Modest fashion is having a moment - from the highly anticipated collection of abayas and hijabs from Dolce & Gabbana to covered models such as Halima Aden hitting the runway - fashion finally seems to be caring about inclusivity, specifically that of Muslim women.
But it wasn’t always this way (and some argue that it won’t be for long), and women who prefer modest apparel, especially in the West, have found it difficult to pinpoint a store or a brand that would not only cater to their preferences, but do so in an a fashionable and luxurious way.
Finding a Luxurious Solution to the Lack of Modest Fashion Options
Ghizlan Guenez, a financier from Algeria, witnessed the women in her family experince this struggle. "The women I grew up with are modern and fashionable, but happen to dress this way,” she told CNN. “My mother, my cousins... they'd have to go from one store to another looking for pieces that could work for them. I realised there had to be a solution."
The solution Guenez envisioned and went on to found is The Modist, an e-commerce site that provides ‘luxury modest style for extraordinary women.’ Guenez - now CEO - splits her time between The Modist’s headquarters in Dubai and their office in London. “Dubai is a place that really nurtures entrepreneurs, and the e-commerce landscape is only going to grow here,” Guenez told Harper's Bazaar Arabia.
Making Modest Fashion Speak To Every Woman
What makes The Modist stand out from the current bevy of modest-fashion sites is that it doesn’t market its clothes around religious obligation, rather, it views modest dressing as a style decision like any other. "The modest fashion market is large and is virtually untapped," Guenez told Refinery29. "We aim to offer a luxury proposition to women globally who dress modestly across faiths, cultures, and lifestyles, through a platform that addresses their needs in a fashion forward way that breaks down preconceived notions and changes perceptions."
Indeed, perceptions around modest dressing have tended to be negative due to its conservative connotations. “I think that when you speak to modesty, sometimes there are certain perceptions that modesty is this certain religion, this certain region, a particular age and particular look, Guenez told Vogue. “We want to change those perceptions. We are saying that modesty can be so many different things, can be coveted by so many different women, and that it can be cool and beautiful and elegant and everything a woman wants.”
Putting Women at the Centre of the Modest Fashion Experience
What women want, and their right to get it regardless of culture, religion and age is at the heart of The Modist, which launched on International Women’s Day this year. "At a moment when much is being made of our differences, it's an amazing moment to launch,” Guenez told CNN. “Talking about how much we all have in common as women is our raison d'être."
Guenez’s team features an array of global fashion experts and is a testament to her belief in women’s ability to run a successful business. The Modist’s COO is Lisa Bridgett, ex-global sales and marketing director at Net-A-Porter; the fashion director, Sasha Sarokin, also worked at the luxury site as global buying manager and Sally Matthews, the creative director, was most recently the fashion and beauty director of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia.
“I am inspired by strong and driven women and I am fortunate to have had quite a few of these in my life, some of whom have now become colleagues, she told Savoir Flair. “Women bring a lot to the table, with a certain kind of energy and passion. Having said that, the women in my team were first and foremost chosen for their skills and expertise, and for what they bring to the table.”