The modest dresser in the US or Europe often has different wants and needs to the modest dresser in the Middle East or Asia-Pacific. Many women in the West put the emphasis more on fashion, Mia explains. Maha Gondal, who lives in Canada, believes major luxury brands could make significant inroads into the Western modest fashion industry but argues that Muslim consumers are not marketed to appropriately, citing recurring errors in designs as well as non-inclusive campaigns. Few luxury brands market “hijab” or “head coverings”
The difference between Western and Muslim modest dressers
Is minimal but important, many designers still assume Muslim consumers are a homogenous group of largely homogenous dressers, similar to the way that feminine or slim or older or “plus-size” clothing is marketed to specific groups of women. Young, fashion-conscious consumers, however, are more diverse, so the labels should not simply assume the customer base is homogenous.
What brands need to do to accommodate Muslim consumers
Is change the language of their marketing. Whether it is a brand such as Burberry, which has been criticized for its recent ad campaign, or a more mainstream brand such as Abercrombie & Fitch, which had to issue an apology for a marketing campaign, the tone needs to be adjusted. “Labeling headscarves ‘headwear’” misses a vital nuance,” argues Reem Kelani, director of independent social and cultural think tank Connect Women.“It discounts the fact that Muslim women are born with hijabs. While it gives the impression that Muslim women adopt it and then wear it in every context, a good majority of Muslim women do not have it until their adult years.”
How Muslim consumers are changing the luxury market
At least in clothing, an ambiguous definition of modest design is being offered. The latest fashion finds a way around defining what is modest or not, Gondal says. "It's being used to create a brand story for luxury products.” While designers are raking in money in the West, working on everything from special order to licensed ready-to-wear items, it's the Middle East that is the powerhouse in the luxury market. A reason for that is the number of Muslims in the region. According to the Pew Research Center, Muslims make up 20% of the global population. In Muslim countries, that number is more like 50%. Yet the market is only a fraction of the size of the European and North American one. Why?
Globally, the fashion sector has long been criticized for being inaccessible to women of colour, the LGBTQ community, and those who are non-cisgender or have multiple gender identities. Trends come and go, but brands, celebrities, and designers cannot and should not operate from this perspective. Consumer demand is rapidly evolving, and more and more women, and men, are asking brands to create, promote, and value fashion that embodies their unique experiences and identities. Muslim consumers are redefining the fashion industry by demanding for fashion that embraces their different identities and aspirations. This is in line with traditional Islamic value of modesty, where “unnecessary” exposure of a woman’s body and her personal grooming are prohibited.