On Wednesday, modest fashion will have an opportunity to make its mark on the catwalks of Paris Fashion Week, as part of the International Fashion Summit. Still revelling in the success of its partnership with Torino Fashion Week in July, the Islamic Fashion and Design Council (IFDC) has headed to Europe yet again, with some of its modest-wear designers in tow.
"In Torino we made history by signing with a mainstream fashion week so that they could officially recognise a modest fashion category," says Alia Khan, chairwoman of the IFDC, which is headquartered in Dubai. A jury made up of industry professionals, including a representative from LVMH, selected and awarded the top modest-wear designers in Torino, and one of the prizes was the opportunity to take part in this week's event in Paris.
The International Fashion Summit was founded by Djamila Kerdoun, who says: "This type of talent is rare in France, and we are bringing them to our platform so we can build on the already powerful fashion assets we have in our country." Khan explains that discovering new talent from various corners of the world is one of the aims of the International Fashion Summit.
"Basically, [Kerdoun's] vision is to recognise wonderful fashion talent from other countries and for Paris to look towards and learn from this talent," says the IFDC chairwoman.
This season marks the second edition of the International Fashion Summit, which will close Paris Fashion Week. The invitation-only event will host ambassadors and dignitaries, along with seasoned fashion designers and industry experts. The 14 international fashion designers set to showcase at the International Fashion Summit this week include eight IFDC award-winners from Torino Fashion Week. UAE-based Bambah, Pakistan-based Natasha Kamal, Indonesia-based Dian Pelangi and California-based Al Nisa are among those who will be heading to the French capital to exhibit their latest designs.
In Torino, Bambah showcased its first ever Bambah Modest collection. Launched by Dubai resident Maha Abdul Rasheed, the label is best known for its use of feminine colour palettes, 1950s silhouettes, floral prints and oversized bows. Three years after opening a vintage fashion store, Bambah, in Jumeirah, Abdul Rasheed debuted her own clothing line under the same name in 2014, and during Ramadan this year, unveiled the latest division of the brand, Bambah Modest.
"The concept of modest clothing is very dear to my heart as my own mother is veiled and is always on the hunt for stylish and modest pieces that express her own unique individuality," Abdul Rasheed says.
Although modest wear may be enjoying its moment in the fashion limelight, Abdul Rasheed's decision to debut a more covered collection wasn't a response to current fashion trends, but instead a natural step in the diversification of her label, she says.
"Modest clothing has been on our radar for a long while. Being situated in the heart of the Middle East and having the pleasure of catering to the modern Arab woman, we get a lot of demand for modest clothing in our store, so we really wanted to cater to this audience and extend our offering to show the world how elegant modest clothing can be," says Abdul Rasheed.
Bambah Modest blouses are elevated with dramatic bell- and balloon-sleeves; interesting textures decorate pastel-pink and off-white gowns; and maxi skirts are made stylish with oversized bows tied at the waists. "As an Arab-Muslim, I wanted to try and fix any misconceptions about modesty and Islamic fashion in the western world," says Abdul Rasheed. "It was important for me to show the world how beautiful modest clothing can be, and that modesty is not just about wearing the traditional black abaya."
Abdul Rasheed launched Bambah Modest three months ago, and thanks to her alignment with the IFDC, has already gained exposure in Italy, and, now, France.
Paris is often considered to be the crème de la crème of fashion weeks, and a benchmark for the industry as a whole. But Khan says that she was always confident that IFDC would find its place in the French capital. “I had no doubt whatsoever that global modest-fashion designers were going to make a huge mark in the fashion world,” she says. “I had this immense belief that they were making great styles and wonderful modest fashion that gave range to our vast audience, and had a certain commitment to excellence – and that’s what you’re going to see from our designers when they showcase on October 4.”
In March, IFDC will host its first Pret-A-Cover Buyers Lane in Dubai, where brands focusing on modesty will gain exposure at an accessible event that Khan claims will be a "disruptive solution" to the traditional fashion week model.
One label showcasing at the International Fashion Summit in Paris this week will win a spot at the exhibition. "We are going to be bringing the winning designer to our upcoming Pret-A-Cover Buyers Lane to showcase here in Dubai, and take up meetings with industry players, perhaps even with some key government figures, who might help them to further define their career and develop more opportunity for them," says Khan.
Prior to partnering with IFDC, modest-wear designers like Bambah, Al Nisa and Natasha Kamal were only known within their respective countries – the UAE, USA and Pakistan. Showing their designs on Italian or Parisian runways, during international fashion weeks, was a far-off dream.
But the fashion industry is becoming more diverse and inclusive, and demand for modest-wear is gaining momentum. Muslim women have long been seeking a space within the global fashion industry that caters to their conservative requirements.
Through initiatives like these, not only are they being accommodated – they are also being celebrated.