A model shows off a modest fashion outfit in Dubai. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Elegance. Comfort. Style. Individuality.

Gulf News received an indication of just how much the modest wear fashion industry has evolved, when we asked designers what ‘modesty’ means… and none of them associated it with the word ‘Muslim’.

The designers were in Dubai, promoting modest fashion, as part of the Islamic Fashion Design Council’s (IFDC) Pret-A-Cover Buyer’s Lane event, which ended on April 2.

The modest fashion movement, which started with Muslim women looking for more stylish, comfortable ways to cover up, has now become a multi-billion dollar industry, appealing to people across all nationalities, backgrounds and faiths.

In 2015, modest fashion purchases were estimated at $44 billion, according to the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report, produced by Reuters. According to Pinterest UK, searches for ‘modest fashion’ went up 500 per cent since the beginning of 2018.

Yasmin Hu, president and designer at US-based fashion label Huda Negassi, said: “It’s just, overall, being conscious of what you’re wearing.”

And the appeal has transcended to people outside the Muslim faith because of the many benefits of wearing loose-fitting, more opaque fabrics.

Diana Rikasari, founder designer at Indonesian-based brand Schmiley Mo, said: “The silhouettes tend to be looser and more comfortable for women who want to hide their curves and don’t want to be very revealing. It’s a great option for plus-sized women, as well.”

Yasmin Sobeih, founder of UK-based brand Under-Rapt, said she sees this every day in the ‘athleisure’ area of fashion – women from different cultures may want to get active and lead healthier lives, but not wear revealing clothes when exercising.

Social media and retail globalisation have also changed the game, helping modest fashion go mainstream.

The UK held its first London Modest Fashion Week in 2017, with New York and Paris both seeing cutting-edge, long-skirted styles and dresses as part of modest-wear designers’ collections on the ramp.

Sobeih said: “Fashion is a lot more integrated now and people are a lot more influenced. You know, Rihanna wears a turban and J. Lo [Jennifer Lopez] wears a headwrap, and it’s quite cool. It’s about not having any limitations. Fashion is an expression and in today’s world, if you dress modestly, you don’t necessarily have to be religious.”