Huffpost UK Style uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Romanna Bint-Abubaker Headshot

The Rise of the Muslim Fashion Industry

Posted: Updated:

The most expensive dress in the world was released on March 19 and attracted worldwide media coverage. Debbie Wingham's diamond studded abbaya is the talk of Hollywood at $17m.

Designers such as Hermes, Aramis, Estée Lauder are the latest in-line of those to be inspired by Arabian inspiration and targeting Muslim markets. See Aramis - Calligraphy, or Christian Lacroix who have been integrating Arabic inspiration into the latest collections. We heard they are intrigued by the emphasis given to the design rather than the body of the woman. In many ways this isn't dissimilar to the fashion of the old traditional English days where the body of the dress played a more important role than the body of the woman.

We are also seeing a new generation of highly-talented designers such as Elie Saab, Robert Abi Nader Abed Mahfouz, Walid Attalah, Essa from the UAE and others who continue to impress the international fashion world with their fusion of modern and Muslim-inspired elements into their ensembles. They are now the pieces of choice for celebrities with virtually every celebrity now owning an 'Elie Saab', it's harder to think of one who doesn't have an 'Elie Saab'.

Each of the new creative works is reflective of the transition from plain and simple Arabic designs to more sophisticated creations that extensively use embroidered elements.

But it's not just great designers who are making it to market, it's the people and service industry behind this market that is going viral. Support services from Fashion incubators to Fashion Shows are going viral.

Haute Arabia, the fashion incubator, a membership based platform for promoting emerging designers and innovation in fashion with a social conscience may be the beginning but many incubation initiatives are commencing across the World - from Al Roudha Centre of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Qatar) to the Hijab Fashion Week (October 22-27, 2013) (London) to Moscow Fashion Show (Islamic Style) (June 13-17, 2013).

To those who disregard this as a passing trend and who believe the couture houses who have shown an interest in this industry are just 'testing a new market' - the facts tell a different story. If you're wondering isn't this whole Islamic inspired, modest and conservative, Muslim consumer just some small niche market? Note - Major misconception. The Muslim consumer alone - taking out only the countries who might also have preferences for Arabian or Islamic inspired design is no-longer off the mainstream.

The Muslim fashion industry is estimated to be worth $96 billion and is rapidly growing. The fuel behind this growth is a generation of young, confident, tech-savvy-more importantly-product conscious Muslims, who are embracing their faith and confidence. This awakening by Muslim consumers has certainly lifted the markets as we have seen an increase in young entrepreneurs catering for this demand. This is not sector specific but the fashion industry is one major Muslim consumer market of many in which we are seeing high-innovation and exponential growth.

The surge in female designers and female entrepreneurship campaigns is testament to a community of Muslims who understand the power of women in business. Women are finding a way out to market and I don't think fashion will be where it will stop. Entrepreneurship and women entrepreneurship is the heart of Islamic heritage.

When we consider broader market interest from other countries including Israel and mainstream celebrities many of whom have been recently featured in many of the more modest trends from turbans to kaftans we can consider this market as much greater than figures suggest.

Fast Facts on the "Muslim Fashion Industry"
  • The fastest growing population at 1.8% per annum, the Muslim world population is at 2.1billion today equating to 30% of the world population;
  • The European Muslim population sits at approximately 53 million;
  • World demand for Muslim fashion. If we only focus on women, we are talking about at least 800 million people. And 40% of that that, or 320 million, is 25 years-old and under "the spending group";
  • World market of Islamic fashion - The world Muslim fashion industry is estimated to be worth US96 billion. This is based on the assumption that half of the 1.6 billion Muslims each spend US120 a year on modest clothing.
  • It was estimated that in the UK with 3 million Muslims, Muslim fashion industry would be worth between US90 to 150 million a year. At that rate, the 16 million Muslims in the EU, a potential clothing market can be valued at US960 million to US1.5 billion a year.
  • Some Arabian-style outfits can sell for as much as USD 10,000 and yet remain in high demand due to the robust economies of key markets such as the United Arab Emirates.
  • A Dubai-based company in fact sells abbayas costing between USD 1,500 to 10,000.
  • The most expensive dress in the world was released on March 19th by Debbie Wingham at17m and it was in fact - a diamond studded Abbaya.
  • According to a recent study conducted by the French Fashion University Esmod- Dubia, the Middle East fashion sector is expected to post 15% growth in 2010.
  • The study foresees numerous opportunities in the12bn Gulf clothing market, which is attracting more brands to the affluent and increasingly fashion-conscious region.
  • In recent years, the fashion industry has noticed an increasing growth and shift in fashion trend for Arabian inspired embellishments and couture. Designers including Valentino 2012, Elie Saab (2012), Hussein Chalayan (1998), Zuhair Murad, have all been inspired by Middle Eastern culture and religion.

At Haute Arabia we know this is a transformation of the global fashion landscape and a trend that is here to stay.

We will engage, capture, inspire and lead our members to create their own brand, or support emerging brands. Simultaneously our platform will save all that trawling through the web for inspiration or modest luxury fashion - it will be in one place, Haute Arabia.

Follow Haute Arabia on this journey to the mainstream.