Day in the life: IFDC founder is leading voice for Islamic fashion

Alia Khan launched the Islamic Fashion and Design Council, a global platform for modest fashion, after struggling to set up her own line in the sector.

Alia Khan, chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council, says Islamic fashion is growing fast. Sarah Dea / The National
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Alia Khan is the chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council (IFDC), a global platform for modest fashion. According to a report released in October 2016 by Thomson Reuters, US$243 billion was spent on Muslim clothing and apparel in 2015, and modest fashion is projected to reach $368bn by 2021. After trying to set up her own modest clothing line, Ms Khan, a Pakistani-American, recognised the need to support the burgeoning sector, forming IFDC in Dubai in 2014. It now has a staff of 35 and nine offices worldwide.


I highly recommend getting up when the sun starts to rise. I do a lot of reflection and contemplation in different types of prayers. I try to give myself the best quality of life I can before I get into work, so that I can be better throughout my day.


I go for a run in the park. I connect with nature as much as possible, so I like my exercise to be outdoors among the trees. I stay in that Zen mode of thought throughout my exercise, but as I get into the hustle and bustle of the day, I lose that consciousness. I initially launched IFDC because I’d wanted to set up a modest clothing line, but as I researched it, I realised it wasn’t going to work out because there was no support, no organisation that spoke specifically to our end of the market – it was quite a fragmented industry.


I have breakfast with my parents, who are both retired now, although my mother is still very active with charitable initiatives. Breakfast is fruit, some multigrain bread and once in a while, eggs. My morning tea is chopped turmeric root with ginger and black pepper in hot water.


I listen to a lecture by a leader or teacher I admire, or pick my parents’ brains on something over breakfast. I like to learn one new piece of information before I start my day. It could be spiritual, health and nutrition or business-related.


I arrive at my office, close to where I live in Al Barsha. Some mornings I meet designers or retailers. So far, IFDC has been approached by over 1,000 designers – a mix of aspiring, new and home-baked designers who do this as a hobby – to become members.


We’re working on formalising and categorising our membership programme. When we started, we just wanted people to get on board. Now that we have a grasp of the global landscape, we’re implementing proper global membership dedicated to designers, retailers and even photographers. I can’t tell you how many Muslim models have asked us to start a membership programme just for them.


I come home for a 20-minute power nap, then I’ll do my prayers. There’s scientific proof a 20-minute power nap is equal to an eight-hour sleep at night.


I have a lunch meeting near my office at a nutritionally sound place. So many places in Dubai serve Paleo foods and non-sugar desserts. If I suggest a healthy place, everyone is game for that.


I work at home in the afternoon. We’re now launching our IFDC pop-up design school, which offers professional courses, so I call up people involved in that. Islamic fashion is growing fast, but it’s always been huge. We’re just becoming more aware of it now. Muslim women are feeling good about themselves, they’re expressing themselves so beautifully, and we’re recognising that, whereas before we didn’t have a chance to appreciate women publicly as much. I think social media has helped. We might not know who they are when we see social media posts, but we can appreciate what they’re doing – whether it’s a well-dressed Hijab-wearing woman working in a refugee camp or someone posting pictures from a wedding.


I’ll take an hour’s break. My siblings live nearby with their children, so I’ll have my five and seven-year-old niece and nephew over to play.


We have a family dinner together about 20 minutes after sunset prayers, when my father has returned from the mosque. When we’re all together – including siblings and cousins who live nearby – there are 15 around the dinner table.


I start working again – preparing for the next day, making calls and sending emails.


I'm working on the next issue of IFDC's Cover magazine. I decide how it is put together but I give the implementation of my vision to my guest editor-in-chief. We had the head of IFDC Turkey in the first editor-in-chief role, Russia the next, then South Africa. We want their character and style to be represented. At some point, we'll have to appoint a consistent person, but it's fun doing it this way.


I try to get to bed, but sometimes I’m burning the midnight oil to get an initiative ready for my team the next day. The work itself is so global, you can’t say Islamic fashion is just Arabic fashion because it’s not. Everybody is keen to know what’s coming out of Turkey, or Indonesia. We’ve even had great Islamic fashion designers from Mexico. Our regional heads are helping us keep our fingers on the pulse of Islamic fashion all over the world.

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