Niche fashion is unique, inspirational, desirable, and many other adjectives that can fall under the ‘exclusive’ banner. However, while these descriptions all ring true, there is no getting away from the challenges that such niche fashion categories face.
Islamic clothing is a fashion category that fits all of these descriptions perfectly, and it is on this sector where we will draw our focus, while keeping niche fashion as a general sub-sector of the industry firmly in mind. What are the challenges faced by Islamic fashion designers and niche categories in general?
Although not an area where the billion-dollar Islamic fashion industry suffers, niche fashion across the world is being held back due to a chronic lack of investment. The big problem is that most investors simply prefer the safer option of putting their money into contemporary styles that they know will generate a return.
Finding a solution to a lack of investment in particular fashion areas is not easy, and the reasons for this will become clearer as we continue to look at these challenges.
We’re not saying that fashion absolutely has to be branded to be a critical and commercial success, but there is no doubt that it helps.
Islamic fashion, for example, has a fast growing profile thanks to fashion houses designing and manufacturing Haute Couture modest fashions that fit the Islamic culture and beliefs, but other than Aab Collection UK and a handful of other brands, who are the real big players in the industry?
You could apply the same principles to African dress, or Indian clothing. While the focus of these niche categories is very much on the luxury and decadence of the garments, there is no doubt that having a brand on which to focus would help these sectors to become even bigger on a global scale.
Outside of the countries and regions where specific niche categories are popular, it is difficult to identify who the real role models are in terms of looking amazing at all times.
When you look to the Western world, you could reel off names like Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss, and various other celebrities that are household names across the planet. Where are these people within each niche? How are people around the world going to feel empowered to wear Islamic or Hindu dress if they aren’t being shown the way?
Although the mainstream global fashion shows have become more diverse and inclusive in recent years, exposure for niche trends is still painfully on the thin side. When was the last time you picked up a fashion magazine and saw that an Islamic clothing show had been featured heavily in Paris, for example?
While niche fashion is finding a platform, particularly at events like Jakarta Fashion Week, there is still a long way to go before it really hits the mainstream.
It is important to remember that most things begin life as a niche in one industry or another. As global cultures become more intertwined, the playing field will level in respect of various fashion industry sub-sectors, and eventually, all fashion will enjoy an equal footing.
Aisha Malik is a fashion journalist passionate about niche styles from around the world, particularly Islamic fashion. Aisha often writes about the struggles and challenges that niche fashion brands face, and works with several of them to try and overcome these.