Anas Silwood moved to Jordan from Britain to study Arabic back in 2000. The 20-something was supposed to stay for only a few months, but he soon decided Amman was the place he wanted to be. He learned Arabic, converted to Islam and settled.”Every time I went back to the UK I had the same problem,” he says. “People looked at me in a funny way because of what I was wearing. It happened over and over again, and that’s how I realised there must be a lot of Muslims in need of better-designed and better-made clothing.”Silwood’s intuition quickly developed into a business. In 2002 he launched Shukr, one of the first Islamic fashion e-commerce sites catering to the needs of Muslims in Europe who wanted traditional Islamic clothing with attention to style.It was a success. Sales volumes rose and the company expanded to the United States and the Middle East and North Africa region.Back then Anas was a pioneer in a nearly untapped market.Today, according to the 2015-2016 State of the Global Islamic Economy Report, Muslim consumers spend an estimated $230bn on clothing, a number that is projected to grow to $327bn by 2019 – larger than the current combined clothing markets of the UK ($107bn), Germany ($99bn) and India ($96bn).
“Overall clothing purchase by Muslim consumers does not directly translate into Islamic fashion,” Rafi-Uddin Shikoh, the person behind the study, explains. “But there are a number of drivers that suggest the modest fashion industry will be growing towards those numbers.”First of all, there is the “importance of religion” in people’s life. Compared with Europe, where only one in three respondents deem religion important, or the US where that percentage hovers at around 50 percent, in majority Muslim countries 88 percent of the population define religion as important.Secondly, there are the demographics. The average age in Muslim majority countries is about 30, in Europe and the US it is about 44. This is very important as the purchasing power of young consumers tends to grow over the years.The third important driver is an economic one. The gross domestic product of countries with a majority Muslim population is projected to grow at an average of 5.4 percent a year compared with the 3.4 percent of Europe and the US over the next few years.
Last but not least, 29 percent of the global population is projected to be Muslim by 2030.These are numbers that seemingly cannot be ignored, and, unsurprisingly perhaps, the number of fashionistas, entrepreneurs and designers rushing to seize the opportunity this presents is growing by the day.Among these is Modanisa, a Turkish-based e-commerce platform that is one of the largest players in today’s market.Founded in 2012 by Kerim Ture, Modanisa sells Islamic clothing to about 60 countries. More than 200 Islamic fashion brands offer their goods on the platform. Consumers find what they want, order it, and it is delivered to their home.”I remember when I realised there was this incredible need,” Ture says. “I went to a restaurant for a dinner and sitting next to me there was a 20-something girl and her mother dressed in the exact same way. There was no way they did not want different things to reflect their style.”