Montreal's Mode-ste blends Islamic modesty with high fashion
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, December 16, 2016 10:00PM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 16, 2016 11:12PM EST
A Montreal mother-daughter team is looking to inspire young women who feel left behind by racy fast-fashion brands with a clothing line that sews in a bit more modesty.
Like many young Canadian women, Aicha Chtourou enthusiastically lined her closet with the latest offerings from H&M and Zara. But she found the plunging neck lines and form-fitting cuts were at odds with her Muslim faith.
“I would find a shirt that would need extra . . . let’s say fabric or extra lining,” she told CTV News.
Those alterations were a snap for her mother Hong Taing, a master seamstress who cut her teeth in Montreal’s famed fashion district.
“Every time I sew for her, people, friends would ask ‘Wow, it’s beautiful. Why don’t you sell that?” said Taing. The pair got to work in their basement, churning out designs for longer, more flowing shirts, skirts and dresses.
The pair were inspired to launch Mode-ste, a stereotype-shattering modern modest clothing brand that quickly gained traction in fashion circles after being swept up by the modest-fashion movement on social media led by young Muslim women.
Hashtags such as #modestfashion, #hijabilookbook and #themodestymovement were flooded with pictures from fashion-forward young women sporting the company’s garments.
The minimalist, detail-oriented design language is meant to reflect modern style as well as Muslim identity in the Western world.
“We decided to blend both, just longer clothes with nicer cuts and fabrics. Make fashion-forward garments,” said Chtourou.
Mode-ste does most of its sales online, luring customers from as far away as Malaysia, and appears in boutiques across the country. The company has produced approximately 5,000 pieces of clothing this year, all of them handmade in Montreal.
“We are along for the ride every step of the way,” said marketing and strategy director Bilal Mashhedi. “We can do it right here in our backyard and produce a better quality product.”
Mode-ste may appear to be a niche-focused brand, but it’s a very big niche. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, according to the Pew Research Center. Data from advisory firm DinarStandard shows Muslims spent US$230 billion on clothing in 2014.
But Chtourou is looking beyond her Muslim customer base. She says Mode-ste is “for every women of all statures, all cultures. Our goal is to make our clothing mainstream.”
With a report from CTV’s Vanessa Lee in Montreal