Six major challenges modest-fashion designers are facing in 2019
- 11 April 2019
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The global modest-fashion market may be booming, Yet it is still held back by popular misconceptions.
For Bahraini designer Fatima Bastaki, owner of FAB, the biggest challenge has been ‘to make people look at modest fashion as stylish; it’s not just long boring dresses! However, an increasing number of people are beginning to understand it [thanks to] having modest-fashion models such as Halima Aden and big brands like Nike adding hijabi collections.”
Though internationally established brands are able to acquire a lot of publicity, and fast, many growing modest-fashion labels have struggled to do so.
CHALLENGE 1: FINDING THE RIGHT MANUFACTURER
Egyptian-Canadian Sara Elemary has been running her label, Sara Elemary Designs, for nine years, and one of her biggest challenges is “finding manufacturers that offer high-end quality.”
This is also true for Mosika Abu Zeid, founder and CEO of the UAE’s Desert Cove: “Getting huge manufacturers who can produce the quality I need, to take us seriously and take on a relatively baby brand [is a challenge]. If you maintain good and ‘human’ relationships with your suppliers and stakeholders, you can always find a solution. So I am constantly working on that.”
CHALLENGE 2: COMPETING WITH FAST FASHION
We’ve all picked up the odd bargain for less than $10, but the reality is, apart from the often-dubious origins of certain products, fast fashion can affect smaller labels.
“The biggest challenge has been competing with fast-fashion modest brands who offer sub-par clothing,” said Kulsoom Gul, co-founder of B. Zarina, a label she runs from the US with her sister Shazia. “Consumers have become accustomed to purchasing low-quality modest clothing and assume that all modest-fashion brands work at this level. [But] once consumers see the quality (fabric, fit and construction) they become loyal customers. They are also some of our biggest advocates.”
CHALLENGE 3: FINDING SUPPORT CLOSER TO HOME
Many designers tend to receive more support further away from where the majority of modest-fashion shoppers are.
“Though modest fashion is more prominent in the Islamic market, the Islamic market (media, the public and social media influencers) is the least supportive of up-and-coming Muslim designers,” said Kulsoom.
Yet B. Zarina is doing well in the US, Canada and the UK. “In the US market, we have received a lot of support from retail buyers and media outside of the modest-fashion industry, as they see the versatility in our designs to extend beyond modest fashion and into mainstream.”
Sara sees the same lack of support in her home country: “Modesty is a big thing in Egypt; I can’t understand why they are neglecting it. We need stylists and buyers to look out more for modest fashion. A woman does not have to be veiled to wear modest wear! There are so many famous designers where modesty plays a big role in their designs.”
CHALLENGE 4: GETTING INTO STORES
Designers want the chance to sell beyond their website.
“We would love to see a modest rack in every department store and retail setups,” said Linda Kender, managing partner of the modest-swimwear label Trepezzi.
Berfu Pakkan Ramazanoglu, who runs the Turkey-based brand with Linda, added, “By simply [stocking] modest-appropriate offerings, they will increase their customer base and make modest women across the globe feel their real value in the fashion world.”
CHALLENGE 5: UNRELIABLE INFLUENCERS
Linda noted that some influencers care more about the pay cheque than supporting something they truly believe in: “Reaching [out] through marketing has been a challenge. The best solution we found was to target our customers through the influencers they relate to in their region. Some were very effective and some were very disappointing.”
“A good influencer can increase your followers and traffic [by] 25–35 per cent, whilst weak influencers will show minimal contribution to your business,” she continued.
Mirka Talavaskova, founder and designer of Prague-based Talabaya, wants to find ambassadors instead. “I would like to be more involved in local community, get to know local women and understand them better. My goal is to find an ambassador in each country who could represent [Talabaya’s] style and philosophy.”
CHALLENGE 6: BETTER SUPPORT AT EVENTS
For many brands, signing up to an exhibition is an investment, so the return has to be worth it.
“I think there is a tendency for many shows to promise the world to designers and deliver less than promised. For an unsuspecting designer, this can be really disheartening,” Mosika said.
“Many of these events are more for the promotional purposes of the organisers and are less focused on the designers,” Kulsoom said. “It is the designers who end up paying the cost.”
(Writing by Rachel McArthur; Editing by Seban Scaria firstname.lastname@example.org)
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