IZZY CAMMARERI 06 November, 2017
THE MODIST; THE E-COMMERCE VENTURE TAKING OVER THE MIDDLE EAST
Exchanging thoughts and ideas with Mary Katrantzou at this year’s Fashion Forward Dubai, Ghizlan Guenez - founder of revolutionary e-commerce platform, The Modist - revealed how she is on a mission to transform societal perceptions of modesty and why her latest venture was a necessary pursuit.
Carefully curated with some of the most coveted and groundbreaking labels from around the world, The Modist is far more than your average shopping website. Championing modesty and individuality without prescribing rules or a specific way of dressing, it prides itself as a movement - a philosophy of style that encourages confidence, self-empowerment and remaining true to personal values. The platform also offers a monthly publication called The MOD, which spotlights inspirational pacemakers, celebrates unequivocal style, and brings to light thought-provoking issues on feminism and diversity.
With a careful edit of established labels such as Mary Katrantzou, Christopher Kane, Marni and Alberta Feretti, younger, emerging labels are hand-selected on the basis that they can sit beautifully adjacent to them. "There’s an expectation of these [newer] designers to make their own mark and to produce collections that are cohesive and beautifully produced in a beautiful quality” explained Guenez at Fashion Forward Dubai. Some of the younger talents include the likes of Ellery, Ganni, Rejina Pyo, Madiyah Al Sharqi, Esteban Cortazar and Stine Goya.
The first of its kind, the luxury digital platform was created to fill a gap in the market where women were struggling to find shopping destinations for modest dressing, with equal offerings of quality, style, taste and fashion forward design. Prior to fashion, Guenez worked for over 10 years in private equity at The Abraaj Group, accumulating an expertise in brand development, partnership-building and launching sustainability programmes in emerging markets - a combination that helped her cultivate a business acumen in a league of its own. She evolved with The Abraaj Group as they grew from startup to one of the largest equity groups in growing markets.
Revealing the roots of The Modist, Guenez noted that being part of the success story of The Abraaj Group instilled within her the right skills to make The Modist happen, though the idea mostly came from a personal place. Growing up in a household of women, each with different backgrounds and dressing modestly for different reasons, Guenez explained “some of us are professionals and find it more appropriate to dress in a modest way, other are religious and wear the Hijab, but we all love fashion and find it frustrating to shop and find pieces that are beautiful, that speak to us and are relevant to us. There are millions of women out there who dress modestly, across faiths, across backgrounds, age groups and sizes”. Guenez went on to note that there was "not one platform that could speak to them in the luxury space, in a manner that is elegant and that is fashion forward. The premise of The Modist is to create this inclusive platform that is beyond just the commercial; a platform that brings together diverse women through a common thread”.
The first steps for Guenez were researching and understanding the business and customer. She explained that the first six months of development were solely dedicated to traveling and talking to women, "trying to understand what it is that they are looking for; what’s their shopping experience; where are the frustrations; what designers do they like.” She also discovered that many consumers, marketers and brands held generalised misconceptions of modesty, noting that “when you talk about modesty and when you speak of that concept, it is not necessarily something that is known, and when it is known it’s not necessarily perceived the right way. It’s a certain look, a certain woman, a certain religion and region that instantly comes to mind across the board.”
Guenez therefore set out to create a space that could impart a fresh understanding of the concept of modesty, revealing that “the minute you show them visuals and your interpretation of what it is and how you’re going to take that brand and make it relevant to the woman you’re speaking to, especially a woman who represents a large segment of the market, there’s actually a shift from apprehension to excitement”.
Refering to The Modist’s collaboration with rising It model, Halima Aiden - a Somalian refugee and the first Hijabi to walk the runway - Guenez stressed that they would continue to work with models or with women who wear the Hijab, as well as working with "older women, with curvy women and women who are not necessarily in the limelight and who are unknown; women of substance who bring something to the table in their own way”. Guenez’s mission to champion diversity and inclusion is distinctly apparent in the way The Modist features women of all backgrounds, sizes and ages from multiple angles; from editorial features to campaigns and especially through the international range of designers available to consumers. "The Modist is truly about diversity and to really showcase real women in our industry. We are portraying more of the reality of who the woman is as opposed to one beauty, one size”, Guenez divulged.
Designers who have wholesale showrooms currently open-to-ORDRE:
ANGEL CHEN, PAULA MENDOZA, GOYA, DIANE VON FURSTENBERG, Sid Neigum FFWD, JENNIFER BEHR, LES INCOMPÉTENTS, AGNESKOVACS, Anna K. FFWD, Designer ORDRE, Eudon Choi FFWD, LARA KHOURY, Madiyah Al Sharqui FFWD, OBIstudio
ORDRE is an online wholesale showroom for the luxury fashion industry that allows wholesale orders to be placed and managed through sophisticated yet easy to use technology.