The business of Islamic fashion

ASEAN's Muslim population at 236 million (14%) makes "stylish yet respectful" Islamic fashion quite a high-potential market.

Islamic fashion

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Stylish yet respectful, Thai Islamic garment makers are anxious to show that Musslim women's fashion need not be dull by Phusadee Arunmas


Some people might find it difficult to think of "fashion" and "Muslim women's garments" together, as such clothing is generally perceived as a monochromatically black, as seen from the abaya, which is the cloak or robe-like dress worn.

Ratiya Wongsagniam, the owner of the Huda Indian-style garment shop in Bo Bae market, is looking to increase exports to high-potential markets such as the Middle East with modern designs, such as the swimwear at left, that still comply with religious guidelines.

But Thai Islamic-garment producers find that fashion is in the eye of the beholder, so there is plenty of opportunity to serve this market.

This is especially true in Asean countries, where 236 million people are Muslim.

Ratiya Wongsagniam, the owner of the Huda Indian-style garment shop in Bo Bae market, is trying to capture a larger share of the exports to high-potential markets in Asia, especially the Middle East.

Previously, the shop sold mainly to local customers, achieving 6 million baht in sales last year.

Huda specialises in modern designs that can be mixed and matched while still following religious guidelines strictly. Therefore, its distinction from more traditional Muslim garments are in fabric texture and details of the finished products.

For example, Ms Ratiya said a hijab (Islamic headscarf) may be made from denim, while a black abaya may feature handmade embroidery.

Huda finds it can tap a wider group of customers in this way despite fierce competition from cheap imports from China, whose hijabs start at 50 baht while the shop sells theirs for about 200 baht, she said. South Korea is another rising competitor in the export market, especially in Middle East countries.

Usa Jalayanateja, the owner of Uzaal Dress in Bangkok's Prawet district, started her business two years ago, specialising in Indonesian and Middle East styles.

Her company sells garments made only in accordance with religious guidelines but featuring more international styles.

Uzaal Dress is now studying the swimwear market, for which Thailand stands ready to supply untapped markets with materials and designs.

"Swimsuits can respond to the needs of a new generation. However, the government should disseminate information on market demand by Muslims in other countries, as Thai entrepreneurs lack knowledge about this area," said Ms Usa.

Jakarin Srimoon, director of the SEA-LAC Trade Center at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, found in his own research that a strong potential exists for Islamic garments in Asean.

About 14% of Asean's population is Muslim, with Indonesia and Malaysia the main centres for such products.

The SEA-LAC Trade Center suggests Thai producers join with local partners in target markets to establish themselves.

"If Thailand can supply high-quality Muslim women's garments, then it can serve customers with high purchasing power," said Dr Jakarin

Last year, the global Islamic garment industry was valued at US$96 billion.

There are 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide with average spending of $120 per head per year, prompting international brands to target this niche.

(Source: Bangkok Post, Stylish yet respectful, Thai Islamic garment makers are anxious to show that Muslim women's fashion need not be dull, 23/06/2011, Phusadee Arunmas, link

Fashion Marketing Vocabulary

fashion -
an activity involving styles of clothes and personal appearance (See Wikipedia)

Islam (noun) - the name of the major world religion (See Wikipedia)
Islamic (adjective) 
Muslim (noun, adjective) - a person who has Islam as their religion 

hijab (Islamic headscarf) - 1. the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women, and 2. modest styles of dress for women in general (See Wikipedia and list)
scarf - a piece of cloth worn around the neck or over the head, often to keep warm (See Wikipedia)

abaya -  a black long cloak or robe worn by women in the Islamic world, it "covers the whole body except the face, feet, and hands. It can be worn with the niqāb, a face veil covering all but the eyes. Some women choose to wear long black gloves, so their hands are covered as well. The Indonesian and Malaysian women's kebaya, gets its name from the abaya" (See Wikipedia)

cloak -
a long loose sleeveless piece of clothing worn over other clothes when a person goes outside (See Wikipedia)

mono- ... -
having one ... (of something)
monochrome -
having one color 
monochromatically black -
has one colour black; all black

style (noun) - 1. the design of something such as clothes or furniture; 2. the way that something is done or presented which shows who or what something is (identity) and how they feel about the world (attitude); 3. being smart, elegant and different from others 
stylish (adjective) - being smart, elegant and different from others 

respect
(noun) - 1. having a good opinion of some person or thing; 2. behaving in a polite way towards people
respectful (adjective) 

garments - clothes, clothing
X anxious to Y - person or group X are worried and so want to do Y
worn - damaged by continuous use, rubbing or movement ซึ่งใช้จนเก่า, ซึ่งใช้จนเสื่อม

dull - boring, not interesting or exciting
need not be dull -
doesn't need to boring
perceive X as Y - people believe or have the opinion that X is Y

potential - the possibility of success ที่มีศักยภาพ ที่เป็นไปได้
high-potential markets - groups of customers   
swimwear -
clothing that people wear to the beach and pool; swim suits (

religious
guidelines - rules that religious authorities order or suggest followers to follow
comply - follow rules; do what a rule or law says ; obey laws, do not break the rules ปฏิบัติตามกฎระเบียบ ปฏิบัติตาม (กฎหมาย, ข้อเสนอ, etc.)
guidelines - rules to help guide action แนวทาง นโยบาย

beholder -
a person looking at something
beauty is in the eye of the beholder -
meaning: everyone has their own ideas about what is "beautiful"
X is in the eye of the beholder - the definition of X depends on who is defining X

plenty
- having lots of,  more than enough อุดมสมบูรณ์
opportunity - a situation when it is possible to do something that you want to do (See glossary)

capture - get, gain, obtain
share (verb) - to have or use something at the same time as someone else ใช้ร่วมกัน
share (noun) - a part of something

capture a share of a market -
gain a part or percentage of the customers buying a product
capture market share - same as "capture a share of a market"
local - in this country (here: Thailand)

specialise in - work in a very small area that requires special knowledge or skills
mix and match -
to change the elements you are using in some activity to make compatible combinations, for example, in fashion to combine different clothes to make a stylish combination (See Wiktionary)

strictly
- completely อย่างเข้มงวด
following religious guidelines strictly - doing exactly what the religious rules tell you to do

distinction - the difference between two things, in the case the difference between the executive and legislative branches of government ความแตกต่างระหว่างสองสิ่ง
traditional - things (clothes, music, customs, etc.) that have been part of a country or society for a long time

fabric
- material used to make clothes
texture - the quality of something that can be decided by touch เนื้อ

denim - the material used to make jeans, a rugged cotton textile (See Wikipedia) ยีนส์
feature - to include someone or something as an important part ทำให้เด่น

handmade
- not made by machines in a factory
embroidery - the activity of stitching designs onto cloth (See Wikipedia)

tap - 1. use; 2. get access to
tap a wider group of customers - get access to a wider group of customers (in order to sell your product to them)

untapped - 1. unused, not yet used; 2. not accessed yet
untapped markets - group of customers that the company has not tried to win over to their product yet

fierce - very intense and very aggressive
fierce competition - very intense and aggressive competition
competitor - a person, team or company that is competing against others ผู้แข่งขัน, คู่แข่ง

in accordance with religious guidelines
- following religious rules

international - ระหว่างประเทศ between countries
international styles - styles that are popular in many companies (and many cultures: European, Asian and Muslim, for example)

respond - to say or do something as a reaction to something that has been said or done ตอบสนอง, ตอบรับ
respond to the needs of - doing something to meet or "satisfy" the needs of a person, especially a "customer"
generation - a group of people in society who are born and live around the same time รุ่น (คนรุ่นต่างๆ)

disseminate
- to spread or give out something, especially news, information, ideas, etc., to a lot of people เผยแพร่
disseminate information - spread information, make information available to the public

market demand
- the need and desire to buy goods and services by households and businesses
entrepreneurs - business people เจ้าของกิจการ
lack - do not have ขาดแคลน

population - all the people who live in a country, city or area

partners - the companies owning part of the joint venture หุ้นส่วน

target
- a goal เป้าหมาย
target markets - the markets (groups of customers) that a company wants to get as customers

establish - to start a company or organization that will likely continue for a long time สถาปนา, ก่อตั้ง, จัดตั้ง

high purchasing power - a group of people that have a lot of money to spend on things
global - throughout the world ทั่วโลก

prompting - causing
brands - products with well-established names that people remember, that create a certain image and expectations about the product
niche - a small specialized area (or here: small highly specialized market for goods or services)

About the author

columnist
Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer