Making Muslim women look and feel good

muslimah-fashionPETALING JAYA: Muslimah fashion industry players in Malaysia have noticed that Muslim women in the country have become increasingly fashion conscious, giving them new challenges.

Their observations are in line with a recent report by marketing portal Mumbrella Asia, which cited a study titled “The New Muslimah: Southeast Asia Focus”. The study found that Muslim women in Southeast Asia were becoming not only increasingly cosmopolitan but also more religiously observant, creating both opportunities and challenges for market players in the region.

The survey, carried out by the Asia unit of J Walter Thompson’s Innovation Group, took into account the views of 500 Muslim women in Indonesia and 500 in Malaysia.

FMT contacted a company selling prayer garments for women (telekung), a T-shirt company and a company selling Muslimah clothing and asked them to comment on the challenges they faced.

Telekung TEA owner Areej Torla said the increasingly fashion conscious market did not pose much of a challenge for her. Most of the time, she said, it was just a matter of tweaking the colours and motifs of her telekung.

However, she acknowledged that it was still important to keep up-to-date with the latest fashion trends.

“Sometimes, women prefer pastel colours during a particular period, and we also have to ensure that the motifs on the telekung are in line with current trends.”

On the other hand, Mardiah Mat Saad, who runs a company selling T-shirts for Muslim women, said business had become increasingly difficult for her.

Mardiah, who operates Hilyah Designs with members of her family, said T-shirts weren’t exactly what fashion conscious customers were interested in most of the time.

“When you’re talking about women’s fashion, you usually mean dresses and blouses,” she said. “You don’t really think about T-shirts.

“It’s extremely difficult to market our T-shirts to those who are fashion conscious and most of the customers we do get are loyal customers who are more interested in the quality of the cloth as opposed to fashion.”

She said Hilyah’s T-shirts were made of cotton to enable better sweat absorption.

“We cannot focus on those who are fashion conscious,” she said. “Our focus is more on the simple Muslim women who think about practicality over fashion.”

The owner of Gadis Kurung, who declined to be named, told FMT that her challenge didn’t lie in keeping up with trends, but in competing with celebrities who had gone into the fashion industry.

“Trends are easy to follow,” she said. “The real challenge is that most of the Muslim women here are not only fashion-conscious, but also brand-conscious.

“They prefer to buy clothes sold by famous celebrities than those sold by small unknown players.

“That’s why many who want to run their own businesses will try to get some sort of fame first and you see this happening most frequently on Instagram.”

Muslim women in Southeast Asia a unique challenge for marketers