Islamic fashion is finally coming into its own. With global Muslim consumers spending an estimated $244 billion in 2015 on apparel alone, according to reports from the Global Islamic Economy Summit, the industry may grow to up to an overwhelming $484 billion by 2019. Leading the way for this unconventional industry is the pioneer behind the Islamic fashion revolution: Alia Khan. As founder and chairwoman of Islamic Fashion and Design Council (IFDC), Khan set up IFDC after recognising the need for an organisation that would help support and aid in the development of the Islamic fashion and design industry worldwide. Currently headquartered in New York, IFDC has eight offices that, “provide support, development opportunities, and services,” for anyone who wants to participate in this industry.
Khan recently visited Bangladesh, as a speaker at the Bangladesh Brand Forum’s (BBF) fourth leadership summit that took place on May 23 at Radisson. BBF’s summit hosted five world renowned business and marketing leaders from across the globe sharing each of their unique experiences, insights and learning as leaders, with Khan being one of them.
How it began
Initially, Khan wanted to step into the world of Islamic fashion as a designer for women that cover. “I thought if there are more women like me who still like to be stylish and wear graceful, elegant clothes, but not compromise on their modest parameters, I am sure that this line would be in demand.” Once she began undertaking research, she realised the lack of a council that could help with this particular niche market. Compelled to shift gears, she wanted to address the need for a platform that would help and support the industry and thus, she founded IFDC.
Raised in Canada and USA, Khan is now based in Dubai and believes that the formation of the IFDC was almost “serendipitous.” “When I came up with this idea, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, came up with his mandate to make Dubai the hub of Islamic economy and in that they had seven pillars, one of which was fashion and design,” she expressed. The Dubai government welcomed the initiative with open arms and ever since then, there was no looking back.
For Khan, it’s surprising there was no council for Islamic fashion since there is such a strong market and there always has been. “Modesty has never been an in and out thing, it’s always been in. Whoever dresses modestly is normally committed to do so for life, they normally don’t shift gears,” she shared.
What does "Islamic fashion" really mean?
"The aesthetic sense of this fashion is, very particular. Generally speaking, it consists of full length outfits that don’t fit too tightly around the body. However, it’s also for a woman that wants to stay within those parameters but doesn’t want to, compromise on elegance and beauty. There really is no difference between the regular fashionista and the Islamic fashionista. “She loves the runway shows and the fashion weeks and would love to don outfits that come off the runway, given that she can find the modest version of it - that’s how we have to look at it. Her style and aesthetic is no different from any other stylish woman.”
Alia believes that there’s definitely an appreciation for modest wear, especially when you think of the scarf, “Wouldn’t you say the scarf has been a timeless staple for every fashionista’s wardrobe? When you look back Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, some of them wore it right across the hairline and they would do the exact hijab tie that you see in today’s hijabi women. And I think Islamic fashion is really a type of fashion that has always been a classic, it’s always been timeless. They don’t really necessarily need to reinvent themselves because their style is elegant and graceful, it can remain in your closet for a very long time.”
With several fashion bigwigs slowly tip-toeing with the idea of breaking into the market, IFDC has been approached for consultation from brands such as Dolce & Gabbana for their Ramadan collection and even Vivienne Westwood. Interestingly, after Turkey, UK, Germany and France make up the second strongest buying power for modest fashion. Leading the way for Islamic fashion are countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, with America and a lot of activity in Australia as well.
“60% of the Muslim population is 30 and under, and they are the one’s that drive the trends and demand for the trends.” While we are led to believe Islamic fashion is more prevalent among the Muslim population, Alia defers.
“There’s another secondary market consisting of Christians and Jews. Many of them can’t find the right things to wear to church so you find them going to Islamic boutiques to find the right outfit. DKNY came up with their Ramadan collection, Tommy Hilfiger and Prada was doing their turban lines. Victoria Beckham played with the headwear a little bit, that was interesting, and I believe she’s got great potential,” she said. The IFDC is talking to a lot of designers who are considering dedicated Islamic fashion lines.
Currently, Alia is looking forward to the launch of Cover magazine, what industry experts are calling the Vogue of Islamic fashion. Set to be launched at Modest Fashion Week in Turkey, the launch issue is going to be the first of its kind, with IFDC Turkey’s head Franka Soeria acting as Editor in Chief.