The virtue of modesty

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Historically, modesty has not been high on the fashion agenda. However, in recent years there has been a quiet uprising in modest fashion.

The trend has its origins in religious dress code, driven primarily by influential Muslim women who want to showcase their fashion sense and empowerment to the world all while adhering to their cultural preferences. This in itself is a significant and growing market, with Muslims currently spending roughly $190 billion a year on modest clothing, estimated to increase to $230 billion by 2021.

This trend is also starting to extend well beyond religion and into a variety of demographics. We are seeing a shift in the fashion industry’s attention, with more focus given to the modest look, and an increasing amount of ‘inclusive’ fashion on the catwalk.

Modest fashion is defined as clothing designed to suit people who would prefer to show less skin. Initially, it has been high-end brands that have caught onto this trend, with DKNY leading the pack in 2014 with its bespoke modest fashion collection.

There has also been an emergence of new, specialist retailers such as The Modist (seen above), with the tagline ‘modest fashion, modern thinking’. The brand is positioned as a luxury style destination with a philosophy for style and living – playing home to a carefully curated edit of leading fashion brands and stylishly thought-provoking editorials. The marketing has an inclusive feel with models from a variety of backgrounds, contradicting the notion that this trend is purely driven by religious reasons.  In March 2019, The Modist announced it had secured investment by online luxury retail platform Farfetch and Nicola Bulgari of Bulgari Group.

We are now beginning to see mainstream retailers take the opportunity more seriously. Last year, Macy’s was the first mainstream US retailer to release a modest wear range and H&M soon followed. More recently, Uniqlo collaborated with British Muslim designer Hana Tajima to design a line of functional outerwear that includes headscarves and hijabs.

In our view, there is a significant opportunity here for all fashion retailers, due to the broadening appeal of this clothing trend. We anticipate that soon enough, more mainstream brands like Forever 21 will build or extend their ranges in this category to enhance the largely token effort that we have seen so far.

As more brands start to emerge and existing players expand their categories in this space, the key will be how to position the ranges to gain traction and breadth of appeal.

Dan Stolarski
Managing Director
Pragma Consulting