Sportswear behemoth Nike recently introduced a sports hijab to address the growing demand amongst Muslim women. Islamic fashion is a rapidly growing segment both in terms of population as well as spending power. Al Shams is a direct-to-consumer brand that brings sophisticated fashion while keeping mindful of modesty. The brand offers affordable, luxury abayas for Muslim women that will help them feel classy, elegant, and beautiful while maintaining religious standards. Offering a try before you buy policy, the NYC startup offers the option for flexibility and fit for its customers. Since its launch, the company has been growing rapidly both in the US and globally.
Today we sit down with Founder and CEO Kim Shamsiddin to talk about the growing startup, its genesis, and future plans.
Tell us about the product or service.
We design affordable luxury abayas for Muslim women with the goal of helping them look and feel classy, elegant and beautiful.
How is it different?
We are the first and only modest fashion brand offering a Try Before You Buy option. Like most consumers, Muslim women are concerned about getting the proper fit and of course, everyone hates the hassle of returns. We take the risk out of buying online by allowing our clients to try our clothing at home for 3 days with free shipping both ways. Our customers love it and it helps us get our clothing into hands of consumers that would possibly never make an online purchase from us.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
We are laser focused on the Muslim modest fashion segment. The global market for Muslim modest fashion in 2015 was $243 billion and is expected to rise to $368 billion by 2021. This market is hugely underserved and highly fragmented, creating enormous opportunity for market share for emerging brands like ourselves.
What is the business model?
Our fabrics are hand selected in the Middle East where our production is also done. We are ecommerce only, selling direct to consumer. In addition to selling through our website, we also sell at trunk shows and pop-up events.
What inspired the business?
I am a Wall St. lawyer and I am also the target market. I became increasingly frustrated when trying to find modest clothing for work. I would try long sweaters or suits with long jackets but it really challenging. I never felt like I was appropriately covered so I did a survey and found out others felt the same way. That’s what drove me to launch the brand.
In the current environment, have you faced any challenges in your business relating to your focus?
I think one of the biggest challenges is educating the apparel industry on the size and impact of this market. Many Muslim women want to dress modestly and still look beautiful and chic but until recently, mainstream fashion has ignored the modest fashion consumer. There has been some progress, but from a broader perspective, the attention to this market has been sorely lacking.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
We plan to expand our product offering by introducing plus sized abayas to our collections. We continue to get requests from women who love our clothing but need sizes that will fit their curves. We want to help these ladies feel elegant and beautiful too.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
I wish I had been advised to focus on cash flow. As an entrepreneur, you don’t know what you don’t know and you have to learn on the fly. I have learned that cash flow management is critical because you can’t grow and start new initiatives without a consistent flow of cash.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
I would love to meet Barbara Corcoran. She is a New York icon and she exudes, grace, humility and grit, all the characteristics that have made her such a great entrepreneur.
Why did you launch in New York?
I am American and was born and raised in New York City, I absolutely love New York. Besides, New York is the fashion capital of the world. What better place to launch a clothing brand than here.
Where is your favorite fall destination in the city?
I love Central Park in the fall. The gorgeous foliage and the serenity of it make it my all-time favorite spot for fall.