The rapid growth of modest fashion has seen a proliferation of small and medium-sized labels, as well as attention from big players. Alia Khan, chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council, reveals her efforts to sew together a lucrative yet fragmented industry. By Aydha Mehnaz.
With the exponential rise in popularity of modest fashion and related businesses around the world, it is high time for a global platform that helps these businesses to establish themselves and reach their customers. This is where the Islamic Fashion and Design Council (IFDC) comes into the scene.
Alia Khan, the visionary behind IFDC, saw the opportunity to establish a unique platform as a governing body to help this fragmented billion-dollar industry put it all together.
Aydha Mehnaz: What role does IFDC play in connecting Islamic fashion designers or businesses to their consumers?
Alia Khan: That is one of the biggest challenges, and also the biggest demand, we faced when setting up IFDC and speaking to some of the key industry players about how we reach out to the designers. Our role is to find effective initiatives and connect them to provide the right amount of exposure so they can find suitable buyers and a loyal customer base.
We are working on many global events and tying up with collaborative partners such as the World Islamic Economic Forum, global fashion weeks like Jakarta Fashion Week, retailers and government organizations, and also design schools like ESMOD French Fashion Institute.
The goal is to launch new and established designers from one region to the opposite side of the globe, showcasing the rich diversity of the industry’s creativity. So if the abaya is not your thing, don’t worry – you can find someone who is making beautiful long dresses in Europe.
How do designers tend to find out about IFDC?
Designers find out about us through our social media and web pages, the news and from publicity pieces. We also recently launched a campaign to spread the message that we are looking for designers’ submissions to showcase them for the global market. Once anyone signs up as a member on our website, they will be informed about all our initiatives and opportunities.
We take every submission very seriously. We evaluate what they are doing, how they are doing it, their capacity and what they can do to improve it and find the right match to bring them opportunities. We’ve observed that even the mainstream retail giants like Bloomingdales, and also many small retailers, are very intrigued by modest fashion because they see the potential business opportunities that can arise from it.
What are your upcoming plans for IFDC?
We are currently in the process of collaborating with various organizations that we’ll be announcing very soon, insha’Allah. We plan to make a disruptive model for fashion week and showcase designers, which would benefit them to find the right buyers and establish or expand their business globally. We are also working on some exciting agreements with retailers worldwide!
How do you see the future of modest fashion in the global fashion scene?
If we look at the statistics, more than 60 percent of the world’s Muslim population are under 30. These young men and women are strong and independent, and they want it all without compromising their Islamic lifestyle. The percentage is only getting bigger and bigger, and any major cooperation will recognize this opportunity as a market to keep an eye on.
However, one word of caution I would like to throw in is to understand the parameters and lifestyle of the customers as far as dressing is concerned. At IFDC we provide consulting services to mainstream designers who want to target this market and the mindset of the customers, otherwise they will lose huge business opportunities by taking a shot in the dark. We’ve already seen many hits, as well as misses that could have been avoided.
As the visionary behind IFDC, could you share any advice with budding new entrepreneurs?
When you have a vision of something new or different, it’s a pretty lonely place to be in. It’s just you and your vision, but you need to learn how to convey that vision to others. The litmus test for your vision is when your ideas and vision can resonate with others. If you can sell your vision to others, you know you’ve got something worth building on!
Headquartered in New York, IFDC has been well-received globally; they are currently opening chapter offices in various parts of the world, with a recently opened one in Dubai and another coming soon in London. To learn more about the IFDC, visit their website at www.IslamicFashionDesignCouncil.org