Malaysian fashion brands to shine as Islamic wear’s global appeal heightens

The State of the Global Islamic Economy report 2017/18 ranks Malaysia 7th among the best developed Islamic economies for fashion


IT WAS quite a circus. A celebrity decided to launch her new range of head scarves designed for modern Muslim women at a popular night spot in Kuala Lumpur a couple of weeks ago. Recordings of the event went viral.

Many also thought it was inappropriate as the product she was selling seemed to be more suited to be launched at a more “modest” venue.

For the next few days, it seemed that the entire country was against her.

Despite the ruckus, items from her latest collection were snapped up by her ardent fans and loyal customers.

While people were busy discussing moral issues relating to the launch, the celebrity could be smiling at home counting her haul.

A few years before, another brand of Islamic apparel made the headlines when a recording of customers queueing up and fighting over the latest designs went viral. Days later, it was reported that all the items were sold out too.

Islamic fashion, or modest apparel if you may, is certainly big business in Malaysia.

As it is, the country ranks seventh among the best developed Islamic economies for fashion, according to the State of the Global Islamic Economy report 2017/18.

The study by Thomson Reuters and DinarStandard also projected that the Muslim consumers’ spending on clothing and footwear would reach US$373 billion (RM1.45 trillion) in 2022.

Modest wear brands are definitely making their presence felt and solidifying themselves as local luxury brands, with some big names offering lifestyle products on top of other fashion items.

One of the bigger companies that is aggressively capitalising on the new movement is Kumpulan Hai-O Enterprise Bhd, via its subsidiary Sahajidah Hai-O Marketing Sdn Bhd.

Sahajidah Hai-O marketing manager Jyann Tan Pei Yong said tapping into the hijab market makes perfect sense for the direct selling company, based on the eagerness of career women to remain fashionable, while strengthening their professional image.

“One cannot deny how influential the hijab is in raising the bar for Muslimah fashion. Even big international brands are starting to introduce modest and Shariah-compliant wear in their line of fashion.

“The niche is a lucrative global industry due to the big demand for modest, yet fashionable wear, especially among the youth,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

The recent acquisition of a majority stake in UK-based modest fashion e-commerce firm Haute Elan by headscarf producer Aidijuma Colours Group alongside — an Indonesia-based e-commerce site — is one of the many good examples of how big the business is.

Modest wear brands are definitely making their presence felt in the current market demand

Tan added that working women are aggressive in making their goals a reality, while also appearing their best, which has impacted the economy.

“With more women holding big purchasing power in the society, there is affluence that creates a great demand,” she said.

Tan said as a new hijab industry player, Hai-O takes premium brands as a benchmark to work towards.

“We are focused on solidifying our market and embracing Muslimah fashion. In other words, we want to emphasise that business and modesty complement each other and can go hand in hand really well,” she said.

Tan added that the company’s designers are upscaling their works and fine-tuning details that could be incorporated into their products to suit the current urban lifestyle.

“We are excited to experiment with new trends and keep the momentum going for our existing distributors and attracting newbies who are passionate to dive into entrepreneurship.

“We also aspire to cater to all women to express their individuality,” she said.

Tan said the country does not lack in talented designers with great potential to penetrate and compete in the international market.

“Up and coming, we are going to release our second batch of limited edition hijab collection this April, exclusively designed by Rizman Ruzaini.

“Our hijab collection is tailored for a variety of different styles from everyday simplicity to luxurious flair,” she said.

Hai-O has also established a lifestyle- fashion brand called Infinence promoting local products, offering mostly modern women must-haves.

As a part of its five-year marketing strategy, Hai-O is expected to expand Infinence globally.

The brand’s shoes and bags are also endorsed by its ambassador Nur Fazura Sharifuddin, who is involved in Hai-O’s beauty, and food and beverage products development.

Professor Datuk Jimmy Choo, who is also the brand’s fashion consultant, will be involved in the design of shoes, bags, attires and accessories. Meanwhile, Publicis Malaysia senior copywriter Suhaila Mohd Shukor is a loyal client of dUCk Scarves, another brand that is currently making waves among the trendy Muslim women.

Suhaila told TMR that as a client, she feels that her purchases from the specific brand provide her with a feeling of exclusivity.

“The boxes, ribbons and quality make me feel like I’m rewarding myself every month because I work in a hectic and demanding industry,” she said.

She also added that fabrics or materials do not affect her choice of buying scarves, but brands do.

“I have most of the scarf materials offered by dUCk Scarves. The branding makes the product exclusive regardless of the material they choose for their offerings,” she said.

While many are still browsing their favourite shops for the latest in Islamic fashion, many are also turning to e-commerce platforms for their favourite products and latest designs.

The e-commerce boom, which has somehow taken much of the retail space rivalling the traditional brick-and-mortar establishments, is yet another strong catalyst for the business.

With global accessibility at one’s fingertip, it is not impossible for Malaysian Islamic fashion brands to make it even bigger internationally.