A 2010 study by the marketing firm Ogilvy Noor reports that the American Muslim consumer market is worth $170 billion and Modesty Defined Islamic Fashion Council (MDIFC) want a chunk of that to go to Muslim fashion designers.
Eight designers’ collections of modest Islamic fashion walked the runway on February 15, 2014 at the Hilton in Alexandria, promoting Made in America, creative talents of American based Muslim designers to an all woman audience. Outfits by Qadira Muhammad of Qadira Qreations, NOOR Couture by Noor, LaMerveille by KD by Kadiatou Diallo, DOLS Designs by Ivette Nouti, Akilah's Fashions by Akilah Baynes, Snazzy Fashionz by Tamiya Mitchells, AK Designs by Anisa Karim and showstopper, Muslim Diva by Hadiya Weeks rocked the professional runway arranged by Skalli Entertainment. The event was styled by Tahira Muhammad of Styles By Tahira.
A snowstorm and the MIST weekend thinned the crowd, but the social media hype took the outfits off the ramp and into potential customers hands.
The Modesty Defined Islamic Fashion Council was formed to connect aspiring American Muslim designers with the information, knowledge and skills they need to become competitive with the mainstream fashion industry; “so they can navigate their careers intelligently,” says Romana Kerns Muhammad, of Landover, MD, the founder of MDIFC.
She has a background that spans more than 28 years in the fashion industry: 18 in fashion modeling, seven years of actual modeling, including runway, and the rest in model coaching, development and management. From models, to stylists, everyone needs to understand that every aspect of the industry is to promote a designer, voices Muhammad. This is not just entertainment, she adds as fashion shows have traditionally been viewed in the American Muslim community.
Fashion is known as one of the toughest businesses to break into. “We establish a rapport with industry professionals active in mainstream fashion industry and build a relationship between them and our emerging designers,” shares Muhammad. All the designers who showed at the USA Islamic Week attended a session ‘Getting your Collection Retail Ready’ with Melissa McGraw, of the Fashion Potential. She taught them how to approach the buyers, what to say and exposed them to tools such as line sheets which catalog key elements that retail buyers look for.
Another technical session that MDIFC arranged for them was with New York City designer Nzinga Knight, on “How to Price Your Design: Retail Math?’, explaining points such as gross markup and wholesale pricing of garments.
Muhammad noticed a troubling trend in the Muslim fashion industry in the compromise of principles of hijab. “There are seven principles of hijab that we try to promote, such as covering of the hair and neck, thickness of material, or covering of body shapes,” she says. To show the garment employing all the principles of Islamic modesty, especially with a khimar (headscarf) is the standard the council adheres to and is trying to promote nationally. MDIFC works to bridge the gap between modest and Islamic Fashion. Among the seven principles is adhering to the permissibility of a woman’s appearance in public because images from events are posted on the world wide web.
There are some challenges, but MDIFC tries to make sure they work with models and staff that feels the same way. That is not always the case as Muhammad experienced on the day of the show when some models chose not to wear the modest outfits. The show went smoothly as Muslim models stepped up to the plate.
Komita Carrington is the co-founder, COO and Vice President of the council. MDIFC is currently seeking other board members and operations team members , they recently brought on board Dr. Deanna Khalil of Abaya Addict as board member for Designer Development e-commerce and Iesha Prime as advisor on fiqh issues of hijab.
Iesha Prime spoke at the show about the importance of having a council represent Muslim values. “When you wear hijab, you declare that you are about Allah, about Deen,” said Prime. Muslim women of color need to define who they are, without the fashion industry defining them and the community needs to supply our basic needs including food and clothing. “You are buying clothes, why shouldn’t those dollars stay in the Muslim community?” she asked the audience.
USA Islamic Fashion Week is a biannual event to showcase the work of the designer MDIFC readies, but the work of the council is not limited to the Fashion week. “We will work with other platform to help our designers get as much exposure, as long as we can affirm our principles will not be compromised,” mentions Muhammad. MDIFC, recently became the official US partner to coordinate American designers who will represent the US in the World Islamic Fashion Week in Muscat, Oman in December 2014, where 57 countries from around the world will showcase Islamic Fashion.
MDIFC seeks to also connect seamstresses, pattern makers, manufacturers, photographers, dressmakers, and stylists in the Muslim community to each other.
They have compiled a list of manufacturers who are willing to lower the minimum orders for MDIFC designers, allowing our designers to combine the minimum order so they are ready when approached by a buyer. Additionally they have compiled a list of other industry resources and personnel available only to MDIFC members.
Akila Baynes, the lead Designer Coordinator for the show, runs her boutique in New Jersey. She and other designers report that they can not keep up with their orders after the show. Muslim Diva’s Facebook and email are troussued with custom-orders. This experience has made them aware of what they need to work on in becoming ready for retail orders while currently servicing a boutique-level clientele. One of the objectives of MDIFC is to help designers understand where they are in the product movement pipeline - whether or not they are ready for retails buyers or need to focus on boutique sales while developing their product and resource levels. As they get grounded with smaller orders, they can move up to the next level.
The exposure through MDIFC is just the blessed boost they needed to ramp them up from their local markets to a national audience.