Believing in the vision that fashion and modesty are not opposites or reserved for royalty, in 2012, husband-wife duo James and Zahra A. co-founded modest fashion label ‘Mode-sty’ in Minneapolis, USA. The aim was not only to provide stylish modest fashion collection but also to unite the wide spectrum of modest women.
Zahra A., CEO and Co-founder, Mode-sty tells FashionUnited that sometime in future, Mode-sty wants to be a place where modest brands can offer their beautiful modest collections to women worldwide.
How and when did you start Mode-sty label dedicated to modest fashion?
I started Mode-sty because around that time there was no place to find stylish modest clothing. The modest clothing available in the market was quite dull and matronly.
What was the idea behind launching a modest line of clothing?
The idea is to showcase that you can look beautiful, elegant and even sexy while dressing modestly. Modesty doesn't mean black shapeless turtlenecks but it can be bold, colorful and modern.
Tell us more about yourself and Mode-sty label. Its designs, collections, price-points, retail presence etc
I'm an attorney by training and I practiced civil rights lawyer and estate planning. I started Mode-sty after seeing the rise of seemingly niche brands like Warby Parker famous for its hipster glasses and ModCloth known for its vintage-style clothing. I felt that if markets could support dedicated brands like these, then they would accept modest fashion brand as well. The modest market is larger, global and has a larger demand.
I started Mode-sty by showcasing collections of other modest labels that had the style and quality I wanted. When I felt that the offer was not enough, I started my own in-house label. Among the wide range of collections we offer, we have witnessed a steady demand for semi-formal wear on our platform. We operate in the mid-market price segment like Zara and Banana Republic.
Is the label only available online? How do you plan to expand Mode-sty’s presence in the near future?
Yes, the label is only online with occasional pop-up shops in California, New York and Minneapolis. We plan to expand by increasing the number of designer collections we carry to serve customers across the world.
Tell us more about the company's production capacity and various collections created under the company’s umbrella.
We work with small and big designers. Some have a large capacity and others can provide customization. Our in house label is produced in LA and China.
What has been the consumer response and is it confined to consumers of a particular faith?
The consumer response has been wonderful. Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, Christian and women of other or no faith have all shopped with us. What we've learnt is that it is hard for anyone to find stylish clothing with more coverage. I have women who are looking for dresses with sleeves to cover up tattoos when they go for an interview. I have another customer who dresses modestly not for religious reasons but because of her skin’s sensitivity to sun rays. What we've found is that there is a great need in general for stylish modest fashion. Many of today's fashion trends revolve around revealing clothes and that leaves women with very few options.
What is the current turnover of Mode-sty? How do you aim to increase sales and where do you foresee Mode-sty five years down the line?
We are a small company which means we can adapt quickly. We are working to increase our sales through a marketing package we won in the BlogHer Pitch competition, partnering with Parsons to secure more partnerships.
There is a vast difference between faith and fashion. Fashion is said to be consumerist but faith is in a way against consumerism. How does modest fashion deal with this issue?
Faith and fashion go together. One's faith informs how you dress. In the case of religious or observant women dressing in a way that communicates the respect, you have for God, yourself and those you'll be interacting with. Women of faith are encouraged to look good, showcase and honor themselves and God with a beautiful appearance. It shows an appreciation for the life and body, God has given us and reminds others that we should value ourselves.
What do you think of the current state of modest fashion with a lot of brands and designers getting into this segment?
It's wonderful to see all the activity and attention in the modest fashion space. What we are looking for now is more mainstream adoption. There have been a few token gestures but we need to see more modest lines and modest models.
Where according to you is modest fashion headed with controversies surrounding the attire vis-à-vis western brands creating dedicated modest fashion collections?
Whenever you go into a new market there is a learning curve. Western brands need to know that they can't do it alone. They must involve the modest fashion community so that they can get it right. It is analogous to the plus size market, there have been many missteps with addressing their needs. Those mistakes can only be avoided when the community being served has a seat at the decision-making table.