Modest fashion trends and marketing strategies for 2024

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The modest fashion industry has undeniably taken the world by storm, racking up a whopping US$295b worth of a worldwide market. With the industry being projected to hit a market size of US$375b by 2025, global brands have a shining new opportunity to dip their toes into.

But for many consumers, the search for modest fashion has often been met with limited options. Those brands that do offer genuine, respectful designs find themselves rewarded with exceptional customer loyalty. This loyalty stems from their ability to meet specific needs with authenticity and sensitivity – a crucial aspect in building long-term relationships with consumers. 

However, catering to this market requires a nuanced approach to design. Such considerations are essential not only for meeting market demands but also for honoring the cultural and religious significances that these garments carry. This introduction to the world of modest fashion explores how brands can successfully navigate these complexities to tap into this rich and rewarding market.

How to leverage the modest fashion trend for your brand

1. Be mindful of what “modesty” in fashion entails

The idea of modesty differs across religions, cultures, and even individuals. For some, only a headscarf might be necessary. Others may prefer longer sleeves and higher necklines. 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:

  1. Does not reveal cleavage
  2. Is sewn with sleeves
  3. 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, except 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. 

2. Recognise their needs

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, or colours. Applying the unique selling points (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 alongside contemporary trends:

  • Availability: It should be part of your core wardrobe, so they can be shopped for at 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.

3. Understand your target audience: Who wears modest fashion today?

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 industry majorities in mind.
  • UAE: Abayas in pink and red are rising in trend, contrasting the dominating black, indicating that bolder and more playful hues are becoming more acceptable in 2024.
  • 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, or out of respect for culture.

4. How to reach out to them

With social media facilitating the modest fashion revolution, retailers in Malaysia should pay attention to such platforms to join the conversation and offer their solutions. You may start with these social media marketing strategies to reach out to a more 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 to their customer base. Having these micro-influencers donning their modest fashion attire and creating engagement around them increases credibility and consumer trust.
  • 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 a visual reminder of their line of fashion. The garden-inspired apparel by Innai & Innai Red is peppered across their feed as well, by way of floral prints and a touch of Mother Nature in the background.

Now that you know what it takes to lay the foundation, it’s time to explore more innovative marketing strategies and sustainability’s role in modest fashion in 2024. 

Innovative marketing strategies for modest fashion brands in Malaysia

2024 presents many unique opportunities for Malaysian modest fashion brands to engage with their audience:

  • Digital showrooms and virtual try-ons: Embrace the digital evolution by creating virtual showrooms that allow customers to explore the latest trends and collections in a 360-degree view. Incorporate AR technology for virtual try-ons, enabling consumers to see how outfits look on them, and enhancing the online shopping experience.
  • Storytelling through content: Craft compelling narratives around your modest fashion collections. Use blogs, videos, and social media posts to tell the stories behind your designs, emphasising the cultural and personal values embedded in them. This approach not only educates but also builds a deeper connection with your audience.
  • Engaging through social media challenges: Launch social media challenges that encourage followers to showcase their modest outfits using specific hashtags. This not only promotes user-generated content but also fosters a community around your brand.
  • Interactive online events: Host webinars, live Q&A sessions, or online styling workshops that focus on modest fashion and the latest trends. This direct interaction can boost brand visibility and customer engagement simultaneously.

By adopting these innovative marketing strategies, modest fashion businesses can create a buzz around their collections, attract a wider audience, and establish a stronger foothold in 2024’s global fashion industry.

Sustainability in modest fashion

The escalating trend of modest fashion, lauded for its elegance and cultural significance, is now converging with an imperative for sustainability. As highlighted by the latest consumer behaviour studies and sustainability reports within the fashion industry, including significant insights from The Interline, the call for eco-friendly practices and ethical sourcing is resounding louder than ever. 

Here are some tips for modest clothing brands in Malaysia looking to weave sustainability into their operations and offerings:

  • Source sustainable fabrics: Opt for materials that are either recycled or produced with minimal environmental impact. Bamboo, organic cotton, Tencel, and recycled polyester are excellent choices for modest fashion garments. Highlighting the origin and eco-friendly nature of these materials can appeal to consumers’ sustainability values.
  • Embrace ethical manufacturing: Partner with manufacturers who adhere to ethical labour practices. This includes fair wages, safe working conditions, and reasonable working hours. Transparency about your supply chain and manufacturing processes builds trust with your audience.
  • Offer high-quality, durable pieces: Sustainability is also about longevity. Design modest fashion items that are timeless and made to last, reducing the need for frequent replacements and, consequently, waste.
  • Implement eco-friendly packaging: Use packaging made from recycled or biodegradable materials. Additionally, consider minimal packaging designs to reduce waste and inform your customers about how to recycle or dispose of the packaging responsibly.
  • Promote clothing care and repair: Educate your customers on how to care for their garments to extend their lifespan, such as washing in cold water or air drying. You can also offer services or advice on repairing items instead of discarding them.
  • Adopt a circular fashion model: Encourage customers to return their used garments in exchange for a discount on their next purchase. These items can then be recycled, upcycled, or donated, promoting a circular fashion economy.
  • Highlight the brand’s sustainability journey: Use your platform to share stories about your sustainability efforts, challenges, and successes. This can include behind-the-scenes looks at the creation of a sustainable line, features on the artisans behind the garments, and updates on sustainability goals.
  • Collaborate with sustainable influencers: Partner with influencers who are known for their commitment to eco-friendly living. Their endorsement can lend credibility to your modest fashion brand and attract like-minded consumers.
  • Engage in community initiatives: Participate in or sponsor events related to environmental conservation. This can range from tree planting activities to educational workshops on sustainable living, aligning your brand with broader environmental efforts.
  • Continuously evaluate and improve: Sustainability is an ongoing process. Regularly assess your business practices, supply chain, and product lifecycle to identify areas for improvement. Engaging your customer base for feedback can also provide valuable insights for sustainable innovations.

As the year unfolds, Malaysian modest fashion brands are at the forefront of blending traditional values with sustainable innovation. This evolving landscape not only enriches our wardrobe choices but also underscores a commitment to environmental stewardship, propelling us towards a future where fashion celebrates both our heritage and our planet.