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Nabilah Kariem, Khadija Mahmoud and Hafsah Mohammed find sartorial joy in the intersection of their cultural, religious and aesthetic values.

By Innocent Ndlovu

Apr 29, 2022

Modest fashion, or the art of dressing in concealing clothes for religious or stylistic preferences, has been called by experts the “next big fashion movement.” In Islam, modest fashion is associated with conventional garments such as kaftans, hijab (head covering), or abaya (a loose-fitting, full-length garment worn by Muslim women). While this is still a tradition, a younger generation of Muslim women is approaching modest style with a new perspective, which allows them to express their individual preferences and dynamic fashion sense. Vogue Business suggests that this shift in modest dressing codes may be due to social media and a youthful Muslim population. Using clever styling techniques, these days modest dressers create innovative looks by layering and mixing pieces from activewear, contemporary, and high-end fashion brands, for example, wearing a high-waist satin skirt with a cropped, long-sleeved sweater, a sophisticated, luxurious gown with leggings or a pants suit with sneakers.

While African luxury designers aren’t necessarily making clothing specifically for Muslim women, they offer garments that modest women may wear. On the continent, organizations such as Ghana Modest Fashion Week and the Islamic Fashion & Design Council are working to bring modest fashion to new and bigger audiences. Stella Bgegbem, general manager at Ghana Modest Fashion Week, believes there’s still a divide between modest and mainstream fashion. “There’s a gap,” she tells Industrie Africa. “It’s a market we are trying to introduce [to the mainstream]. It’s not yet [fully] established,” she explains. While Bgegbem notes that modest fashion is a relatively small industry, the last few years have introduced many fashion influencers within the modest market. Pushing the boundaries of what modesty can be in the 21st century, these influencers are combining their values with their passion for fashion to create their own powerful personal brands.

Industrie Africa spoke to three rising modest fashion influencers about their style and journey.

Nabilah Kariem 

South Africa

With a background in fashion design and styling, South Africa’s Nabilah Kariem is a full-time fashion influencer who launched her career seven years ago. With 130 000 Instagram followers and appearances on local TV productions and campaigns, she’s known as a trailblazer and one of the leading voices in modest fashion in her home country. Working with her husband, her creative partner, Kariem has collaborated with various brands, including Coach, Armani Beauty, Adidas, and Samsung, and appeared in a Vogue Arabia feature. Naturally drawn to neutral colors and elevated essentials such as knitwear and semi-casual separates, Kariem mixes her love for ultra-feminine, elegant dresses with athleisure pieces and colorful suiting effortlessly, going from an oversized shirt and sleeveless vest to a luxurious, show-stopping gown.



1. What does modest fashion mean to you?

I don’t live in a world where showing my hair or my body is even a consideration. When I express myself through fashion, I try my best to stay within my religion's boundaries. The industry categorizes this as “modest fashion,” but it’s just fashion.

2. What inspires the way you dress?

Different things. [It can be] a moment, a designer, a specific piece of clothing, or a film.

3. How would you describe your personal style?

To be honest, I haven’t fully found my personal style yet but I’m into clean and classic pieces in mostly neutral colors. For me, it’s all about the silhouette. I’ve also been enjoying adding at least one vintage piece to my outfits. 

4. What’s your favorite item of clothing and why? 

A vintage light blue oversized blazer I found while thrifting. It’s simple in style, but I love how bold the color is. It’s a unique piece you won’t see anyone else wearing.

5. How do you navigate staying trendy while maintaining your values and religious beliefs? 

The most important thing is understanding that your values and religious beliefs are non-negotiable. While fashion is important and something that I’m personally passionate about, it is ultimately a vehicle for self-expression. What I would like to express the most about myself, among many other things, are my values and religious beliefs.

Agiliga Shirt Dress
Agiliga Shirt Dress
Agiliga Shirt Dress
Agiliga Shirt Dress
Agiliga Shirt Dress
Agiliga Shirt Dress
Agiliga Shirt Dress
Agiliga Shirt Dress

Fruché

Agiliga Shirt Dress

$500
Patchwork Shirt
Patchwork Shirt
Patchwork Shirt
Patchwork Shirt
Patchwork Shirt
Patchwork Shirt
Patchwork Shirt
Patchwork Shirt

IAMISIGO

Patchwork Shirt

$297
For Alyx Smart Lounge Set
For Alyx Smart Lounge Set
For Alyx Smart Lounge Set
For Alyx Smart Lounge Set
For Alyx Smart Lounge Set
For Alyx Smart Lounge Set

Pepper Row

For Alyx Smart Lounge Set

$500
Gil Boots
Gil Boots
Gil Boots
Gil Boots
Gil Boots
Gil Boots

Maliko

Gil Boots

$700

Photo: via @nabilahkariem

Photo: via @nabilahkariem

Photo: via @nabilahkariem

Khadija Mahmoud

Kenya 

Kenyan native Khadija Mahmoud started paying particular attention to and experimenting with her style in 2013, which she says was the first time she wore a headcover. “I didn’t always feel comfortable wearing a hijab, but when I began, it just stuck with me,” she confesses. Mahmoud’s style growing up was “tomboy fashion” of casual, baggy clothes. Her journey as a modest fashion influencer began during her university days. “I turned to photography as an escape, and that’s when I started experimenting with new ways to style my hijab, taking pictures, and creating a blog.” An architect and interior designer by profession, she splits her time practicing architecture and documenting her style. Mahmoud describes her aesthetic as laid back and casual, and is drawn to a straightforward and practical wardrobe that consists of denim and monochromatic shirts and turtlenecks. When she does dress up for formal occasions, you’ll find her in a bright-colored silky wrap or slip dress, layered effortlessly with a high collar top or pullover.

Photo: via @thisisdida

Photo: via @thisisdida

Photo: via @thisisdida



1. What does modest fashion mean to you?

Its roots are in the Islamic sense of modesty which is covering your entire body except for your face and palm of your hands. What you wear shouldn’t show the shape of your body. It doesn't mean that you have to be in baggy dresses all the time. You can be creative about it while still covering yourself. 

2. What inspires the way you dress?


It’s rooted in my tomboy days. I want to feel comfortable and modest. I like to wear a lot of casual clothing, but when I do dress up, I like to keep it simple and clean.

3. How would you describe your personal style?

I would say minimalist and neutral. I wouldn’t say I like a lot of bright colors.

4. What’s your favorite item of clothing and why? 

An oversized white shirt because it's trendy and versatile.

5. How do you navigate staying trendy while maintaining your values and religious beliefs?

It’s about balancing dressing the way I want while keeping it modest. I work with what I have. [For example] I could take a pair of skinny jeans and wear them with a long, loose-fitting shirt or blouse.

Cabbage Leaf Print Shirt
Cabbage Leaf Print Shirt
Cabbage Leaf Print Shirt
Cabbage Leaf Print Shirt
Cabbage Leaf Print Shirt
Cabbage Leaf Print Shirt
Cabbage Leaf Print Shirt
Cabbage Leaf Print Shirt

Viviers

Cabbage Leaf Print Shirt

$490
Yagazie Trousers
Yagazie Trousers
Yagazie Trousers
Yagazie Trousers
Yagazie Trousers
Yagazie Trousers
Yagazie Trousers
Yagazie Trousers

Pepper Row

Yagazie Trousers

$250
Siam Fanfold Nude Crossbody
Siam Fanfold Nude Crossbody
Siam Fanfold Nude Crossbody
Siam Fanfold Nude Crossbody
Siam Fanfold Nude Crossbody
Siam Fanfold Nude Crossbody

MYKILIM

Siam Fanfold Nude Crossbody

$280
Adiza Mule
Adiza Mule
Adiza Mule
Adiza Mule
Adiza Mule
Adiza Mule
Adiza Mule
Adiza Mule

Shekudo

Adiza Mule

$220

Hafsah Mohammed 

Nigeria 

Born in Nigeria, Hafsah Mohammed ventured into the industry when she launched her now-defunct fashion blog after graduating from college in 2016. “I didn't know how far I would get, but I wanted to document how my style was changing and how I was experimenting with modest fashion,” she says. In 2017, driven by a lack of variety in modest fashion, she established a modest fashion line of functional everyday clothes and accessories, including scarves, jumpsuits, and tailored pants, named Elora Collection. With a degree in Human Resources and an MBA in Business Analytics, Mohammed’s dynamic and discerning personal style is driven by solid tailoring around vivid colors and bold, self-assured, and playful clothing combinations. By her admission, a blazer is her go-to piece, which is evident on her colorful and lively Instagram page.



1. What does modest fashion mean to you?

Modest fashion is an identity. Fashion is a way I express myself, so it is essential to make it relatable to my views about modesty. I am proud of how I infuse modesty into my style. It is always fun to discover new ways to layer pieces.

2. What inspires the way you dress?

Life, color, people, and my religion. I like to have fun with my clothes, and I want [my style] to reflect how I feel inside.

3. How would you describe your personal style?

Whimsical, fun, and chic.

4. What’s your favorite item of clothing and why?

An oversized blazer. It can elevate any look.

5. How do you navigate staying trendy while maintaining your values and religious beliefs? 

It’s hard to stay on-trend as a modest woman. Many trends are not created with us in mind, so we have to pick what we can work with and leave the rest.

One for The Row Smart Lounge Set
One for The Row Smart Lounge Set
One for The Row Smart Lounge Set
One for The Row Smart Lounge Set
One for The Row Smart Lounge Set
One for The Row Smart Lounge Set

Pepper Row

One for The Row Smart Lounge Set

$350
Black Fulani Embroidered Kaftan Dress
Black Fulani Embroidered Kaftan Dress
Black Fulani Embroidered Kaftan Dress
Black Fulani Embroidered Kaftan Dress
Black Fulani Embroidered Kaftan Dress
Black Fulani Embroidered Kaftan Dress

Babayo

Black Fulani Embroidered Kaftan Dress

$319
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag
Black Oshu Mini Bag

YEBA

Black Oshu Mini Bag

$395
Lua Earrings
Lua Earrings
Lua Earrings
Lua Earrings
Lua Earrings
Lua Earrings
Lua Earrings
Lua Earrings
Lua Earrings
Lua Earrings
Lua Earrings
Lua Earrings

Pichulik

Lua Earrings

$135

Photo: via @hafymo

Photo: via @hafymo

Photo: via @hafymo