Can the DMFW make modest fashion more than just a buzzword?    

Photo: Fashion designer Zaskia Sungkar on the runway at Dubai Modest Fashion Week 2017 / Photo by Rooful

An unexpected downpour did nothing to dampen spirits at the inaugural Dubai Modest Fashion Week (DMFW), held recently at Burj Park. The alfresco event, a celebration of contemporary modest fashion, brought together designers, models, influencers and industry experts from over 20 countries to meet, mingle and showcase.

And the resonant message that came through at the event was that the growing multi-million-dollar industry, which has seen something of a boom in the last couple of years, needs more and better collaboration.


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Mariah Idrissi is a Britain-based model and influencer who shot to fame thanks to an ad campaign by H&M, thus becoming the first hijabi model to be featured in a mainstream fashion brand’s advertising. She observed, “While modest fashion is catching up in the mainstream, collaboration is the way forward. For a lot of independent designers and brands, it is very difficult to [get established] in an over-saturated industry such as fashion. But if they combined resources, then they would be able to compete with the big guys.”

Photo: Models wearing Sumayya's collection on the runway at Dubai Modest Fashion Week 2017 / Photo by Rooful

And that’s where events such as these come in. The Modest Fashion Week series, which has held previous editions in Istanbul and London, aims to strengthen the influence of the modest-fashion ‘movement’ on the fashion industry as a whole by creating awareness, facilitating networking and enabling business deals.

As Ozlem Sahin, co-founder of Think Fashion, creators of the Modest Fashion Week series, put it, “So for us, the strategy is to help the designers who are in the industry, provide them with resources; that’s when all of this has meaning. It is also important to get the support of the government and business associations, because only then it can become a sustainable industry.”

Photo: Models wearing ETU (left) and Huw Roman (right) on the runway at Dubai Modest Fashion Week 2017 / Photo by Rooful

So what does the future hold for this burgeoning industry? Insiders hope that as the novelty wears off, modest fashion will cease to be a buzzword and instead just become a regular part of the greater fashion industry.

“We don’t want it to be groundbreaking news every time something happens in the modest-fashion space [for example, a hijabi model getting signed by a leading agency]. We want it to be normal fashion news,” said Sebina Hussain, another leading modest-fashion blogger from London who attended the DMFW.

But in order for modest fashion to become truly integrated into the mainstream, a few issues need to be ironed out first, those of availability, convenience, choice and price points.

“There are a lot of labels out there, but most of them are available online,” Sebina said. “For us Millennials, as a generation, we want everything quickly; that’s our attitude as a collective. So we can’t be bothered with ordering something and waiting for a week to get it.”

Mariah agreed, adding that pricing is another major concern. “It’s really hard for people to go out and buy something from a modest label at twice the price of something that they could get on the high street.”

Photo: Models wearing Fllumae (left) and Anotah (right) on the runway at Dubai Modest Fashion Week 2017 / Photo by Rooful

High-street brands and luxury labels alike seem to be waking up to the fact that this is an important segment that needs to be tapped into, whether it’s Dolce & Gabbana’s abaya line in 2016; stores such as Mango and H&M introducing designs ideal for those who dress modestly; or turbans gracing the covers of international fashion magazines.

“Not just in fashion, but across all sectors, the mainstream is recognising the importance of the Muslim consumer,” Sebina said. “But they’re not doing it right quite yet. There is a lot of excitement among mainstream brands about wanting to work in this space, but there is a gap in terms of understanding what we want, need and think.”

Photo: Models wearing Dosougi Designs (left) and Yours Truly (right) on the runway at Dubai Modest Fashion Week 2017 / Photo by Rooful

Ozlen echoed this sentiment, saying, “Mainstream fashion is not yet touching the modest community; it’s not just about making a line and using one or two celebrity names here and there. The modest-fashion community is different; the talents are different. There needs to be more and more collaboration.”

Photo: Halima Aden modelling a dress by Rasit Bagzibagli (left) and models wearing Selma Sari (right) on the runway at Dubai Modest Fashion Week 2017 / Photo by Rooful

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