More and more women prefer to dress elegantly without being too exposed. The 'modest fashion' movement is one of the fastest growing trends in the fashion world. A silent fashion revolution, thanks to #metoo.
An unexplored 'mass niche'
RetailDetail spoke with Lisa Bridgett, COO at The Modist, a global webshop selling a range of concealing clothing from high fashion luxury brands such as Ann Demeulemeester, Haider Ackermann, Jil Sander, Marc Jacobs or Wolford. "We launched the webshop in the spring of 2017 in response to international women's day. It immediately became a success story: we are currently growing by 300% and we will certainly exceed that figure next year."
But what is 'modest fashion' actually? It is a trend in which women want to dress fashionable and elegant, but do not want to reveal too much skin. For example, the clothing has a higher neckline, is longer, has longer sleeves and a different cut or works with different layers. Initially the trend was mainly driven by the Muslim world, but the clientele is certainly not limited to religiously inspired women, says Lisa Bridgett. "Some women are driven by their faith, others prefer discrete clothing because, for example, they often interact with men in the business world. Or because they are a bit older, or have more curves. It is a very wide audience! Really a 'mass niche' that is still almost unexplored!"
"This is going to explode"
Do not think about niqabs or burqas, emphasizes Bridgett. This is definitely about contemporary, fashionable and elegant pieces. In the past, modesty was perhaps mostly covered and boring, but not anymore today. "We change how women look at fashion. You do not necessarily have to be white, blonde and slim. We are there for all races, ages, styles and sizes." Concealing fashion is in line with the spirit of the times, moreover. Just think of the whole #metoo movement. "There is a whole new idea of femininity, being picked up by the media. Social trends have given us a platform."
She therefore sees how the traditional fashion industry is changing dramatically. "Fashion was always driven by Paris, London, Milan and New York. But that is a limited, outdated vision. Today the consumer is at the steering wheel. Influencers set the tone: thanks to social media, people get a voice. We are truly a retailer of the 21st century, we stand for a mission, we have a reason to exist. We want to be relevant and meaningful. That appeals especially to the generation of millennials. They use different values and step away from stereotypical ideas. This is really a big movement worldwide, which will soon become more mainstream. Believe me, this is going to explode!"
Data analysis and personalization
The Modist is explicitly positioned in the higher luxury segment. The average spending is around 700 dollars (620 euros). "In the Middle East, the average shopping basket is somewhat larger than in the US and Europe. China is also becoming an interesting market." The webshop curates collections of up to 180 international designers. Do those luxury brands feel comfortable with the association with modest fashion? "When we started, they were especially surprised about our approach. But our elevator pitch worked, they realized that we came to the market with a new and fresh view on elegance. Some fashion houses need some more time to understand our strengths, but I can tell you that we have some nice new brands ready for launch in 2019."
In addition, The Modist also has its own label, Layeur. "Based on data analysis we can find out what is missing in our offer and respond to it. We invest in machine learning and personalization to better understand our shoppers. We see that today there is no longer one trend in fashion, there are many trends side by side and many women combine cheaper pieces with brand clothing, for example. In our webshop, dresses are the best-selling category. Many women do not want a deep cut-out or naked back. We also respond to the increasing sensitivity to the environmental impact of the fashion industry. These are durable pieces, it is not disposable clothing."
The Modist has offices in Dubai and London. Internationally, customers come mainly from the United Arab Emirates, the US and the UK. The Netherlands is the biggest market on the European continent, followed by Germany and France. Can we call the company a pioneer in its sector? "I think so. We are a leader in this segment. Other retailers sometimes respond to modest fashion with small capsule collections, but then women really have to search for it in the large assortment. What we do is unique. Our collection shows barely 15% overlap with other web shops. We have carefully curated everything we sell."
What are the next steps for the retailer? "We want to improve the customer experience and we are going to attract even more super premium designer brands. We also further develop our own Layeur collections. Furthermore, we look at our logistics operations. Today we deliver within two days after ordering, from a distribution center in Dubai, but perhaps we can also consider hubs in the US and Europe."
On 23 November, Lisa Bridgett will speak in Antwerp at the first Modest Fashion Forum, a conference that looks at the changes and opportunities in the fashion sector from a European perspective. Other speakers are Mariah Idrissi, the first hijabi model for H&M, influencer Sarah Dimani, Abigayle André of the British webshop Modessa, and Kaat Debo, director of the Antwerp Fashion Museum. Readers of RetailDetail can attend the event at the discounted entrance price of 70 euros instead of 95 euros, with the discount code partnermff18. You can register via this link.