Diversity and expression; these are the qualities that our industry builds itself on. It is the ability to create and appeal to a diverse market, and to allow any individual to use fashion as a means of expressing their true self. Yet, it is still an industry that is quite clouded, which means our exposure to other cultures and other perceptions can be quite tainted. Therefore, it is our mission here at MESS Magazine to expose our readers to the amazing diversity and reality of the world’s fashion.
In a recent move, the Islamic Fashion and Design Council (IFDC) and Jakarta Fashion Week will collaborate to bring attention to the modest fashion industry. This move will bring positive exposure to talented Islamic designers, but also to a generation of young individuals whose modest style creates modern ideals. As stated on the IFDC’s website, ‘young women of Islam all over the world are defying stereotypes, finding their voices, and expressing their strength.’ It is this inspiring strength that Founder and Chairwomen of the IFDC, Alia Khan, wants to share with the world.
In an exclusive interview, MESS Magazine has had the opportunity to speak with Alia Khan, so that we may also inspire the beauty that is modest fashion.
What encouraged you to establish the IFDC?
I started Islamic Fashion and Design Council because I saw how the iFash™ (Islamic Fashion) industry is fragmented and was in need of a structured platform, which is what I set out to build with IFDC. Our first phase focus is on iFash™ then eventually iDez™ (Islamic Design – art, architecture, interiors, etc) industry stakeholders. We aim to surpass all standards of showcasing, business practice, and product excellence.
If IFDC was a ship, navigating the international waters of fashion and design, I would liken my position to be that of the ship’s captain, steering towards opportunities of development and growth in the global Islamic fashion and design industries. It is my job to notice where the winds of opportunity can take the industry to new heights, as well as look out for any waves of challenge that may bring new discussion our way. I have an excellent crew, which I am responsible for guiding in their management of this beautiful ship, so that the creative, communicative and operational requirements of the industry will be met head-on.
Today, IFDC is the world’s leading modest fashion and design council representing the Islamic economy and its stakeholders. Initiatives include specialized networks of the global consumer market, making IFDC a platform for this valuable trillion-dollar market unlike any other.
With our recent offices opened in New York City and coming up soon London, Los Angeles, Kuala Lampur, Melbourne, and Cape Town, IFDC along with its affiliate office in Dubai will have a presence in a total of seven cities by the end of 2015 in’shaa Allah.
What or who, inspires you?
Honestly, it is everyone I see whose fashion sense I appreciate. I find myself going home and trying something that was inspired by what I recently admired. Sometimes it’s a hit and… oh boy… sometimes is it ever a miss! No matter what, I continue to get inspired in this field…there’s always someone – a blogger, a designer, a store clerk…you never know where it’ll hit you, but you get inspired and just want to go to your wardrobe to see how you can pull off that same look. So I’m probably a living example of imitation being the best form of flattery!
I simply love getting inspired, and I generally find people to be so inspiring! When I meet people, I believe in them immediately. I don’t think there is one person in this world that can’t break their barriers…these usually are barriers set by the norms and societies anyway, it’s inspiring to prove them wrong.
Please tell us, about the past, present and future of the Islamic fashion industry.
What’s still refreshing about our industry is that there’s no trend or ‘in thing’ that the industry players try to follow. Everyone is unique and coming up with truly exciting stuff. There’s something for everyone.
However, one notable difference I’ve seen over the years – and it’s lovely to see – is the fusion of the various looks. For example, we’ve been approached by Japanese designers who have a keen interest to design abayas for example, in looks/styles inspired by the kimono. That’s cool. Similarly, other cultures are also coming out with lovely things for this market. I don’t know if the consumer generally notices that they have a vast array of choices because there is no judgment on what’s in or not – but I am sure deep down they appreciate this about the industry – it’s less pressure with all the freedom to dress how you want to dress.
In what ways will the IFDC continue to grow and prosper, especially against other fashion markets?
Over the next 18 months, IFDC will be involved with a number of initiatives and global partners, including retail – you will note we recently launched Pret-A-Cover. It’s an extremely busy time for us but we must make things more cohesive….this means the focus must include all – designers, artists, buyers, retailers, media, consumers, etc.
We also recently launched The Modest Chapter, which has received excellent feedback: The Modest Channel introduces “The Modest Chapter”, a weekly three to five-minute vlog series focusing on all things modest and empowering, while giving you just that perfect amount of information to keep you looking and feeling good inside out. From lifestyle to fashion and beauty to empowering tips that can propel you to your highest success, the Modest Chapter will ready you to be your optimal best! The show can be found on our new YouTube channel called The Modest Channel at: youtube.com/c/TheModestChannel
I want to see IFDC as a place where success and values is realized hand in hand. With our training courses as well as commercial initiatives, I do believe we have the winning formula and this goal will be realized. IFDC aims to provide products and services designed to help the Islamic fashion and eventually the Islamic design industry develop and succeed. In this first phase, its focus is to facilitate the advancement and growth of great fashion wear consistent with faith-based values.
We are the world’s leading fashion and design (art, architecture, interior, etc.) council representing the Islamic economy and its stakeholders. Our vision is to become a leading advocate for Islamic fashion, art and design professionals and aspiring talent. Our platform is designed to ensure the success of Islamic fashion and design in the global marketplace. IFDC aligns itself with leading and budding mainstream and Islamic fashion and design brands, government organizations, institutions, corporations, and global conferences to ensure a powerful, sustainable and supportive presence.
The collaboration with Jakarta Fashion Week is a great opportunity to gain exposure, but to also educate a wider audience on this sector of fashion. – What else do you hope will be gained from this?
Islamic fashion is driven by a strong demand for modest clothing by the ever growing consumer population. The global Islamic fashion sector enjoys a strong trade foundation as well as a deep commitment from a Muslim population whose youth are growing at twice the pace of any other population. There is also a strong sub-market of Non-Muslims whose appreciation for modest wear makes this trillion-dollar industry an exciting space for everyone!
But the Islamic fashion and design industry is currently fragmented and in need of structure and development. Through all of our initiatives, IFDC’s world-class fashion and design platforms supports the needs of the iFash™ (Islamic Fashion) and eventually iDez™ (Islamic Design) industry players as well as the consumers. We aim to surpass all standards of showcasing, business practice, and aesthetic excellence.
Amber Feroz from the UAE and Tahir Sultan from Kuwait, are two brilliant designers who represent the values and beauty of Islamic Fashion. Which other designers should we be looking out for?
If I started naming brands it wouldn’t be fair to the multitude of designers around the world who also deserve a nod. But there are a multitude of designers – old and new – that are entering this space; and it is very exciting.
This market is big enough for all designers, Muslim and non-Muslim. Whether you’re an Italian designer or one from the GCC, you can be sure there is a strong market waiting for you to fill if you can just understand this customer profile – that’s where we come in, we help the industry players to understand this market better so they can avoid trials and errors.
How do you hope to inspire all women?
It is a huge market and make no mistake on why they are huge, it is because women, and Muslim women in particular, have a keen appreciation for quality as well as aesthetics. They know how to look stylish and elegant. We believe the global diversity only adds to the excitement – more options, more great looks! Furthermore, Islamic fashion is driven by a strong demand for modest clothing by the ever growing consumer population. The global Islamic fashion sector enjoys a strong trade foundation as well as a deep commitment from a Muslim population whose youth are not only growing at twice the pace of any other population, but also increasingly getting educated, pursuing careers, and businesses. So they have a voice, spending power, and demands of how they want to live. Their biggest demand is fashionable attire for all occasions that suits their modest parameters. And we understand this, and will inspire through our respect for this.
How is Islamic style so relevant to today’s fashion and social trend?
We find that demand is everywhere! It just simply cannot be contained to just one region, and as long as the worldwide demand keeps growing as fast as it is then this market and opportunities for designers will only increase exponentially.
This market is blessed with the loyal consumer…they are committed on a Higher level, so iFash™/modest wear is not a fad or passing trend for them. That means if a brand can win this audience over they will have a customer for life. It is a ‘captive audience’ for life if you prove you understand them. What’s nice is that they know what they want and what they don’t want…no other consumer to date has been this well-defined. Their demands will only increase and the market will only grow over the years. Simply put, they want to be cool, stylish, elegant, etc. yet not compromise their Islamic lifestyle and modest parameters.
In terms of social trends – Bloggers are the new ads! They have helped to drive the fashion industry in a direction that I doubt many people could even conceive, let alone action, a few years ago. And because they provide an element of sincerity that general advertising just doesn’t present, I think they are here to stay … as long as they stay true! The iFash™ scene has received a tremendous boost from bloggers as these ‘online-artists’ have opened an avenue for communication that allows modest fashion seekers a way to view and try new styles and products, while still catering to their requirements for modesty. And of course, the ‘bloggerverse’ has allowed people to just get creative!
Who is the modern Muslim woman?
That’s what’s amazing about iFash™. These women don’t care about seasons, what’s in now and what was a few seasons ago…that kind of talk doesn’t happen here and we wish to preserve this. There’s no best dressed list… or, God forbid ‘worst dressed’ list. It’s all about respecting the individual and appreciating everyone’s look. So really it varies from region to region, and from designer to designer… in the GCC the new abaya look is getting more and more exciting because this tends to be the outer garment of choice for women yet in the USA for example it would be flowy skirts with that grace Kelly tied scarf and maybe even a pair of sunglasses. Yet, what’s even more awesome is that even what I described is not a hard and fast rule…people are respected for their modest fashion sense whether they go with a certain flow or not.
In Islam it is not encouraged to judge anybody. A woman may not cover or even dress modestly yet may possess outstanding characteristics that we can all learn from. Similarly, a woman who covers and is conservative in her dressing style can turn out to be a leading scholar in her field (which we see a lot of) and a role model for all societies. So we believe the word ‘ideal’ does not discriminate, neither should we.