expect for their hands and face. Putting together the hijab with inappropriate clothing not only disrespects its religious status but also misappropriates the cultural background of a significant piece of fabric. The latter can also be said of the Mesopotamian Kaftan.
As another example of cultural appropriation, the adoption of the Kaftan by European and Western brands aimed to celebrate non-mainstream fashion. However, they were marketed as foreign, fresh and exotic. Instead of highlighting the historic value of the garment, women were simply donning them to feel like “they were someone else”.
As a brand looking to design modest fashion lines, understanding the cultural and religious stories of these clothing styles is necessary.
Modest fashion companies already cater to a larger pool of women who want to wear clothing with more coverage. However, these brands may not carry the styles of those they admire. This could be due to the choice of fabrics used, functions and colours. Applying the USPs of your brand onto the modest fashion scene can help you acquire an untapped audience.
That said, when modestly-dressing women look out for fashion retailers who can address their needs, they are mainly considering these factors:
Availability: It should be part of your core wardrobe, so they can be shopped for any time.
Styles: It should encapsulate the aesthetics of your brand while incorporating modest elements.
Price: It should cost the same as your existing styles.
In a nutshell, your foray into the modest fashion market should be a permanent endeavour.
Now that you understand the cultural and religious sensitivity required when exploring the world of modest fashion, it is a good time to break down some of the various target audiences to reach out to. Creating personas is one way to design a line that balances your brand identity with their needs. Here are some possible segments to consider:
Global Generation M: Middle-class millennial Muslim consumers who seek fashion that is both modern and respectful to their faith. Start with these hidden modest fashion markets.
UAE: Abayas in pink and red are rising in trend, contrasting the dominating black, indicating that bolder and playful hues are becoming more acceptable.
Professionals: Women who work in sectors demanding more presentable attire can look at modest fashion styles for more variety.
Individuals with specific preferences: Here, women wear modest clothing specifically for their coverage, due to personal comfort, skin health (i.e. protect against sun etc.) or out of respect for culture.
With social media facilitating the massive rise of modest fashion, retailers should pay attention to such platforms to join the conversation and offer their solutions. You may start with these social media strategies to reach out to a global audience:
User-generated content: One of the best ways to show the authenticity of your brand is through the eyes of your consumers. Share images or videos your consumers have published on social media or get them to send you clicks of them in the apparel for your feed!
Influencer content: Getting in touch with key opinion leaders or influencers is one way to grow your brand. Malaysian labels like Innai & Innai Red, Mimpikita, OLLOUM and FVBASICS reach out to micro-influencers who have similar interests with their customer base. Having these micro-influencers donning their modest fashion attire and creating engagement around them increases greater credibility and consumer trust in your products.
Interactive content: Social media platforms have various features like Stories, Reels and Live to create brand awareness and engage consumers. Local modest fashion brands such as POPLOOK and OLLOUM create dressing tutorials, for instance, to showcase their products in action and how they can meet consumers’ needs.
Visual aesthetics: Paying attention to how your social media feed looks can have a lasting impression on consumers. OLLOUM’s pastel shade Instagram feed represents the colours they are known for, lending both an aesthetic taste and visual reminder of their line of fashion. The garden-inspired apparel by Innai & Innai Red are peppered across its feed as well, by way of floral prints or a touch of Mother Nature in the background.
Now that you know what it takes to launch a successful modest fashion line, it’s time to explore a new world of fashion and expand your target market!