This article originally appeared on VICE Asia
What is considered a religious choice is now being translated to a global trend that the fashion industry is taking note of: Muslim fashion.
The advancement of Islamic fashion is indicative of both the religion’s growth and the luxury world recognizing its value. In recent years, brands such as Zara, Nike, and H&M have directed their lines towards Muslim shoppers. Many more high-end designers have followed suit, looking to gain affluent Muslim shoppers as fans.
In 2016, Dolce & Gabbana launched a line of hijabs (veils) and abayas (a robe-like garment), which are both traditional elements of Islamic dress. On the 2018 Autumn/Winter runways, hijabs were so present in Western collections that allegations of appropriation and fetishizing came about. Powerhouse luxury brands like Versace, Chanel, and Balenciaga featured their interpretations of the hijab and other veils which were reminiscent of those from the Islamic faith. Some, like Dolce and Gabbana and Versace, are not typically associated with modest forms of dressing. The trend was taken up by dozens of other designers.
For the most part, however, the rise of Muslim fashion has been appreciated by women in the Islamic world. Many who seek clothing which abides by their religion are now being able to turn to mainstream brands who are supplying just that.
An Islamic consulting agency, Ogilvy Noor, reported that over 90 percent of Muslims say their religion has an influence over their choices as consumers.
Aside from being one of the fastest-growing markets, Islamic fashion is also on track to be the most lucrative, forecasted to grow 5 percent annually. By 2023, Islamic fashion will reach $361 billion, according to Al Jazeera. Turkey is the biggest spender in this regard, consuming fashion worth $28 billion a year. The United Arab Emirates and Indonesia follow.
Islam is also the fastest-growing religion, as reported by the Pew Research Center. By 2050, Muslims will make up just about 30 percent of the world’s population, with 2.7 billion Muslims worldwide. The Center also found that Muslim millennials are the most likely to spend on fashion and beauty, especially since Muslim millennials are just as likely as older Muslims to say that their faith is of great importance to them.
“Fashion recognizes the growth of the Muslim demographic, so much so that fashion has created a field specifically for Muslim marketing,” said Reina Lewis, professor of cultural studies at London College of Fashion, in an interview with Business of Fashion (BoF).
“For a long time, Muslims felt disregarded by the fashion industry,” said Lewis.
In a survey of 500 Muslim consumers conducted by creative agency ODD, 93 percent of respondents felt that they would be more inclined towards high-street brands if they created collections aimed towards modesty. An overwhelming majority felt neglected by such brands.
Alia Khan, chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion Design Council, told Al Jazeera that she is surprised this trend wasn’t picked up earlier. She cited social media as a reason for the massive growth in this department.
“The opportunity has always been there,” she said, “It’s indeed a coveted consumer. And finally, this consumer is being noticed and getting a nod from brands like [Dolce and Gabbana], DKNY, Victoria Beckham, Tommy Hilfiger… Zara has come up with their own Ramadan collection.”
The State of the Global Islamic Economy Report estimated that Muslims spent $2.1 trillion across food and lifestyle industries in 2017. Of this amount, fashion-based buys account for $270 billion. The report outlined how companies which are dabbling in products that are halal – or what is deemed as permissible by Islamic law – are gaining traction from Muslim consumers. Cosmetics are one of these products which are now in high demand. By 2025, Reuters reports that the halal market makeup will hit $58.41 million.
Khan did acknowledge that there is a level of respect to be maintained – “there is some due diligence required here.” When it came to some Ramadan collections, for instance, some Muslim women felt that brands were misled when it came to their interpretations of what consumers truly wanted. Some “didn’t quite get the point.” For example, Mango’s Ramadan collection was criticized for being way too casual for the festive occasion of Eid, and also not modest enough. If a brand gets it right though, Khan alleges, they’ve won over a fair amount of consumers who are ready.