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.”


Slack primed as latest unicorn to make market debut

Updated 19 June 2019
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Slack primed as latest unicorn to make market debut

  • Slack is a cloud-based software company that markets online tools for information sharing and workflow management
  • Current customers include Nordstrom, Ford and HSBC and the company has more than 95,000 paid customers overall

NEW YORK: The 2019 parade of big new Wall Street entrants continues this week with the debut of Slack Technologies, underscoring investor hunger for new companies in spite of some high-profile stumbles.
Nearly halfway through the year, US markets are on track for one of the biggest IPO seasons ever in terms of money raised following a stream of offerings from former “unicorns,” private companies worth more than $1 billion.
Yet two of this year’s biggest names — Uber and Lyft — currently trade below their IPO price, along with Snapchat, which has lagged its initial price for most of the time since it went public in March 2017.
Still, there have also been plenty of prominent companies that have risen since their initial public offerings, including jeans company Levi’s, Tradeweb Markets, which builds electronic marketplaces, Zoom Video Communications, and mobile application and software system Pinterest.
The most dramatic jump has been in food company Beyond Meat, which now trades at more than six-fold its entering price.
“The public has a huge interest” in new companies, said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade, adding that the mixed performance of the 2019 ex-unicorn class is comparable to that of the broader market.
“There aren’t a lot of other choices besides IPOs for investors seeking growth,” said Gregori Volokhine, president of Meeschaert Financial Services, who attributes the rush of funds in part to central bank policies promoting liquidity.
“There’s an excess of underinvested funds worldwide,” he said.
In terms of sheer volume, the number of IPOs in 2019 so far — 93 — is roughly equal to last year’s figure, according to Dealogic.
But the funds raised, $34.5 billion, stand 13.6 percent above last year’s sum and the highest for the comparable period since 2000, according to Dealogic data.

Direct listing
A cloud-based software company that markets online tools for information sharing and workflow management, San Francisco-based Slack parts ways from the other big companies this year by opting for a direct listing instead of an IPO.
This approach, which was also employed by Spotify last year, cuts down on fees to investment bankers in IPOs. Although existing shares can be sold, a direct listing does not issue new shares, averting share dilution but also forgoing the new funds raised in an IPO.
The process can also be riskier in terms of share price volatility compared with an IPO, where underwriters line up investors in advance. In a direct listing, shares are exposed more directly to the open market.
Slack chief executive and co-founder Stewart Butterfield described the company’s technologies as a “brand new category of software” that replaces email in a company.
Current customers include Nordstrom, Ford and HSBC and the company has more than 95,000 paid customers overall.
“It turns email to messages and organizes them into team, project and topic based channels instead of individual in-boxes,” Butterfield said in a June 10 earnings conference call.
“It’s a team-first approach to communication, in contrast to email’s individual first approach. It creates a rich, searchable, permanent body of information that’s widely available across an organization, even for people who just joined the team.”
 

Unprofitable three years
The company, which is expected to be valued at around $17 billion when it enters the market on Thursday, reported revenues of $134.8 million in the quarter ending April 30, up 66.7 percent from the year-ago period.
But Slack, which has been unprofitable the last three years, reported a $33.3 million loss during the period, 34 percent more than last year’s loss.
Of course, many unprofitable companies have gone public and done well in markets for years. Yet the heavy losses and murky profit outlook at Uber and Lyft have been seen as factors in their lackluster performance since going public.
But investors remain keen on growth stories following the success of Amazon, Facebook and other tech giants that have emerged in recent decades.
A key beneficiary of this desire has been Beyond Meat, which has multiplied in value many times since going public May 3 at $25 and currently is priced at $168.92. The company has been seen as a main beneficiary of the growing alternative protein market, which some analysts think could top $100 billion in the coming decade or so.
Kinahan said in general investors have wised up after the early 2000s Internet bubble but that “it’s just unnatural” for stocks like Beyond Meat to move in an unbroken straight line upwards.
“There’s a healthy bit of skepticism in the market,” he said. “However, certain companies have maybe gotten a little ahead of themselves.”