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Middle East emerging as a fashion hotbed

"Thomson Reuters ‘State of the Global Islamic Economy Report’, recently reported that Muslim consumers’ spending on apparels was the highest in 2015 around $243 billion and is projected to touch $368 billion by 2021. As per Pew Research Center, Muslims are the fastest growing religious group in the world, estimated to increase the population of Islamic Faith by 70 per cent in the next 40 years. In order to tap this opportunity, brands are increasingly finding means & ways to lure this tribe."

 

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Thomson Reuters ‘State of the Global Islamic Economy Report’, recently reported that Muslim consumers’ spending on apparels was the highest in 2015 around $243 billion and is projected to touch $368 billion by 2021. As per Pew Research Center, Muslims are the fastest growing religious group in the world, estimated to increase the population of Islamic Faith by 70 per cent in the next 40 years. In order to tap this opportunity, brands are increasingly finding means & ways to lure this tribe.

These reports point towards a critical aspect that age and location make a big difference when it comes to clothing in the Middle East, which is the largest region of concentration for the Muslim community. The way a certain set of people dress reveal not only their personality, but also the region and social class they belong to. In the Middle East, local traditions and Western fashion mix together to pave way for a new market which designers and brands are now eyeing with interest. When comparing the variables of age, economic class, and education, not all Muslim consumers exhibit same spending habits or fashion preferences. Millennials and Gen Z consumers in the region are increasingly moving towards westernised clothing concepts, reserving more traditional styles for ceremonial and religious occasions, while the older generations continue the trend of traditional garments.

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Within the regions also, from Morocco to Oman, the concepts of modest dressing and traditional garments deviate from one country to another and the clothing is also hugely dictated by the climatic conditions prevalent in that area. Many women in Lebanon do not cover their head, but majority of women in Saudi Arabia still have to wear a niqab. People living in the cities are more attentive to the latest fashion trends, while those in smaller towns and rural areas are still conservative, following traditional norms.

Changing preferences

All Arab women wearing hijab seems to have become a stereotype today. Rising literacy rates and blurring boundaries point towards the acceptance of western clothing in these regions. Recently, Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, and a senior member of top Muslim clerical body in Saudi Arabia, stated women need not wear loose-fitting, full-length robes symbolic of the Muslim faith known as the abaya. Some Muslim countries have even gone ahead and started following top fashion trends. These include: Lebanon, Dubai, Jerusalem and Jordan. In Lebanon, women have little in common with the fashion preferences of Saudi Arabian and UAE women. They are open to experimentation with westernised fashion concepts. Women prefer more revealing clothes with shorter hemlines and longer necklines. In countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Yemen, the emphasis is more on the traditional dress.

Multi-brand retailer stores expanding base

The younger cohort (people under the age of 30) in the UAE, Saudi or Qatar makes up more than half of their entire population. There are some 350 million people in these countries who are still below 26. While a bigger purchasing power lies with the older generation. With the country boasting of a wealthy consumer base in terms of GDP per capita the opportunities for luxury clothing are immense. Tapping huge potential, mainstream international brands have expanded their clothing lines into the Modest Fashion, launching across the region and also stocking modest fashion products. Brands such as Dolce and Gabbana, Burberry, Nike, and Uniqlo have introduced exclusive modest fashion ranges.

Meanwhile at International Fashion Weeks Muslim designers have emerged strong. All these together signal the dawn of a new era in fashion, which is set to challenge the conventional norms set by society over ages, and signals the advent of modest dressing. The level of success achieved by designers such as Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad and Rami Al Ali, is testimony of their rich culture, talent and innovative skillsets. It’s about time to give greater emphasis on nurturing and developing younger designers.

 
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