By Joe Escobedo
According to the 2015-2016 State of the Global Islamic Economy Report, Muslim consumers spend an estimated $230 billion on clothing. That figure is projected to grow to $327 billion by 2019, surpassing the current combined clothing markets of the UK ($107 billion), Germany ($99 billion) and India ($96 billion).
Based on those numbers, the Muslim clothing market is rife with opportunities. Traditionally this market has been dominated by more conservative styles.
So as a Muslimah (a Muslim woman), is it possible to look stylish while maintaining your Islamic values?
That was the inspiration behind LULLY SELB, a streetwear brand for both modern and modest women. Founded by two Muslimahs based in Singapore, Selma Bamadhaj and Nur Rulhuda, LULLY SELB is shattering stereotypes of how a Muslimah should present herself without compromising on her values.
But breaking the mold and starting a fashion business in Singapore’s predominantly non-Muslim market wouldn’t be easy. That’s why the duo leveraged social media, content marketing and email marketing to build their brand’s awareness not only in Singapore but also across Asia.
Below, these fashion professionals turned entrepreneurs share their best-kept digital marketing secrets for building their brand presence online.
Breaking Into The Fashion Industry
Why start a Muslim fashion brand when many retail outlets in Singapore are closing shop?
Selma explains, “I was rather frustrated that most modest wear brands were too traditional looking, too feminine, too dainty and overall lacking the aesthetics that I would wear.”
So fed up with the lack of options, Selma decided to do something about it. She first broke into the fashion industry by sourcing fashionable and low-cost merchandise from Thailand and China and selling it via push carts and at flea markets.
While she sold a few items that way, she realized she needed to take her brand online to grow its presence. So like many fashion entrepreneurs, she turned to Instagram to build her community.
Engaging Influencers That Resonate With The Brand’s Story
Unlike many brands that pick influencers based solely on their number of followers on social media, the founders of LULLY SELB pick unique individuals who are influencers in their own social circle. They reach out to these influencers to act as unofficial brand ambassadors who will wear their clothing and accessories to get the word out about their brand.
As a result of their efforts, the brand once received a spike of over 400 Instagram followers within a few days, when an influencer posted a photo of her #ootd (outfit of the day).
By sharing an inside look into their brand, from their textile design process to styling tips, the duo has witnessed higher engagement rates, as much as 40% higher than product and sales-oriented content.
Selma explains one such instance. “Once we posted a thought-provoking quote from a well-known Japanese designer and added a question in the caption to see how our fans would react. We were pleasantly surprised that it garnered an engagement level 50% higher than our average posts and proved to us that customers want to be part of our journey.”
Social media and their website aren’t the only digital channels they leverage. They also share content via email.
To keep their fans engaged on email, the duo sends newsletters to their subscribers once a week or fortnight.
“We have an average open rate of 30%, which is around 9% higher than the average open rate for the retail industry. We’ve noticed that personalized subject lines like, ‘We know you’ve been waiting for this!’ have higher open rates compared to ones like ‘New Product Launch,’” says Selma.
Breaking Out Beyond The Singapore Market
Considering the Muslim population only accounts for only 14% of Singapore’s nearly six million residents, LULLY SELB has its sights next set on the UK and the U.S.
Selma shares her vision for the company. “Being an online independent label, we want to bring our products across the globe. We are currently developing a sportswear line for the Muslimah market. We see a big gap and it’s a product line that is aligned with our brand philosophy. With the rapid changes in technology, we also want to explore ways to make our website more engaging and interactive to engage current and potential customers around the world!”
Selma And Nur’s Best Advice For Fashion Entrepreneurs
• It can be overwhelming when things are constantly moving especially in a digital world. It becomes even more important to stay true to your brand values and understand your audience so you continue to learn and grow.
• Don’t assume that your work ends when you create a unique product. You should invest double the time and effort into marketing and engaging your current and potential customers.
• One costly mistake is to design a product without thorough research. While it is fun to pour out all your creative juices, it’s important to strike a balance between creative input and commercial value.