Modest fashion in the spotlight at debut London event
Traditional Arabic jewellery complemented winter fabrics, including velvet and silk, to create art and history at the first London Modest Fashion Week ( LMFW), hosted by the Saatchi Gallery in London at the weekend.
The spirit of the two-day event was a celebration of the strength of women, as designers, bloggers and the community gathered to support the modest fashion industry.
More than 3,000 people attended the event, which was organised by Haute Elan, an online modest fashion company.
The sessions on the sidelines of the runway shows included discussions on the rise of the Muslim entrepreneur, while budding designers received advice on building a successful brand. Those who have made a name for themselves in the industry were happy to share the challenges they faced and to tell their life stories. With dozens of brands showcasing their collections, the sentiment among many designers was one of inspiration.
Here are some of highlights.
On the runways
the It appears green is the colour of the moment and the first runway show of LMFW was testament to this.
Maslea, a Malaysian fashion label, showcased dresses and jumpsuits in green velvet, while Ummiriaz International ( another Malaysian brand), sent a collection of long dresses and flared trousers in shades of bottle-green down the runway. Sara Al Madani Fashion Design, the only UAE label at the event, opened the show with its signature abayas, adorned with leather. Leenaz Design, a Bahraini brand, focused on open, funky abayas with touches of pastels and white. United Kingdom-based brand Lyra showed modest swimwear, including stylish full- sleeved long tops with leggings.
Art of Heritage, from Saudi Arabia, held a solo show on Saturday night, attracting hundreds to see its traditional weaves styled in modern cuts and looks.
Many of the designs at the show were urban, functional and fun more than feminine.
Many designers participating in LMFW said it was an achievement to showcase modest fashion in London.
“It’s a milestone for us,” says Eman Al Sarraf, who was there representing Leenaz Design. “We always wanted to be in London. It’s a great market to be in. This is the first fashion week we are attending in Europe. It will help to familiarise people with the abayas.” Sara Al Madani watched Leenaz’s runway show and was impressed by what she saw.
“It was very out-of-the-box,” she says. “It wasn’t the usual things. There was so much creativity, so much passion and great diversity in the different designers showcasing.” As modest fashion gains popularity internationally, LMFW marked a milestone – it was the first time many brands had the opportunity to present their collections on the ramp together.
Modest fashion is not fundamentally so different from mainstream fashion, “it is just more covered”, according to Romanna Bint-Abubaker, founder and chief executive of Haute Elan.
“The trends we are seeing are a really similar replica from mainstream,” she says.
Lace and velvet were popular fabric choices, as they are in mainstream fashion at the moment.
“You can see what’s happening in the mainstream is happening here as well. I think there is a lot of creativity and innovation happening at the fashion week,” says Bint-Abubaker.
An example of this innovative approach was a gown by Roddiva Couture that can become a little more revealing when worn at home, then easily transformed into a more modest garment for wearing in public.
As expected, there were some notable names at the event. Fashion blogger Dina Torkia made an appearance, as did Arab television personality Muna AbuSulayman and Rabia Zargarpur, a veteran modest fashion designer from the UAE.
Rabia Z, as she is popularly known, was keen to see how modest fashion offerings in the UAE compared with what was featured at the event. “In Abu Dhabi and Dubai our fashion is mostly abayas,” she says. “We don’t have much need to wear modest fashion unless we are travelling.
“Having an event like this in UAE is a work in progress. Turkey had an Istanbul Modest Fashion Week last year and I think that was a great step forward.
“I think they started the big fashion-week event [for modest fashion] which was great because they were able to bring in so many brands and bloggers and influencers from all over.
“That kick-started things and hopefully the momentum will continue.”
The designer says she hopes modest fashion weeks will remain true to the idea behind mainstream fashion events and have seasons twice a year.
Rabia Z says she saw too much uniformity in complete collections on the runway.
“As a designer, I’m a veteran in the industry and I want to see an evolvement in modest fashion and more creativity,” she says.
Emirati designer Sara Al Madani, left, opened London Modest Fashion Week on Saturday with her leather-adorned abayas.