Despite the fact that modest fashion is expected to grow into $484 billion market by 2019, the category is still very much underserved. But, a new e-commerce destination is hoping to cater to one slice of that demographic. Whereas brands like Ibtihaj Muhammad's Louella fills the need for affordable everyday wear, The Modist, launching Wednesday, is going after the luxury modest fashion consumer — a segment that, according to the online store, produces 630,000 online search terms globally.
"We have long known and understood the frustration that a modest dresser goes through to find fashionable and trendy pieces that fit the parameters within which she chooses to dress and that fit her personal sartorial preferences," Ghizlan Guenez, Modist's founder and CEO, told Refinery29. "[She] has historically not found many destinations both online and offline that truly address her needs in a thought-through, considered, and elevated end to end experience kind of way. She has had to spend a lot of time curating fashion from countless retailers to find what works for her and fits her preferences be it long sleeves, long hems, opacity of clothes or styling that is sensible yet stylish."
There's also the fact that many brands and marketers might not get what modest dressing is about — and subsequently have a misconception that it can't be fashionable — further limiting a shopper's options. "It was just a matter of time before a solution to this problem which millions of women across the globe face was presented," Guenez noted.
The Modist team is split between Dubai and London, but its customer base is global: The website ships to 100 countries, looking to the Middle East, U.S., U.K., Germany, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore as its target markets. "The modest fashion market is large and is virtually untapped," explained Guenez. "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." In order to achieve this mission, Modist will be more than a place to shop: It'll speak to and create space for a consumer that's been largely ignored despite its spending power through editorials, stock edits, and an in-house magazine.
Guenez, who grew up between Algiers, Beirut, and London, spent most of her career in brand development. The team she assembled to help build Modist brings a wide range of global fashion experience, with an emphasis on the higher-end of the market — which is very much intentional. Lisa Bridgett, the company's COO, was the global sales and marketing director at Net-A-Porter; Sasha Sarokin, Modist's fashion director, also comes from the luxury e-commerce site, where she was a global buying manager. Creative director Sally Matthews, meanwhile, helped launch Harper's Bazaar Arabia and most recently served as the magazine's fashion and beauty director.
"Our vision is to create a destination that provides a beautiful, seamless, and elevated end-to-end experience for the modest dresser," Guenez said "We want her to feel special, looked after, and understood." This driving belief also serves a larger purpose of increasing her representation in the luxury space: Modist is launching with brands like Alberta Ferretti, Christopher Kane, Ellery, Marni, and Rachel Comey, among many others — all industry-beloved labels that don't specifically design for the modest dresser.
"In our buy, we curate pieces from existing brands that work for our woman," Guenez explained, adding that Modist also collaborates with designers to alter pieces (leaving any adjustments to them, to ensure that all the garments that bear their label stay true to the aesthetic) and will co-create exclusive pieces that'll live only on the site. "We are passionate about playing a role, however big or small, in bridging the gap that exists between modest women and the world of luxury fashion," she said, both by showing the modest shopper the breadth of options already available in the market through a luxury curation and by directly communicating with labels who might not have understood the deep impact this consumer has.
We've seen fashion brands attempt to bring in the modest shopper to varying degrees of success, be it by expanding their product offerings or by diversifying the casting of their visuals to include these women. (Halima Aden was one of the hardest-working models this past Fashion Month, after all). With Modist, all of these efforts are streamlined — and, hopefully, more companies take notice into how to effectively and sincerely speak to this customer base.