What are South African Retailers missing in their fashion offering? Perhaps the appeal of the Modest Fashion Consumer. It appears that the Council of Modest Fashion is not waiting on Mass Retailers to catch a wake up on this $270 billion global industry.
In October 2018, the Council of Modest Fashion Africa (COMFAfrica) launched their service offering at a Modest Fashion Conference and Exhibition, with international buyer presence, held at the Westin Hotel, Cape Town, in partnership with Wesgro, and in November 2018 piloted a modest fashion boutique as a co-retail space featuring direct-to-consumer modest-wear brands called Africa Modest Fashion Collective (AMFC). The economic benefit coupled with rapid mass adoption of the products highlighted how successful ventures can be, if supported by the sector – in this case, Redefine property managers, Kenilworth Centre and purpose-led non-profits such as the Council.
With a projected global growth of US$361bn spend by 2023, as reported by The State of the Global Islamic Economy release in October 2018, leading luxury brands have sought to launch their own modest wear collections: H&M, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, CH Carolina Herrera to name a few. What’s more exciting is when retailers like Macy’s and Debenhams introduce local designers into their retail collection; Verona Collection and Aab Collection respectively.
With the top spend per country coming from Turkey at no.1 (US$28bn), UAE no.2 (US$22bn), Indonesia no.3 (US$20bn), and from our African soil Nigeria coming in as the 4th biggest spend in Modest Fashion (US$18bn), when will South Africa support its local modest fashion designers in allowing them opportunities in mass retail.
Following the success of the Africa Modest Fashion Collective pilot, COMFAfrica has opened up its retail offering as a tender to modest-wear designers who are ready to make the move into the local retail sector. The first tender has been issued to designer Gadija Khan, whose store officially opened at Kenilworth Centre on the evening of Monday 1 April 2019 and will trade until 30 June 2019.
“I am thrilled to open a South African modest-wear boutique whose clothes are hand-made, employing local staff, and made for the South African woman,” says Gadija. “I’m doing this not only for myself but for all local designers in the modest fashion industry who thought opening a boutique and realising their dreams are far-fetched. It comes from hard work, commitment, support from family and thanks to Allah (SWT).”
According to Khan, home-based business means extra hard work.
“It’s essential to keep your business as professional as possible. Get your business documents in order, get registered with SARS – whether you qualify to pay tax or not – go shopping with the ‘eye’ and see what the quality of other boutiques are like. It’s also important to align yourself with people who can help you grow, like CoMFA. Allow them to support you and accept feedback from them and your customers. It’s the only way you can improve and grow.” she continued
In a recent article in global magazine Hijab in Style; Roshan Isaacs had this to say about her role in the Council of Modest Fashion “As the Africa Region Director, I work with a strong and experienced team who are at the forefront of shaping the modest fashion industry for Africa. The Africa team consists of Amiena Pastor (Start Up and Business Development Director), Leila Bardien (Retail and Production Director) and Zainab Sleman van Rijmenant (Media and Communications Director). Together, we have initiated a plan for supporting current and future design entrepreneurs in developing sound business practices, and identifying promising designers and carrying them into retail and trade spaces. Our aim is to educate, empower and provide support in creating a successful modest fashion design industry for Africa.”
What can South African retailers do to incorporate Modest Fashion in their ranges? Roshan elaborates on this in the global magazine Hijab in Style:
“Modest fashion is becoming an industry on its own, owned by its people, and not integrated into the mass mainstream retail stores as of yet. I would like to see a more ethical environment in which huge conglomerates—retailers and designers alike—don’t copy, or as they call it, “get inspired by” the modest fashion industry, but instead find ways to collaborate with its creators. It’s a growing market that will never die. The customer base is loyal and includes people who are in search of clothing that is both stylish and functional. The appeal for customers varies, from the simple to the dramatic, from ready-to-wear to occasion wear, from individual to cultural preference. Modest wear allows the designer the freedom to innovate.”
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the developments of the Modest Fashion Sector as it’s sure to reveal more than what’s being covered in our South African media and stores.
About the Council of Modest Fashion Africa
The Council of Modest Fashion (CoMF) is a global council with representation in Indonesia, Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Africa. The Africa chapter is based in Cape Town, South Africa, and has established a clear purpose of enhancing the businesses of designers in the African modest fashion industry through succession planning. Addressing pertinent concerns regarding employment, production, quality assurance, marketing, exportation, sustainability, local and global trade, and collaboration, COMF understands the unique nature of the modest fashion industry and its ability to reach broader consumer needs. With this in mind, COMF Africa has established key partnerships with Wesgro, Clotex and Cape Town Fashion Council to facilitate the positioning of the modest fashion marketplace in the broader economic sphere.