Seven years before British Vogue put hijab-wearing model Halima Aden on its cover, Modanisa had already tapped into a fashion movement that is predicted to bear US$250 billion (Dh918.3bn) in sales by 2020. The online shopping website, based in Turkey, was founded in 2011 by entrepreneurs Kerim Ture and Lale Tuzun. Modanisa takes its name from the Italian word for fashion (moda) and the Arabic word for woman (nisa).
The Modanisa motto
“The name is the perfect combination of East and West, which is exactly what our brand aims to do – bridge cultures,” Ture explains. “The inspiration for Modanisa came through observation. People around me were complaining how hard it was to find hijabi clothes in modern retail stores, and that even then there was limited choice and fashionable items were usually
The light-bulb moment came when Ture was visiting Makkah in 2009. “Millions of Muslim women visit this holy city every year, but not a single modern retail brand was catering to them. The only places to shop were small, traditional hijab and abaya outlets, and the ones that had a more modern edge seemed to be doing better,” he says. By then, Ture had also realised that retail seemed to be moving online. “So we decided to build an e-commerce shop that could serve the hijabi market globally.”
Modanisa took part in the debut running of Jakarta Modest Fashion Week, which ended on July 29. Brand manager Havva Kahraman not only presented one of the event's headline shows, but also met established Indonesian fashion labels and emerging designers who may have strong export potential. Kahraman confirms that as the world's largest Muslim-majority country, Indonesia offers vast opportunities for Modanisa. "We are keen to tap into this exciting market, while also bringing the best local designers on to our platform where they can grow their profile and international sales," she says.
The site already stocks Indonesian designers such as Irna Mutiara, Applecoast Noore and Sazy Zahra. Kahraman cites dresses, tunics and burkinis from brands such as Refka, Benin, Ginezza, Selma Sari, Insirah, Everyday Basic, Beha Tesettur, Rabia Z, Mervin Sal and Tuva Sal as among the bestselling items on Modanisa this season.
Modest fashion weeks
Modanisa’s presence at JMFW is not the first time that the company has been involved in a modest-fashion event.
"Modanisa pioneered this concept with two consultants, Ozlem Sahin and Franka Soeria, who went on to form Think Fashion," Ture says. Their first Modest Fashion Week event was in Istanbul in 2016; Ture calls it "a watershed moment" that "put modest fashion on the global map thanks to mainstream international media covering the shows". Since then, the company has been involved in events in London, Dubai and now Jakarta. During Dubai Modest Fashion Week last December, Modanisa collaborated with one of Turkey's leading designers, Rasit Bagzibagli, on a sell-out collection.
The appeal of modest fashion
According to Ture, modest fashion has gone well beyond a passing trend. “It cannot be a trend when you are catering for the needs of tens of millions of people worldwide. It is a thriving global sector that encompasses every aspect of the fashion industry. In fact, I think we have only scratched the surface.” With the introduction of modest fashion into everyday wear, the consumer is also changing. As Ture points out: “With greater choice, modest consumers have increased expectations: they expect on-trend garments at the best possible prices and customer services. They are also prolific users and consumers of social media, so whatever is happening in the sector, the news travels fast.”
With more than two billion Muslims worldwide, Ture's personal goal for Modanisa is $1bn by 2020.
“Modest fashion is no longer some niche area, but one that caters to women of all shapes and sizes, and from all backgrounds,” he says And that’s the true appeal of this division – it’s for every woman who wants to feel at ease in her clothing, elegant yet decorous.
As Ture concludes: “Yes, practicing Muslims and other conservative dressers are naturally drawn to what the sector sells, but so too are others. Any fashion-lover can appreciate and put on modestwear – and that’s why so many other retailers and designers are drawn to what is happening here.”