Known for pushing boundaries and leading the next generation of modest fashion, Ozlem Sahin, co-founder of Modest Fashion Week, without a doubt has become a force to reckon with. By carefully selecting designers all across the globe and bringing the most prominent industry stakeholders together in one platform, Satin focuses on removing the misconceptions that lie within the industry and bringing awareness to modest wear.
Grazia spoke exclusively with Ozlem Sahin on the inspiration behind Modest Fashion Week, the future of the industry and the changes she’s seen since the launch of DMW.
What inspired you to start Dubai Modest Fashion Week? Did you see a demand for it?
Modesty itself was my biggest inspiration. In my country, 75% of women wear modest clothing, and when you look at the available options in the market, you really don’t see enough options. Once I realised it was the same for other regions back in 2015, we decided to focus on a new, inclusive, prestigious platform that brings all the modest fashion industry stakeholders together. That means the global Modest Fashion Week journey started from a “need”. Since 2015, we have created solutions for the industry with designers, buyers, media, influencers, and modest fashion lovers.
What does dressing modestly mean to you?
Dressing modestly means reflecting myself from the very inside out. Modesty itself is an attitude, elegance and comfort. Covering my body brings more focus to my real beauty instead of one type of beauty standard. It also means freedom that comes from choosing what you want instead of what the industry offers to you.
What would you say the biggest misconception about modest dressing is?
The biggest misconception is seeing modest fashion as non-trendy, thinking of it as a niche market and matching it to only one type of cultural and religious background. Modest fashion is for every woman, ranging from royal families, businesswomen to fashionistas and mothers.
Does wearing fashionable modest clothing take away the true meaning of modesty?
Not at all. Every single woman deserves to feel good about themselves, and I believe modest fashion is fashionable from its nature. When you cover your body more, you begin to mix and match pieces, hijabs, turbans, and accessories—allowing you to customise and express yourself through your wardrobe.
What contributions do you think you have made to this industry?
To start, we have shown that modest fashion is inclusive; it does not belong to a particular type of background. That is why we’ve used the “Modest Fashion Week” wording for the first time in fashion literature. We defined the standards of modest wear. We deserve a prestigious platform like Paris, New York, or Milan Fashion Week, and that is what we give our precious modest fashion industry.
Lastly, we are the one-stop solution for global expansion. It is important to bring all the industry stakeholders in one platform and explore international business opportunities.
Why did you choose to focus on regional designers?
For us, it is important to represent the diversity of global Modest Fashion Weeks, which is why we carefully select the designers from five continents out of 20 countries. In those selections, there are regional designers as host designers. Still, we also have other participants from Europe to America, Asia and Africa. One of the main targets for the events is to see global trends of modest fashion, which is why we focus on being inclusive and worldwide.
In your opinion, why is it so important for young women everywhere to see modest fashion on the runways?
The young generation are the trendsetters for the industry, and in modest fashion, we have a lot of trendsetters that have the power to shape the industry. Once consumers see modest fashion styles worldwide, it will bring confidence and power to the women who want to be fashionable and modest.
Have you seen any changes in the fashion industry? If so, what would they be?
The fashion industry changes every single day, and it will constantly change depending on our needs and priorities. One of the most significant movements in the fashion industry is focused on sustainability, inclusivity, and consciousness, especially throughout the pandemic. It helped individuals think differently and begin to question their values. We believe a new fashion era started after the pandemic, which is why this year’s theme is “Awakening”.
What do you hope Dubai Modest Fashion Week says to women around the world?
That you are amazing just the way you are and that the fashion industry should adapt itself to you, not the other way around. Be bold when it comes to your values and dreams. Explore and enjoy the beauty of modesty and modest fashion.