The holy month of Ramadan — a reviving time for Muslims across the world — begins April 1. The celebrations bring a host of gatherings, Iftar parties, exotic food, and of course, a display of fashion during the 30-day fasting period.
But Muslim women often find themselves struggling through malls in Canada, looking for modest styles that could accommodate their religious preferences. Some resort to asking their relatives abroad to bring beautiful dresses with them in their suitcases, while others scour social media marketplaces, testing their luck.
A 24-year-old Hamilton resident is changing that. With an Amazon- or Etsy-like platform, Roa’a Mashaleh is bringing online sellers together on one website, offering a range of modest clothing options for all occasions.
Mashaleh told The Spec that growing up, she struggled to find modest fashion, ethnic styles, or cultural clothing preferences in Canadian stores. She moved to Hamilton from Jordan as a three-year-old.
Now a McMaster graduate, Mashaleh said that after interviewing more than 250 women of colour about their shopping experiences, she realized that “something has to be done about this issue.”
“The seed (idea) started blossoming into a flower, and I thought, ‘there are so many clothing platforms out there. Why not make one specifically for modest fashion?’” Mashaleh said.
With two other individuals on her team, Mashaleh launched Modasty from her home office in November 2021. A niche online marketplace, Modasty has 17 local vendors across Canada, the United States, and Australia, offering hijabs, dresses, and other ethnic options for women across North America.
The journey of the marketplace began during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as Mashaleh finished her degree in human behaviour. She shared that her vision for herself was to be more impactful than chasing degree after degree.
What drove her was her passion to solve a problem. Not any problem, she said, “But a problem that I was impacted with, and I know other women are impacted with.”
“Knowing that I’m helping not only people who are shopping for (modest) clothing, but people who are selling these clothes, who might have been struggling to find their customer base,” she said.
Connecting vendors to customers, the goal of Modasty is to increase the success of small businesses through its marketing and promotion strategies. Modasty doesn’t ask for posting fees or one-time activation charges. The company also covers transaction fees. A 15 per cent commission goes to the company when a product is sold through the marketplace platform.
“There are lots of modest fashion sellers who sell hijab or dresses,” Mashaleh said. “The problem is that often they’re small family businesses, and lack marketing efforts, or the capital needed for these marketing efforts.”
Modasty has started to gain attention on social media platforms, with varied demographics shopping from the site within a short period of time.
Mashaleh told The Spec that she sees Modasty as a “platform for anyone and everyone — not just women, but also men.”
“There are other gaps in the market,” she noted. “In the clothing market specifically, there are kinds of fashion that slip through gaps because they’re (considered) a niche … but in reality, because we’re so diverse, it’s not so much of a niche anymore.”
Modasty is planning to tap all those areas by gradually branching into Pakistani, Palestinian, Libyan, and African styles.
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