Islamic Lifestyle

Modest fashion gets serious about sportswear, athleisure as models walk London runway in burkinis

Photo: Yasmin Sobeih shows her debut athleisure collection at London Modest Fashion Week April 16, 2017. Photo credit Rooful Ali/

Fashion capital London saw models walk the runway in modest sportswear at the second annual Modest Fashion Week held at Olympia, Kensington, cementing the growing demand for the niche apparel.

Out of 26 designers participating in the two-day modest fashion event last weekend Turkish label Mayovera showcased burkinis in a range of colours and prints, while UK-based Under-Râpt led the way with modest, on trend performance sportswear, launching its first-ever collection that included oversized hooded jackets and base layers with built-in hijab.

Mayovera owner and designer Ayça Türe told Salaam Gateway there is growing demand for the burkini, “[We are] growing very quickly and we have doubled our sales every season since we launched,” she said. The brand launched in 2015.

Call it popularity or notoriety the image of the burkini has left a lasting impression. French authorities condemned the burkini as a display of Islamic extremism and banned it from being worn on French beaches in 2016, Hollywood actress Lindsay Lohan recently posed in one while holidaying in Thailand, and American-Somali hijabi model Halima Aden wore a Mayovera piece to participate in a U.S. beauty pageant.

Yet any negative publicity surrounding the burkini has failed to dent modest swimwear’s market share, particularly in Mayovera’s case. “The month after last summer’s burkini ban in France our sales to France, Holland and the UK tripled,” said Türe.

The pioneer in the sector, Australia’s Ahiida, also reported a spike in sales of its burkinis during the same period.


In the UK, modest fashion market players lauded the decision early last year by British retail giant Marks & Spencer’s to sell the burkini in its UK stores and sports hijab is set to find its way into multi-brand sportswear stores after Nike announced earlier this year it would launch Nike Pro Hijab by Spring 2018, which will likely have a positive knock-on effect for smaller brands like Under-Râpt and Mayovera.

“Any time anyone, including Nike, launches something that is pro-hijab it certainly does boost the awareness of the market and cause positive headlines,” Alia Khan, chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council, told Salaam Gateway.

The modest niche is also keeping up with the wider fashion industry’s love of athleisure, made more popular by supermodels that include Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner.

Yasmin Sobeih, designer and founder of Under-Râpt launched her collection at London Modest Fashion Week and was the only designer to showcase modest fitness clothing that can be worn not just at the gym but also for socialising.

Under-Râpt’s aim is to challenge stereotypes, according to Sobeih. “I found a market for it. There was huge potential to enter a market where we were missing something that combined high street fashion trends with modest attire with sportswear,” she said.

The label is also the first modest sportswear fashion brand that uses only sustainable and organic fabrics, which are sourced in Austria, and are breathable and hygienic.

IFDC’s Khan says this emerging trend speaks to a market need. “We’re seeing more sports brands coming up with attire that is suitable for this market because it just makes good business sense and why shouldn’t they? They have every right to explore opportunities in their field,” said Khan.


Under-Râpt has had interest not only from Muslim women looking to adhere to faith-based principles and values of modesty, but also from non-Muslim professional female athletes who benefit from wearing something that keeps their hair off their face and is comfortable, said Sobeih.

Similarly Mayovera’s share of the market isn’t contained to Muslim women alone. “We have plenty of non-Muslim customers too. Some are driven by a desire to dress conservatively, while others opt for a burkini because of health problems, such as a sun allergy,” Türe said.

This year’s modest fashion week was organised by Turkey’s leading modest fashion e-tailer Modanisa and event partner Think Fashion. It showcased designers from over 20 countries.

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Saadia Hashmy-Elsby