British modestwear brand Aab makes its mark in the region

British modestwear brand Aab makes its mark in the region

(Photo:prom dresses 2017)
It is not only on the catwalks at haute couture shows that modest fashion is making its mark. Debenhams is the first major British department-store chain to stock a line of contemporary modest wear, in what is seen as a sign of how such outfits are making their way into high street shops too.

Debenhams has partnered with London-based modest-fashion brand Aab, which has become one of the most popular brands among Muslims in Europe. The company, launched 10 years ago by Londoner Nazim Alim, is now a family affair, with her younger brother, Altaf, the commercial director and sister-in-law Fatima Ahmed the head of design.

Aab recently launched in 14 Debenhams stores across Asia and the Arabian Gulf. Nazim and Altaf were at Debenhams in the Mall of the Emirates for the UAE launch.

« In terms of the commercial reality, the high-street stores are definitely recognising that there’s an opportunity in modest fashion, » says Altaf.

« I think there is a wider recognition and acceptance of modest fashion, which is slowly moving into more of a mainstream setting. »

Modest fashion has become one of the fastest-growing sectors in the industry, with the average global Muslim consumer spending US$266 (Dh977) on clothing and footwear, according to Reuters. What makes Aab stand out from many other modest-clothing lines is the way they blend contemporary British high-street fashion with the modest look to create something new.

As well as stocking a range of traditionally shaped hijabs, Aab also stocks hijab bonnet caps (in 30 colours), as well as tube caps and turtleneck caps.

Their hijab pins, made with precious stones, can add a touch of glamour to the look.

Nazim explains that as a young Muslim living in London, before starting Aab, she would look to Giorgio Armani and high-street fashion store Jigsaw for inspiration to style her wardrobe – but their designs were rarely modest enough.

« If you found a long skirt it might have a big slit in it, or would be a slim fit with a slit at the back, » she says. « It just wasn’t always practical, so when the more modest items were in fashion, I would buy quite a few to keep me going. »

She decided to launch her own clothing line after realising that many Muslim women were facing the same challenge.

« One of the first things Muslim women did was thank us because they were able to find pieces that suited their needs – like knee-length skirts or even the abaya, but not always in black, » she says.

Aab’s emphasis is on natural fibres and free-flowing fabrics.

« No matter what your ethnicity or where you’re from, anybody can wear it, look good and feel great, » says Nazim, adding that there is also a range of garments for special occasions.

The brand feels at home in Debenhams, reflecting as it does the look and feel of many of the department store’s existing labels. It is easy to see why non-Muslims would be attracted to the label but Nazim says when Aab opened in London, non-Muslim women were apprehensive.

« They would come in and look with caution, and say things like ‘Can we wear this’ or ‘Can we buy this?’ » she says.

« What we’re offering is something called an alternative fashion choice, so you don’t have to be Muslim. Some women generally do like to just be a bit conservative with their dressing – maybe they’re not happy with their arms and don’t want to show them off – so pieces like our kimonos are perfect. »

A popular trend that fits well with the modest look is the jumpsuit, as worn by Melania Trump, wife of US president Donald, during her recent trip to Riyadh.

Aab’s range of jumpsuits come with embroidered detailing, and there is also a plain black one with military-style brass buttons on the shoulders.

The Alims have good reason to believe their distinctive style will be a hit in the Gulf.

« The feedback we get from our London store managers is that when Gulf customers are on vacation, they’ll actually make a special trip to our store, » says Altaf.

« We’ve had incidences where a Gulf customer’s husband has been on business in the UK and she’s sent him to our store. She’s then on Skype to him saying, ‘I want this particular dress, in this size, in this colour’. He’s been negotiating between his wife and the assistant. »

The Debenhams launch comes just in time for Eid but the brand will have to compete with other high-street chains aiming to attract Muslim clientele.

H&M and Uniqlo have released Muslim-orientated collections for women, and Marks & Spencer now boasts a Burkini collection. But the Alims are confident there is plenty of room for variety and growth in the market.

« I think it’s great if more and more stores embrace the modest look, says Altaf. « We all need each other. It’s like an eco system – the more brands you have, the more people entering the market. It just gives it that momentum. »Read more at:marieprom

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