Islamic Lifestyle 

Q&A: Modest fashion not a ’trend’, new Council will work as ’guardian’ to industry, says consultant Think Fashion

| 21 November, 2018 | Interview
Q&A: Modest fashion not a ’trend’, new Council will work as ’guardian’ to industry, says consultant Think Fashion
Photo: Think Fashion founders Ozlem Sahin and Franka Soeria at the Jakarta Modest Fashion Week in July, 2018. Photo supplied by Think Fashion
This Q&A is brought to you by Think Fashion as part of its sponsorship of Thomson Reuters' State of the Global Islamic Economy 2018/19 report. The digital copy of that report can be downloaded here.

Q: Muslim consumer spending has reached $2 trillion across various sectors. How do you think this will impact the growth outlook and projections for the Islamic economy and for modest fashion in particular?

Think Fashion founders Franka Soeria & Ozlem Sahin: Modest fashion is one of the fastest growing sub-sectors in fashion, with a $373 billion potential market size.

It is important to make it clear that modest fashion is not a ‘trend’, as trends do not stay forever. In fact the modest fashion industry has already existed for a long time, with established brands and consumers who are ready to pay for the styles they want. With the increase in consumer buying power, modest fashion brands need to respond to consumer demands quickly and globally, with the right quality and style.

After creating the Modest Fashion Weeks traveling event series, Think Fashion came up with a new initiative titled The Council of Modest Fashion. We launched it in the Jakarta Modest Fashion Week last July, 2018. The council consists of modest fashion stakeholders from around the world who want to contribute to keeping the industry sustainable. The council will work as a ‘guardian’ to the industry, giving directions and guidance . In the council, everybody is equal and we will all collaborate to move the modest fashion industry forward, with the vision of connecting globally, and supporting authentic modest fashion players.

Q: It was interesting to find out that Think Fashion was co-founded by two fashion experts and entrepreneurs - Franka Soeria and ?zlem ?ahin. Can you tell us more about how Think Fashion was established and how it has since developed as a business?

Ozlem Sahin : 'Franka and I have been fashion consultants for many years and we have clients and projects separately. Also we have various backgrounds – Franka is in the entertainment industry (TV, movie, music), media and public relations, entrepreneurship, fashion consultancy, events and e-commerce; while I am in engineering, business management and development, fashion consultancy and e-commerce.

We both are strong in our fields. We met in Turkey in 2014 and then decided to be partners. We both see that the next big thing in the fashion industry is ''modest fashion'' and therefore founded Think Fashion with the motto: Brings together the world of modest fashion globally.

Franka Soeria: 'We feel that there are many designers, brands, talents out there, but very few people think about building the structure of the modest fashion industry. Almost everybody wants to be the star but not the star-maker or the problem-solver. Modest fashion didn't have global fashion events - everybody was busy in their regions. We realized this gap and decided to build it properly. We formulized Modest Fashion Weeks as the most prestigious event of modest fashion - we bring everybody together globally - to collaborate, to show the beauty of modest fashion diversity through fashion shows, exhibitor booths, talk shows and workshops, as well as to think together on how we can make this industry better.

We started with Istanbul Modest Fashion Week in 2016 then continued to London, Dubai and Jakarta Modest Fashion Week. We are now coming up with other projects to solve other challenges in modest fashion: buyers- online and offline as well as The Council of Modest Fashion that we mentioned earlier.

Q: In your opinion, what are the key growth opportunities for modest fashion? What role can private investment play in realizing such opportunities? How do these opportunities play into Think Fashion’s future?

Think Fashion: We can sum up the opportunities as four main areas: market penetration, market development, product development and diversification.

At the moment, the number of modest fashion designers and brands is increasing rapidly, however the retailers, business-to-business buying is not increasing that much. Brands need more online and offline selling channels and platforms which are dedicated to the modest fashion industry. The big buyers for the modest fashion industry are mostly online-focused but have different challenges in trying to become global players.

Expanding to other regions and markets with the right partnerships and distributor channels is key for brands. Investing in modest fashion brands which are already established and ready to go global can be smart move for investors instead of creating a brand from zero. Modest fashion already has its customers which are usually more loyal than those of regular fashion brands.

Market development refers to how modest fashion brands can attract new customers, even those unfamiliar with the concept. Through Modest Fashion Weeks we are presenting modest fashion not only to existing customers but to the wider public. We show how modest fashion can be a style option not only for hijabis but for everyone.

In term of product development, there are many untapped categories and supporting elements such as modest sportswear, modest teen wear, modest fashion focused media and many more.

Diversification is also very important, while keeping the identity is very crucial. The modest fashion industry needs more professional platforms and players. We don't need any viral things anymore, what we need now is the real thing: a business that brings positive impact to many industry stakeholders.

For Think Fashion since we are very well connected with modest fashion industry stakeholders in five continents, we have deep know-how to assist modest fashion stakeholders and as well as investors.

Q: Think Fashion also organizes fashion events and acts as a consultancy to small labels from around the world including Canada, Lebanon, Indonesia and Dubai, offering business advice on logistics, branding, promotion and marketing. What are the key challenges facing these labels as they grow their businesses internationally?

Think Fashion: Yes, we really want to see more global modest fashion brands and with that vision we provide A to Z consultancy to brands. The challenge is first of all vision. Many brands struggle to develop a clear strategic plan for themselves. We understood that we need to teach about pricing strategy, marketing, global deals, effective production, etc.

Other main challenges include taxes, logistics and style differentiation,  as well as finding the right partners or team in the targeted regions. Having a local perspective and having a global perspective is totally different. At Think Fashion we fully understand that if the modest fashion brand wants to expand to a certain country/region, they need to localize their game. The challenge is that some brands are not willing to be flexible in "localizing" their brands and insist on applying their own perspective - which later proves to be inapplicable to their new target country.

Lastly and maybe the most important challenge is reaching the right sales channels and dealing with them - since the online and offline retailers are limited.

Q: In your opinion, what impact will the booming Chinese economy and its One Belt, One Road initiative have on the Islamic economy? How do you think the twenty-six Muslim (OIC) countries that lie along the Silk Road will benefit from this initiative, especially with regards to Modest Fashion?

Think Fashion: One Belt One Road (OBOR) will surely bring a shockwave to the fashion industry, including modest fashion. As we know, logistics is one of the most important challenges for brands to expand. We hope the OBOR will help designers/brands reach new markets faster and create new opportunities that will benefit their business. We hope OBOR will be a genuine partnership in good faith that will not only benefit the Chinese textiles and garments industry but all of those in the industry, including the twenty-six Muslim (OIC) countries.

The competition will certainly be harder and it is up to us to make sure we survive and thrive. Delivering good quality products , providing innovation, having a good story and good marketing/promotion are key.

Franka Soeria is known as the global bridge of modest fashion communities and consultant of modest fashion brands worldwide. Franka holds many positions from being co-founder of Think Fashion, Modest Fashion Weeks (Istanbul – London – Dubai – Jakarta ) creator of #Markamarie — one stop hub for apparel production, creative services, marketing and PR. Markamarie also hosting young designers to sell online/offline under its own multi brand platform. Franka has been chanelling startups and SMEs to investors worldwide as well as mentoring them to grow better. This behind the scene woman is named as one of Influential Indonesian Diaspora by the media. Franka has been featured in Associated Press, AFP, New York Times, Daily Mail, Khaleej Times, The National, Metro TV, ABC Australia and many more. With various backgrounds from music and movie industry, journalism, PR, fashion to events – this hardworking woman rapidly express the positioning of modest fashion industry and affects its development with her interesting projects.

Ozlem Sahin represents herself as a serial global fashion entrepreneur. She is co-founder of Think Fashion — one stop solution for modest fashion industry, co-founder of global Modest Fashion Weeks (Istanbul-London-Dubai-Jakarta) travelling event series, investor and partner some fashion focused global start-ups. Ozlem, was the coordinator of the first online hijab show worldwide in 2013, which reaches 300k online audience. After having Industrial Engineering bachelor degree in Turkey and her master program in Leadership in Italy she supported the global brands as a strategic brand consultant under her own company just before founding Think Fashion. She likes to look at what is next in modest fashion industry and she has a big interest to start-ups and entrepreneurship in different fields. She has an award winning film scenario called ‘’Red Coincidence’’ that was shot by Elle Turkey.