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The Growing Role of the Hijab in the Fashion Industry

The Growing Role of the Hijab in the Fashion Industry

The past few years has seen the hijab cement its status in the global fashion industry. From Nike’s Pro Hijab for female Muslim athletes to Tommy Hilfiger’s recently released version of the Islamic garment, more fashion designers and brands are starting to capitlise on what is now known as the ‘modest fashion’ industry, currently valued at £270 billion.

Defined as clothing that conceals rather than accentuates the shape of the female body, whether for reasons of religious faith or personal preference, public interest in modest fashion is skyrocketing. Pinterest UK reports that searches were up 500% throughout 2019, while a Google search of the term produces just under 200 million results.

A mix of social and economic factors are credited with the sector’s seemingly overnight success. Yet, in spite of the growing visibility of Islamic clothing in the fashion world, 86% of Muslim women in the UK continue to feel ignored by major brands.

Getting to know a not-so-new market

In the past, Muslim women living in the West had two main options when it came to clothing: they either had to rely on independent ethnic grocery stores importing hijabs from overseas, or had to create their own designs. Things gradually began to improve in the mid-2000s, when the term ‘modest fashion’ first came to prevalence, and designers began to realise the demand for more modern and fashionable options.

In 2014, DKNY became one of the first major brands to get the memo on this new industry. The release of its first Ramadan collection featured a monochromatic colour palette and easy-to-wear tops, jackets, pants and skirts. A year later, H&M also made headlines with the widely praised ‘Close the Loop’ campaign, championed by Mariah Idrissi, the brand’s first hijabi model.

From that moment, the modest fashion industry has steadily continued to grow. The 2016 edition of New York Fashion week saw the debut of Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan, whose entire collection featured a hijab. High-street retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Debenhams, as well as brands like Dolce & Gabbana, have all released modest fashion lines in recent years, although the latter faced criticism in 2018, with activists challenging what they perceived as a nouveau-riche idea of a hijabi woman.

From a marketing perspective, incorporating a modest collection may be a fairly safe bet for any brand. The same study by ODD, which polled 500 Muslim women from across the UK, also revealed that 93% would feel encouraged to visit a store that catered to their religious or cultural clothing needs.

A positive assertion of identity

According to a recent survey, Muslim women tend to spend 16% more on clothing than the average British consumer. Dubai-based influencer Anum Bashir says that, contrary to common misconceptions, covering up doesn’t have to equate to looking boring or avoiding trends.

This is why the present hijab represents a blend of modernity and modesty. In stark contrast to the limited options once available, some brands have developed an array of designs tailored to flatter individual face shapes. And to further contribute to the visibility of modest fashion, the World Hijab Day, an initiative by a Bangladeshi immigrant in the US, is now celebrated in at least 190 countries on 1st February each year.

Time to embrace diversity

In the words of Reina Lewis, Professor of Cultural Studies at London College of Fashion, women interpret requirements to dress modestly in many different ways, and how they choose to interpret it can change over time. She also points out that many Muslim women do not necessarily see their clothes as modest; the name simply refers to a style they relate to and enjoy wearing.

If your brand is requiring consultancy in either designer or marketing products to Muslim women, speak to us a Mediareach; the UK’s most experienced multicultural marketing agency.

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