Modest fashion crosses cultures

Romanna bint Abu Baker, CEO and founder of Haute Elan, said modest fashion has gone global. (Bloomberg)
Updated 25 February 2018
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Modest fashion crosses cultures

LONDON: Saudi designers will be in the spotlight next month when the international fashion community gathers in Riyadh for the first Arab Fashion Week ever hosted in the Kingdom.
The Arab Fashion Council, which organizes the event, is welcoming the opportunity to showcase Saudi style and display the diversity of local talent on an international platform.
Among the local looks on show will be modest fashion, a trend that is gaining traction on runways across the world. Last week saw the second edition of London Modest Fashion Week (LMFW), with designers from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia showcasing a huge range of designs.
LMFW founder Romanna bint Abu Baker, who also owns modest fashion boutique Haute Elan, said the trend has quickly gone global “as seen from the breadth of international brands on our runway, from Australia to Germany, Pakistan to UK.”
“The Muslim population is very diverse and spread across the world,” she explained.
But it is not just Muslims donning demure attire. In recent seasons, international brands from Dolce & Gabbana to Oscar de La Renta have tapped into the modesty trend, releasing collections dominated by full-length gowns, loose trousers and flowing skirts. Others include DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Monique Lhuillier and high-street brands Zara and Mango.
Last year, UK retailer Marks & Spencer launched a line of burkinis, which quickly sold out, and dedicated modest-wear platforms such as The Modist have sprung up to cater to a growing and culturally diverse consumer base.
A recent state of the economy report by Thomson Reuters indicated one possible reason for the mounting interest in modest wear, which yielded revenues of $44 billion in 2015, with Muslims accounting for a global spend of $243 billion on clothing that year. By 2021, apparel spend from Muslims is projected to reach $368 billion, and international brands are eager to cash in on the purchasing power.
Princess Noura Bint Faisal Al-Saud, honorary president of the Arab Fashion Council, said that Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh next month presents an opportunity to explain the roots of this trend while also exhibiting the eclectic nature of Saudi style. “Modest fashion is a fairly new way of expressing beauty and with the exposure of the Saudi market and this event, I think people will understand it better.”
Organizers see Arab Fashion Week as an opportunity to break down cultural barriers and showcase Saudi style to the world. “This is an exchange of culture, knowledge and education,” Princess Noura said.
Discussing the abaya, which features widely in the collections of Arab designers and has made several appearances in international collections, she said it represents “a choice” for women.
“The abaya is something cultural, it’s something that shows our identity and I’m very proud of showing that.
“I love how Dolce and Gabbana actually showcased the abaya on the runway,” she added.
Alia Khan, chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council described modest dressing as a different kind of beauty that “liberates” women from media stereotypes. “It allows you to be comfortable, it allows you to be free ... to feel dignified yet elegant.”
She pointed to a long-standing history of modest dressing that spans cultures, countries and religions. “Modest fashion is just as normal as everything else. It’s not a new thing, it comes from pretty much every culture.”
The modesty trend is a way of bridging cultures and bringing people together, Khan continued, pointing to a strong secondary following among non-Muslims and people of other faiths. “Fashion has always been a soft way to break down sociopolitical issues and barriers.”
Jacob Abrian, founder and chief executive of the Arab Fashion Council, which runs Arab Fashion Week, reiterated the value of fashion to start dialogues and promote understanding between different peoples. “Fashion is not only about appearance, it has a great cultural message.”
He’s unconvinced by the concept of modest fashion as a recent trend. “Being modest has always been there … I don’t define it as an industry on its own.”
“It’s up to the lady … sometimes it can be really elegant to dress modestly.It’s really a personal decision.”
Princess Noura reiterated the emphasis on freedom in fashion. “Modesty is something that’s very appealing to the Arab world but there are no boundaries in fashion — you can wear whatever you want.”


World Cup football fakes keep Dubai’s ‘Dolce & Karama’ traders busy

Updated 22 June 2018
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World Cup football fakes keep Dubai’s ‘Dolce & Karama’ traders busy

  • Dubai's “Dolce and Karama” is the emirate's copycat capital
  • Neymar Jr shirts are proving especially popular with local shoppers

DUBAI: Tucked away in an old residential district and far from Dubai’s glitzy air-conditioned malls, the Karama area of the city is doing a roaring trade in selling World Cup football shirts.

But if you’re looking for the genuine article, you may have come to the wrong place.

Karama is Dubai's copycat capital where the knockoff imitations of the world's most famous fashion brands are sold for a fraction of the genuine price.

Known to some locals jokingly by the epithet “Dolce and Karama,” a play on the Dolce & Gabbana Italian fashion house, this is a place where if you have to ask the price, you probably can afford it.

With three weeks to go until football’s new world champions are crowned, the world’s biggest sporting tournament is keeping the tills chiming on the street that has become notorious for selling everything from fake Luis Vuitton bags to knockoff Ray-Ban sunglasses.

However since the tournament kicked off just over a week ago, it’s been football not fashion, that has put a smile on the face of traders.

Retailing for a fraction of their high-street cost, the copycat shirts — especially those bearing the name of Brazilian superstar Neymar — are flying off the stalls less than week into the tournament, as UAE-based fans who want to don the colors of their favorite team or player, look for bargains.

Mohammad Ashraf has been trading in Dubai’s Karama Shopping Complex for 15 years.

At his store, Mina Fashion, Ashraf said the World Cup has brought a booming trade.

When asked how many shirts he would sell prior to the Fifa World Cup, he shrugged.

“Maybe one, two — maximum five a day,” he said.

But the Indian trader has quadrupled his business since last week’s kick-off.

“Now, we have been very busy,” he said. “We sell at least 20 pieces a day — maybe more,” he said.

His football shirts are a fraction of the cost of the genuine article on sale in Dubai malls where retailers are feeling the pressure from the growth of online rivals, the introduction of VAT and the strong dollar to which the UAE dirham is pegged — that is hitting tourist spending hard.

Karama football shirts sell for about 65 dirhams ($18) in adult size and 55 dirhams for children. But the real deal costs three or four times as much a few miles down the road in the Dubai Mall, the city’s biggest tourist draw.

In Karama, the football shirts of the Brazil, Argentina and Germany teams have been among the biggest sellers.

And the most popular player?

Ashraf said shirts bearing the name of Brazilian footballer Neymar da Sila Santos Junior have been flying off the shelves.

Abdulla Javid, runs Nujoom Al Maleb in the Karama shopping district — a shop selling a variety of knock-off sportswear — including World Cup shirts for men, youths and children.

“They are not real, not branded — branded ones are very expensive,” he said.

“We have shirts for Germany, for Argentina, for Portugal, for Sweden, for Brazil and for Belgium,” he said, pointing to racks of multi-colored football shirts.

Mens shirts retail for about 45 dirhams for adult sizes in his shop and 40 dirhams for youths. For young children, he sells shirts and shorts for a combined price of 30 dirhams.

The World Cup has also been a welcome boom for business.

“Before we sell maybe between five to 10 (shirts) a day,” he said. “Now, at least 20 to 30 pieces a day. It has been very busy. This time is a good time for us.”

Also at Karama Shopping Complex is Zico Sports.

Ahmed Jaber, a 53-year-old trader, said there are good deals to be found in at the shop he has worked in since the 1980s.

He sells football shirts that are both “branded” and “non-branded” — in other words the genuine article and cheaper knock-offs.

He said customers have been happy to shell out for the genuine football shirts for the adult sizes — which he sells for 379 dirhams, but for children, shoppers prefer to buy the fake football shirts, which he sells for about 30 dirhams.

The most popular shirts since the start of World Cup have been for Brazil, Argentina and France, he said, but his shops have an abundance of kit for all competing countries.

When he asked how the 2018 World Cup had been for business, he laughed.

“Not bad at all!,” he said.