by AZALEA AZUAR/ pic credit: jimmyscarves.com
A FEW hundreds scarves priced at RM800 each were sold within five minutes of their launch a few years ago. Embedded with 200 Swarovski crystals, the pink satin silk dUCk scarf featured a detailed print of Kuala Lumpur’s iconic skyline.
It was also the country’s “National Gift” for the Miss Universe 2016 pageant. With only a few hundreds of these modern hijabs crafted for the global audience, buyers were quick to snap the scarf like a duck to water.
Established by actress and model Noor Neelofa Mohd Noor in 2014, Naelofar Hijab’s headscarves successfully exceeded its initial target twice. In the first year of its operation, its sales reached RM50 million.
These high-end or popular brands mostly cater to professional workers and fashionistas who do not mind spending a higher price on modest clothing.
The modest fashion market is growing, not just in Muslim-majority countries but worldwide, as its popularity grows due to the increasing number of Muslim designers, as well as social media celebrities. They decided to fill in the gaps that they have observed in the market and use their platform to gain influence and set up online stores.
Since then, international brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Nike, Zara and Uniqlo have also ventured into the lucrative modest fashion market.
According to a 2018 report by Thomson Reuters and DinarStandard, US$270 billion (RM1.18 trillion) was spent by Muslim consumers on modest fashion in 2017. A DinarStandard report the following year showed US$283 billion was spent in 2018. The report projected 4.8% year-on-year growth for the sector and estimated that sales are expected to reach US$402 billion by 2024.
This was before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world.
Virus Hits Sales
In an April coronavirus update “The State of Fashion 2020”, consulting firm McKinsey estimates 27%- 30% contraction in revenues for the global fashion industry.
Once dubbed the “Net-a-Porter of luxurious, modest fashion”, Dubai-based company The Modist had to cease its operations and close its e-commerce store early this month. Founder and CEO Ghizlan Guenez announced the company had to stop trading as it was unable to cope with the financial strains caused by the pandemic.
Back home, JIMMYSCARVES founder and CEO Azim Mat Noor saw its business growing rapidly before the pandemic.
“Initially, we saw ourselves growing rapidly before the pandemic took place. We saw a lot of new brands introduced to the market last year. I hope the modest fashion industry will continue to grow in 2020, especially after this pandemic is over,” he said.
Azim said sales got better from last year until February this year, but everything changed following the outbreak.
“We hope to recover as soon as possible post-Movement Control Order (MCO). Also, our customers can make their orders online, so we hope to see an increase in our traffic there.”
Sales have been slower, especially since it was forced to close its physical store due to the MCO. According to Azim, a decrease in buying power might be a factor for the declining sales as people are less likely to spend on fashion due to the economic uncertainty caused by Covid-19.
Banking on Aidilfitri
Since the MCO has been extended, Malaysians are required to practice social distancing and stay home at all times.
“Like any business owner, I am putting my focus on my online store and I would like to encourage people to shop online for Hari Raya with tempting deals and offer packages during MCO,” said Azim.
Azim remains positive about the situation.
“There’s still interest in Hari Raya sales for sure, although lower than the previous year. The focus for some might be to save money as they are experiencing income losses during this MCO. Some might want to save money in expectation for tougher economic hardship caused by Covid-19.
“However, I choose to maintain a positive outlook and Hari Raya is a festive occasion. As Malaysians, we will find a way to celebrate safely and what better way than to do it online!”
Although the sales have slowed and the modest fashion industry takes a hit from the pandemic, Azim is confident that quality products and the right deals will help businesses overcome the current challenges as they head into the peak of fashion sales this coming Aidilfitri.
JIMMYSCARVES has unveiled its exclusive collection for the Hari Raya season called “Stella Raya”.
It comes in two variants, with and without diamonds. The scarves without diamonds are priced at RM69, while the studded ones cost RM79.
The “Stella Raya” scarves come in five colours — Skyblue, Midnight, Tuscany, Mocassin and Lemonade — and is also available for children.
The modest fashion market is competitive as there are many popular Malaysians brands out there. What makes JIMMYSCARVES stand out is that it offers a wide variety of hijab patterns that are Shariah-compliant.
Although the brand sells premium instant wide shawls and wide scarves aimed at women between 27 and 45 years old, its trademark custom prints are for the affordable target market. Apart from the main scarves and shawls, their accessories such as twillies, brooches and inners are also selling well.
Azim said bold colours are a popular choice for the customers these days, while black must be included in every collection. Some love pastel as well.
“So far, we have no non-Muslim customers as our product is focused on the scarves which are essentially Muslim attire. But we would love to have them once we grow our product line-up that can cater to their needs.”
JIMMYSCARVES has never participated in a fashion show, but hopes to do so one day.
The brand started out as an online business, before opening its first physical store in Seremban, Negri Sembilan. Azim aims to expand to Bangi and Shah Alam.
“I think, for us, to open our next store in the Klang Valley is a must. And to be honest, I don’t think this applies to just us. I think that all types of business should because the walk-in buying power in the Klang Valley is higher compared to other states.”
Currently, the company has more than 20 stockists in Malaysia, Singapore, Qatar, Saudi, Thailand and Japan, but it’s not planning to stop there.
“We are also aiming to expand our business and eventually open our international store(s). Hopefully soon.”
After the MCO, Azim hopes to get everything back on track, including plans to relocate its office and boutique to a bigger and exclusive space in Seremban.