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Business  18, Mar 2014

Fashion & faith: How Indonesia is becoming the Muslim fashion capital

Indonesia is touted as the Muslim fashion capital. With Muslim apparel finding shelf in the online marketplace, can Indonesia spread fashion to the world?

According to Muslim religious beliefs, “women must dress modestly and draw their veils over their bodies” (Quran 24:30-31). That however, doesn’t mean that a devout Muslim and adhering to religious suggestions cannot look fashionable. So what happens in a country of a population of 248 million and when 85 per cent of them are Muslims?

Unique combination of fashion and faith
Well, the answer is a unique combination of fashion and faith. and when the fashion world caters to religious demands, the result is nothing short of a big boom. The Muslim fashion industry in Indonesia is gaining a lot of traction, and this has led to the quintessential rise of the same in the e-commerce space too.

Tsiyaby.com, Saqina.com, HijUp.com and Zalora Indonesia are few websites that are trying to find niche within niches and cater to this segment online.

Saqina came up as an on-ground store catering to Muslim female fashion in a small town in East Java, in Indonesia, ten years ago. It was one of the first to see an opportunity in Muslim fashion and extend its offering online in 2008.

“A lot of people want to adhere to religious instructions, but at the same time they want to look chic,” says Mohamad Rosihan, CEO and Founder of Saqina.com, adding, “Today, there are more and more Muslim women wearing Muslim fashion. In recent years, we have observed a rise in Indonesian women who don the hijab (headscarf).”

Indonesia, according to Diajeng Lestari, CEO and Founder of Muslim fashion website HijUp.com, is expected to be the Muslim fashion trendsetter. “Our market will not be limited to Indonesian only,” says Lestari. According to a study by Pew research Centre, released in January 2011, Islam has 1.57 billion adherents. Around 62 per cent of of the world’s Muslims live in South and Southeast Asia. Indonesia alone is home to 12.7 per cent of the world’s Muslims.

Investors are equally interested
Andi S Boediman, Director, Ideosource, an incubator and venture capital in Indonesia, echoes Lestari’s words as he suggests, “Indonesia can lead in export and become the Muslim fashion capital of the world.”

Ideasource, early last year made an undisclosed amount of funding in Saqina. “We invested in Saqina because we feel it has tremendous potential for growth,” says Boediman.

Another driving factor for the rise in online Muslim fashion is the emergence of Muslim women communities like the Hijabers. Hijabers Community was founded in 2010, in Jakarta, Indonesia, by a group of 30 women, to share tips/experiences related to hijab & girls issues.

Also Read: Online space gives Indian women a reason to splurge in luxury lingerie

Lestari shares that HijUp attracts a big chunk of clientele from these communities. HijUp, derived from ‘hijab up’, claims to have 7,000 daily visitors, with 95 brands showcasing and average transaction of 100 per day. It claims its customers have grown two-fold since its launch in 2011. That’s just the tip of the iceberg considering Indonesia’s internet and e-commerce penetration currently.

There are just 71.19 million internet users in Indonesia, which makes for just 28 per cent of the Indonesia population. Yet, only 76 percent of internet users in Indonesia shopped online in 2013. Vela Asia pegs the current e-commerce market in Indonesia around US$8 billion, expecting it to be little more than triple (at US$ 25 billion).

Why should men be left out?
Interestingly, Zalora Indonesia also recently ventured into the space. And Zalora doesn’t just caters to Muslim female fashion. It has a wide range of apparels targeting the men too.

For that matter, Tsiyaby.com, another online apparel store, just caters to the Muslim men. Tsiyaby has products that provide a personal meaning to its wearers. According to Gaos Firdaus, Director of Tsiyaby.com, the website is trying to cater a “unique product” in “an overcrowded fashion industry in Bandung.”

Firdaus admits that though men are not as heavy spender as women, but Tsiyaby has managed to develop a niche and targeted market. “With our concept of limited edition, we gain a certain attention from our customer and we are growing well,” says Firdaus.

Eat, Pray, Tweet
So how are these websites reaching out to the customer? Social media is very popular in Indonesia; in fact, an article in The Economist describes the phenomenon as Eat, Pray, Tweet (derived from the popular movie title Eat, Pray, Love).

So it goes without saying that players in the e-commerce space must know how to engage customers via social media. Not only does social media help attract new clients, it is also responsible for setting fashion trends in Indonesia.

Lestari shares that HijUp is aggressively pursuing social media marketing. “There is a huge number of social media users in Indonesia. This is a great opportunity for us. We have presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube that we nurture everyday. We also have our own blog. Subsequently, our visitors are growing; people are becoming even more aware of our brand,” she says.

So what are you wearing tomorrow?

Meisia Chandra

Meisia Chandra

An explorer and a thinker. Writes on digi-tech industry in Indonesia. Also works as a digital strategist and digital media manager in Jakarta.

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