For one fashion entrepreneur, selling clothes goes beyond retail. She wants her brand to speak of empowerment, freedom and the strength of being a woman, writes Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan
IF there is one local brand whose aim is to dress the working female Muslim woman, it is Love to Dress (LtD). Its emphasis is clear in all of its clothes.
Its pants are wide and lined so the colour is opaque, not see-through, when you walk. Its lining fabric is viscose, because soft fabrics feel better against the skin.
Its blouses are longer at the back to hide the backside and have short zippers at its sleeves so women can have a sleek sleeve silhouette without compromising their ease to perform ablution.
And colours? Well, let’s just say LtD shoppers are the colour-muted kind, with a palette of beiges, white, browns and black dominating their wardrobe.
“Most clothing brands don’t serve the female Muslims’ needs,” says creative director Asma’ Nasaruddin, who, before heading her own fashion label with her sister Sumayyah, was a fashion writer and head buyer at FashionValet, in-between helping her mother run their cake business, Gateauxlicious.
“We provide zippers and lining for comfort and ease, and cuts to flatter but not reveal, so you don’t feel so conscious about yourself,” she says over a cup of latte a few hours after she landed in KLIA after attending the London Modest Fashion Week (LMFW) in late February.
“I think Muslims in Malaysia take our numbers and freedom for granted, which isn’t the case with Muslims in Europe, who are the minority. The reason LMFW got a huge response, despite the hiccups and was being held for the first time, was that Muslims gravitate to labels that speak to them,” she says.
“Other foreign labels speak to the rest of the population, so when brands come along to say they understand the Muslim woman’s clothing needs, they will get noticed. And while there is no demarcation between clothes for Muslims and non-Muslims, with high street labels, you still need to layer up and fabrics may not be lined. These details are small, but these gestures separate us from the rest.”
The first release of the brand’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection hit FashionValet late last month and some items sold out within a day, a testament that Shariah-compliant clothes have their own market which is rather underserved for now.
“The urban Muslimah wear is a big market and we are far from reaching its peak. I hope that LtD will organically grow to serve this market and maybe grow to be as big as Inayah (the UK label for Muslim women),” she says.
The brand, which started 3½ years ago, has evolved in looks, Asma’ says, but its message is still the same — that Muslim women, even while covering their bodies, can still look tailored and chic.
“When we first launched, we had a collection of paisley prints, worlds away from our muted shades now. From a personal viewpoint, I like that we have grown to look more poised and mature,” she says.
The brand aims to be a successful fast fashion label and to do that, it learns marketing tricks from some of the world’s biggest retailers like Zara and H&M.
LtD drops its collection every two weeks, so it takes about three months to cover one season. To make production smoother, it plans to shift its production facility from China to Turkey for the speed and quality the latter offers.
This year’s Spring/Summer line is the second collection where the brand offers separates. Previously, its focus was mostly on dresses.
Asma’ says some of the colours they want on a certain fabric aren’t available, so they have to dye the fabrics with their own shades.
The collection, she says, is all about embracing femininity, so the brand offers long skirts for the first time, although Asma’ is mostly a pants person.
“We have the classic A-line and the pleated skirt in shades like peach, purple, taupe and icy grey. It’s our way of saying that you can wear pants and skirts and still be feminine in your own way.
“Only when you are confident of yourself can you hold your own and develop your own identity and strength,” she says.
I ask Asma’ if she finds it ironic that she is creating substance in an area that is often perceived as superficial - the business of selling clothes.
“We have never looked at clothes as superficial because they are not. They form a person’s identity and they speak of a person’s attitude, leanings and preference. There’s a lot of substance in identity. It’s just a matter of finding it,” she says.
**About Love to Dress**
@lovetodess (60.3k followers)
Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur
Fashion Valet and Modvier stores in Bangsar
RM150 to RM400
Tailored-fit wear that is sleek, feminine and functional, structured yet comfortable
Dresses and loose pants
Themed Elegant, Feminine Flair, it is for the ladies who show their strength through softness and compassion. Skirt is offered for the first time.