UAE Retailers Lead The Way In Modest Fashion

By: Aashna Minocha, Forbes Middle East Staf

In the world of luxury and high-street fashion, more western brands than ever are seeking to capitalize on a previously underserved market by learning about the needs and desires of Muslim consumers, as reports suggest that global revenues from modest fashion bought by Muslim women alone hit $44 billion in 2015.

Thomson Reuters’ State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2016/17 reveals that Muslim consumers in total spent $243 billion on clothing and footwear in 2015, accounting for 11% of the global market – a growth of 5.7% on 2014. This figure is expected to reach $368 billion by 2021.

According to Alia Khan, Founder of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council, retailers are keen to tap into this potential.

“Western brands are certainly studying it [Muslim consumers’ needs] better, learning about it, understanding it and doing their best to cater to it,” she says.

“For a long time, they have been overlooking a very important market. Today they are getting a lot savvier and understanding that they need to capture the modest fashion market by understanding the needs and values of the target audience.

“So they are turning to organizations like ours and we are very keen to make sure that they get it right.”

The report also reveals the U.A.E. to be leading the world in modest fashion, ranking the country as having the number one most developed ecosystem.

The report measures countries by looking at the amount of clothing exported to the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), awareness of modest fashion through news and events, and social factors such as pricing and labor fairness.

The U.A.E. scored a total of 67 points, followed by Turkey with 29, China with 28 and India with 27.

Indeed, evidence of mainstream fashion houses recognizing the importance of the Muslim market has been seen across the Emirates’ malls, with many unveiling Ramadan collections for the holy month – traditionally a time of heightened modesty and nightly social gatherings.

Luxury brand DKNY (Donna Karan New York) introduced its first Ramadan collection exclusively for the Middle East In 2014, and in 2016 D&G once again used the holy month to showcase its luxury selection of Hijabs and Abayas.

Since then, fashion heavy-weights such as Burberry, Oscar De la Renta, Dolce and Gabanna, as well as Micheal Kors, Zara and Aldo have followed suit, yielding benefits for both consumers and retailers.

“There is a strong Muslim consumer influence and it’s leading to better options for the Islamic audience,” says Khan.

“And this is not just something that consumers buy for Ramadan, this is a full-time and lifetime commitment. [Brands] would be very wise to captivate this audience.”


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