Modest clothing makers find a niche in American fashion

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Designs from the Louella fashion line. (© Louellashop.com)

In the United States, female entrepreneurs create and run businesses that produce modest fashion and dispel business stereotypes and glamor in the process.

Modest clothing sales represent one of the fastest growing segments of the global fashion industry, totaling around $ 283 billion, according to MLC Media, a Chicago-based marketing strategy firm.

Modest fashion is generally understood to be clothing that is comfortable, loose enough and less revealing than many contemporary styles. Some Muslims, Christians, and Jews – as well as those who prefer covered styles for aesthetic reasons – typically wear modest clothing. And some are wearing headwear.

While the need for such clothes is often driven by religious or cultural preferences, entrepreneurs note that women (and men) who dress modestly are as fashion-demanding as anyone else. They also come from diverse backgrounds, with varying interpretations of modesty and an interest in designs that range from luxury evening and day wear to casual and athletic wear.

From left to right: Norsham Mohamad-Garcia, founder of Miami Modest Fashion Week. (© Jason Koerner / Miami Modest Fashion Week); Darci Schurig, founder of the Pink Desert fashion line. (© Hailey Nicole Photography / Pink Desert); Ibtihaj Muhammad models a pantsuit from his Louella fashion line. (© Louellashop.co
Lorynn Divita, associate professor of apparel design and merchandising at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, says the proliferation of modest fashion choices reflects not only the American fashion industry’s embrace of diversity, but also a lucid pragmatism.

“I always tell my students that, ‘In the sentence fashion industry, the key word is actually industry. ‘”

With rapidly expanding options for modest fashion consumers in the United States and elsewhere, she said, “the industry has come to recognize that having a narrow target market limits profits, so it is in its scope. interest in being inclusive “.

Something for everyone

In 2011, Ibtihaj Muhammad – a fencer who would go on to win an Olympic bronze medal on the US fencing team – joined her siblings to launch a modest clothing line called Louella by Ibtihaj, aimed at filling a void. in the US market. Inspired by fashion houses like Valentino, Muhammad said they wanted to create clothes that were “easy to wear, modern, luxurious, functional and stylish”. The line uses quality fabrics to create clothes that feel fresh and don’t restrict movement, she said.

Today, 10 years later, his label is known around the world. “Modesty isn’t just a trend – it’s a way of life,” Muhammad said.

Darci Schurig, founder of the Pink Desert fashion line in Las Vegas, released her brand’s first swimwear collection in 2017 and her first dress collection in 2018.

“My swimsuits and clothes are trendy, modest, classic and feminine,” she said. Modest clothes and swimwear were once considered messy, “only for certain ages or shapes”, but it is an outdated concept. Her customers find the modest swimsuit flattering for all ages and shapes.

Models walk the runway with designs by Jeny Tjahyawati during Miami Modest Fashion Week 2019 (© Courtesy Miami Modest Fashion Week)
A bold future

Norsham Mohamad-Garcia, founder of Miami Modest Fashion Week, says estimates place the purchasing power of American Muslims at more than $ 170 billion a year.

Fashion designers take advantage of this purchasing power. According to Garcia, social media has spawned “modest fashion influencers,” people who love style within the limits of their faith and who have “a significant impact” on subscriber purchases. There is a continuous evolution towards modest fashion with a more eclectic outlook, she said. “For consumers, this change is both exciting and bold. “

Modest men’s clothing, although less well known than women’s clothing, has recently become popular in the United States. A menswear trend in oversized street styles meets the demands of men who want clothes that aren’t tight, but rather skim the torso or legs. Dallas-based designer Subhi Taha’s unisex brand Dār Collective and Philadelphia-based Aneeq Apparel brand are hallmark options for American men seeking sleek but modest looks.

In women’s clothing, major fashion retailers, including Oscar de la Renta and Net-a-Porter, have responded by offering modest fashion capsule collections as part of their seasonal offerings.

Muhammad, whose Louella brand is among the minority-owned companies that have spearheaded the modest fashion movement, said: “We hope we are heading into a world without telling women what to wear. … Fashion is what you make of it.


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