Exploring the modest fashion industry

Exploring the modest fashion industry

01 April 2019

On 14 March, Asia House Arts hosted some of the biggest names in modest fashion for a discussion on how the industry is influencing the mainstream market, its effect on the fashion and publishing markets, and the similarities and differences in modest fashion around the world.

Kicking off the discussion, journalist and moderator for the evening, Remona Aly, asked each of the panelists the “multi-billion dollar question”: What is modest fashion?

Reina Lewis, Centenary Professor of Cultural Studies at London College of Fashion, UAL, has been researching and publishing on modest fashion since the mid-2000s. She explained that she uses the term “modest fashion” as a catchall category to refer to the “many different ways in which women from different religious backgrounds and faith communities dress according to their understanding of religious and cultural codes of modest dress and behaviour”. She noted that this is an enormous category now and that the fashion industry has “woken up to the value of Muslims as consumers for fashion and lifestyle”.  

Kulsum Patel, director and co-founder of modest fashion consultancy service, Ayah, reiterated what Lewis had said, adding: “I don’t think modest fashion can be defined by one, singular garment necessarily. For different women, it means different things.” She pointed out that modest fashion isn’t just for Muslim women, but for women of other faiths who choose to dress modestly, as well as those who want to dress modestly due to their work, age or “just their sense of style”.

Agreeing with her fellow panelists, couturier Raishma Islam, whose eponymous brand launched caters fir both modest and non-modest markets, noted that the interpretation of “modest” is extremely varied. She also added that it was interesting to note how today’s young people are dressing more moderately than the young people of her generation did – and that dressing “modestly” was something very personal to each individual. 

Digital influencer, designer and author of ‘Hijab Street Style’, Dian Pelangi, also joined us from her native Indonesia for the panel discussion. She noted that “modest fashion is simply the evolution of Muslim fashion”, adding that today there is not much difference between modest fashion and mainstream fashion. 

The rest of the evening explored the modest fashion revolution further, with insightful questions from the audience and culminating in modest fashion outfits by the brands Raishma and Dian Pelangi being modelled. 

This event was held in partnership with London Book & Screen Week and The National Organising Committee for Indonesia as Market Focus Country at the 2019 London Book Fair. We would also like to thank the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Kingdom, Ireland & IMO in London, for their support. 

Watch the full event below

This event was part of the Asia House 2019 Winter Arts and Learning Programme. Find out more about our upcoming events

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*Feature Image Credit: Rooful Ali