Islamic Lifestyle

Istanbul Modest Fashion Week wants to bring together an industry that doesn’t ’speak same fashion language’

| 10 May, 2016
 Lim Li Min
Istanbul Modest Fashion Week wants to bring together an industry that doesn’t ’speak same fashion language’

ISTANBUL - There’s good reason to hold a fashion week for Muslims: by 2030, almost a third of the global population will be Muslim, with an average age of 30, according to Pew Research Center. And it’s a fast-growing segment with increasing spending clout. Enter the Istanbul Modest Fashion Week (IMFW), to be held from May 13-14, an international event that promises to crack open this niche market a little wider.

Featuring more than 70 designers and brands from 30 countries, IMFW has a mix of 31 catwalk shows and workshops ranging from “Visual Art: The Art of Selling” to a session with bloggers.

Models will walk runways clad in established brands such as Sweden’s Iman Aldebe and Australia’s Amalina Aman. Other headline names who will give talks are Rabia Z from the United Arab Emirates and Melanie Elturk of online retailing site Haute Hijab.  Sidebar activities include booths, exhibitions and talk shows.

“The Istanbul (Fashion Week is) going to set standards, and do a lot for the industry. It’s a platform offered for high-end industry players, manufacturers, retailers, designers,” says Alia Khan, chairwoman for the Islamic Fashion and Design Council, one of the advisers for IMFW.


“In (the modest) fashion business, the biggest demand comes from youth. We have a growing population who is growing more educated and more independent financially. More than 60 percent is 30 and under. They are hip and cool but not willing to compromise their modest values and progressive lifestyle,” says Khan.           

Social media has been a key driver for the business of modest fashion and a group of digital-native influencers has emerged, including bloggers, stylists and designers.

20-something British-Egyptian Dina Tokio is an influential blogger with more than 900,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 400,000 subscribers on YouTube.

Mariah Idrissi is high street brand H & M’s first hijab-clad model, and has become the unofficial face of modest fashion, thanks to the Internet. Both Tokio and Idrissi will be helping host workshops at IMFW.

Over the past few years, DKNY, Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, Oscar de la Renta and Mango have produced modest clothing lines. Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo became the latest this year to launch its modest wear, with blogger Hana Tajima, whose contemporary clothes emphasize comfort and fabric feel.


But as more mainstream lines get in on modest fashion’s act, it puts pressure on smaller home-grown players to up their game -- or get pushed out.

Franka Soeria, one of the key organisers of the event, says financing infrastructure, market fragmentation, and a relatively unsophisticated approach to branding, marketing and retailing threaten the local modest lines.

As yet, no one global label has yet to emerge, because each country tends to cater to its own domestic audience. Tastes and styles differ widely between geographical regions. “We don’t speak the same (fashion) language,” she says.  

IMFW is trying to become a platform for designers, retailers, manufacturers and buyers from around the world. The organisers are also hoping that a cross-fertilization of ideas will take place, resulting in more sophisticated business models.

“We set up a platform because there was no significant place helping to generate business for players,” Khan says.

But even as modest fashion businesses are trying to find their feet and assert themselves globally, Islamic e-commerce ventures are trying to become more visible.

One of the main sponsors of IMFW is Modanisa, an online shopping website, popular in Turkey and with a growing presence abroad.

“We are like a fashion magazine for Muslim women and a platform and marketplace for brands. We sell to Europe, the Middle East, North America, Australia and Southeast Asia,” says Kerim Ture, founder of the venture.

Turkey is already the top-ranked Islamic e-commerce seller globally, and Modanisa, launched in 2011 now has some 300 lines and 28 designers. The site attracts around 5 million visitors per month and at its current growth rate, Modanisa could well be a model for modest clothing’s future initiatives.


Currently, online shopping for Muslim labels is dogged by many of the same issues that plague the industry, not least of which is market fragmentation.

Until around five years ago, most brands had their own discrete sites. But portals such as Modanisa are showing that it’s possible to get more clicks by being an international umbrella site for clothing lines.

“We created desire for latest fashions and we bring choice,” says Ture. By sponsoring IMFW, Ture hopes to bring buyers, sellers, manufacturers and Muslim consumers together. His aim, like the IMFW’s,  is to create a global awareness, and provide a common marketplace of ideas for modest clothing.  

© 2016