The fashion world at large is beginning to clue in to the existence of a billion dollar market that’s, up to this point, been largely ignored by mainstream fashion houses. You can read up on the reluctance to be publicly associated with anything ‘Muslim’ in this article by Reina Lewis where she examines the move to accept Contemporary Muslim Fashions, which is also the title of her book. The modest wear industry is a rapidly expanding industry, not least because Islam is a religion practised by more than a billion people worldwide.
But it’s not just in fashion that catering to the Muslim “halal” requirements have resulted in booming growth and increased demand for product. Halal, by the way, refers to the permissibility of things in Arabic which is a language intrinsically associated with the religion of Islam.
The average consumer is familiar with the word as it applies to food preparation and the inclusion of alcohol or meat not slaughtered in the particular fashion that the religion specifies. Surprisingly enough, the “halal” label is now being used on a variety of products, most notably make up! There are now several brands which offer beauty products catering specifically for the Muslim market.
It seems almost like “halal” is the new vegan, with every second company slapping on the label so as to seem more inclusive. It can’t be denied, however, that this kind of marketing works. While certain of these products, apparently especially the ranges of “halal” nail polishes that have hit the market have come under fire by Muslim bloggers and companies like this one, they’re still turning tidy profits.
The obvious reasoning behind this phenomenon is the large number of people who practise Islam but is there anything deeper to it? In recent years, modest fashion has found its way onto catwalks and in stores but while sometimes sales soar, at others times stores are left with tons of product that can’t be moved.
For companies wanting to expand into this new and ever-growing market, it’s vital to be able to decode the wants and desires of their target market – how will they appeal, how will they make themselves stand out from the competition. To be ultimately successful, it’s vital to have an inside source.
Many companies are partnering with or hiring innovate young Muslims to help steer forward these new ventures, assuming (often correctly) that they will be uniquely equipped to sell to a market they themselves also form part of. In a time when Muslim people are dominating the diversity conversation, this kind of inclusive eye gains a company credibility and bolsters their reputation, both of which can be just as valuable as the best advertising money can buy if they’re used properly.
The biggest mistake any company can make when trying to make their way into this market is to buy into the stereotype of Muslim. With Islamophobia fairly rife in many countries, tensions are high and it’s very easy to make a misstep that would be disastrous and impossible to recover from. We live in a time where sensitivity readers make a pretty penny and that reflects the care required when feeling out this market.
Muslims are used to supporting their own and persuading them into deviating from that habit requires a careful hand. But, looking at the enormous potential in that still-growing market, it’s safe to say that investing here has the potential for excellent returns if done right.