The Current Modest Wear Scene
Modest fashion is an upcoming market segment that could potentially cause a disruption in the fast fashion industry due to its evident void in the market. Generally known as non-fitted clothes that reveal minimal skin, modest fashion however, should be not be mistaken as Muslimah fashion.
Having said that, with Muslimah fashion causing more ripples in the the fashion industry, this could exponentialize the modest fashion scene, especially with the estimated 56% revenue increase by 2020 from the $210 billion valued market as of 2014. The search for “Modest Fashion” on Pinterest has increased by 500% in just this year. However, with such promising figures and potential, the prevalence of it still remains moderate, perhaps falling into the blindspot of retailers and fashion brands.
An Untapped Market With Great Potential
To get a clearer understanding on a void in the market, we have to get a clearer grasp on the current audience of modest fashion. The general fashion retail industry is fueled by tech-savvy and fashion conscious millennials who are always one step ahead of trends, thanks to social media. Now that modest fashion is bubbling up and catching the fancy of millennials, Muslims of this generation are more likely to subscribe and contribute to it. Studies from Ogilvy Noor, an Islamic branding and marketing agency, have found that 11% of the global population comprises of Muslims below the age of 25.
“Thus, not only do you have more Muslims to target, but they are increasing in numbers faster and they are young. And, contrary to a lot of expectations, they are interested in brands and they are interested in asserting some kind of individuality through what they purchase,” said Shelina Janmohamed, vice president of Ogilvy Noor.”
Is Modest Fashion Completely Unheard Of?
However, to say that modest fashion is completely off the radar in the mass market would be untrue. Mainstream exposure for modest fashion has been slowly prevalent with London Modest Fashion Week and more Muslim women representing Western brands. Social media can also be credited to the increasing ubiquity of modest fashion, giving users a great platform to voice their frustrations regarding the lack of modest wear in the market. Instagram and Youtube are some examples of platforms for Hijabi fashion bloggers to share their own rendition of modest wear, gaining thousands of followers and creating a tight-knit community.
Some brands have started noticing the uprise in the modest fashion community and have taken this opportunity to introduce modest wear into their collection. Nike, for instance, took the leap into the athletic segment of modest wear by introducing the Pro Hijab line, proving that they were able to adapt to different consumer needs by including diversity.
What Are They Not Doing Right?
However, not all attempts at tapping into this niche market is a guaranteed success despite its scarcity in the mass market. Consumers found that brands were not hitting the mark in modest wear, releasing their own versions of what they envisioned modest wear to be, which turned out to be rather mediocre. The founder of the Islamic Fashion And Design Council, Alia Khan, has shared similar opinions regarding the lackluster modest wear collection from mass fashion brands. “They don’t understand that this audience is just as stylish and demanding of their fashion wardrobes as anybody else. What these women really want is the same miniskirt they saw on the runway, but slightly looser and longer,” said Khan.
Uniqlo: Hana Tajima
An example of an exclusive modest wear range from a mass brand would be the Hana Tajima Collection from Uniqlo. The collection of modest wear is a collaboration with British Muslim fashion designer of the same namesake. While aimed to increase the diversity of their garments by catering to a specific market segment, performance for this collection was not anything to scream about.
Despite the high percentage of discounted items, the sellout rate was not similarly reflected. The jarring difference between the replenishment and sellout rate could mean that Uniqlo was stocking more than they could sell, which could have resulted in potential loss in profit.
Left to right (all from Uniqlo: Hana Tajima): Tencel Long Sleeve Shirt Dress, Tencel Tuck Wide Pants, Striped Flare Long Sleeve Long Dress
A browse through the assortment would show that a majority of the collection bore similarities in silhouettes, colours and a lack of prints. This collection further supports the previous statement by Khan, in which she vexed about the lack of variety and trends that mass fashion brands had to offer when it came to modest wear, and consumers could have had the same thought, based off the subpar performance of this line. What was supposed to be a redefining collection barely hit the mark due to lack of research and proper understanding of the market prior to its launch.
On the bright side, there is a retailer that seemed to be doing something for modest fashion. The Modist is a luxury apparel e-commerce platform for all things modest. The idea of The Modist was chanced upon when founder, Ghizlan Guenez, found that many brands and designers had a very narrow idea of modest wear being just bland fabric with loose silhouettes. As someone who also dresses modestly, Guenez had a clear understanding of the demand in the niche market and aimed to discredit the false stereotypes that came with this trend.
The chart above depicts the sellout rate against the stocked SKUs for The Modist, which showed a healthy increase in sellouts within three months. The increased sellout rate was also organic and not discount driven as no discounts were offered during this timeline.
From left to right (all from The Modist): Hero Satin Flared Midi Skirt, Desmine Printed Crepe de Chine Maxi Dress, Felicia Maxi Dress
The bestsellers (image above) were nothing short of loud colours and prints. Judging from the higher sellout rate, it seemed that items with brighter colours and prints fared better than the rest. This highly contrasted the plain and minimalistic collection from Uniqlo: Hana Tajima, painting a general idea of what modest fashion consumers actually want.
However, it is important to keep in mind that The Modist is a luxury e-commerce platform, aiming to be the Net-a-Porter of modest fashion. While The Modist was able to tap into the market of modest fashion, it definitely does not cater to those with lower spending power. The price difference could introduce a whole new undiscovered market gap: affordable modest wear that actually appeals to its audience.
Fashion brands should work on filling this market void by understanding what the audience truly wants. In order to succeed in a niche market, the swift ability to adapt to market demands is crucial. Retail data aids brands in that matter, allowing them to monitor items that are flying off the racks at different seasons. With that, modest wear brands would be able to gain leverage on what they lack and act instantly upon it through modifying their assortment strategy.
We can expect modest fashion to proliferate in the future as the possibility of tapping into such a promising segment is by no means modest. But for now, it’s still a long road to success.
Interested to find out about the modest fashion industry? Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be in touch!
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