The virtue of modesty


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 and empowerment to the world, while adhering to their cultural preferences. This, in itself, is a significant and growing market, with Muslims currently spending c.£170bn a year on modest clothing, estimated to increase to £200bn by 2021.

Now this trend is starting to extend well beyond religion 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 the high-end brands that have caught on to 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 strapline `modest fashion, modern thinking’. The brand is positioned as a luxury style destination with a philosophy for style and being – playing home to a carefully curated edit of leading fashion brands and stylishly thought-provoking editorial. The marketing has an inclusive feel, with models from a variety of backgrounds showcasing the clothes, contradicting the image that this trend is purely for religious reasons.

We are now beginning to see mainstream retailers take the opportunity more seriously. This year Macy’s was the first mainstream US retailer to release a modest wear range and M&S have launched a range in the UK. But how mainstream will it go?

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 the likes of H&M, Topshop, and Primark will begin to build and 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.

Ailis Topley