modest fashion

For anyone who questions the style potential of conservative fashion, you just have to take one stroll through The Dubai Mall’s fashion Avenue to see some of the world’s most chic women, dressed modestly, but still turning heads. From the elegant shoes to the latest handbags, women who dress according to Islamic values have proven themselves to be some the biggest consumers in fashion, says Ritu Upadhyay who is hosting a talk about Modest Fashion in Modern Times today at Fashion Forward Season Four.

Lamya Abedin, designer of Queen of Spades, a bespoke line of Abayas, says she doesn’t like call her designs ‘coverings’. “My clients may dress conservatively, but they still demand to make a style statement. From the very beginning I treat the Abaya as an outfit first and foremost, not a covering.” Her pride in the traditional piece of clothing is reflecting in how she reinvents the look, season after season. “I have done Kimono-style Abayas, and even a winter collection featuring fur and leather, because women travel out from here and still want to cover in colder climates.”

That desire to make a fashionable style statement while still adhering to Islamic values, is spawning a huge industry, which globally could be worth up to US$96 billion. All of the major fashion houses from Valentino to Dior have in recent years jumped on the bandwagon of designing Jalabiyas that sell alongside their ready-to-wear and couture collections at Harrods in London. DKNY just launched a Ramadan collection that was sold globally with Middle East based brand ambassadors.

Ritu Upadhyay, Middle East Correspondent for Women’s Wear Daily says: “This is a huge untapped opportunity for Dubai’s emerging fashion designers. The potential market for modest fashion spans from Indonesia all the way through to California, with the large diaspora communities in the West who have a desire to dress fashionably, yet remain conservative.”

Rabia Zargarpur, who grew up between the Middle East and the United States launched her line, Rabia Z, to tap into that very potential market. “I started covering in 2001 in the US and realized there was not a lot out there catering to my needs.” Her line is focused less on Abayas and more on sportwear inspired looks that are conservative, but fit her own lifestyle needs. “I want to make modesty look beautiful. I want my designs to be a bridge between practicing and non practicing Muslims.”

That bridge was crossed recently by Summer Albarcha.  The US born and raised blogger’s instagram, Hipster Hijabis, conveys her effortless style interpreting the latest trends with a conservative spin. She faced some issues when she wore items from an controversial brand based in New York. However Summer handled it with the utmost grace, demonstrating that conservative dressing is not only Islamic.

To hear more on this topic from the experts quoted attend the D3 Fashion Talk, Modest Fashion in Modern Times at Fashion Forward on October 5 at 4.30pm.