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How the internet has influenced the rise of modest clothing

(Photo credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

The verdict is in: diversity is the emerging trend from the 2018 catwalks of London, Milan, Paris and New York. At least, that’s what Vogue is saying.

For Balbea, a Canadian clothing brand, they were thinking about diversity long before Vogue said it was “in.” The brand was introduced to many Canadians during an appearance on Season 11 of Dragons’ Den, under the name: Modeste, the French word for modesty.

Modeste pitches on the set of Dragons' Den

Balbea's co-founder, Aicha Chtourou, grew up in Montreal and was surrounded by chic clothes, however, she couldn’t always buy them. Chtourou can’t just purchase her clothing based on style and trends, the items also have to fit her needs as a Muslim woman. She quickly discovered that being on trend and covering up didn’t always go together. With the help of her mom and husband, Bilal Mashhedi, she sought to fill that void.

“While immigrants didn't have that, now their children are at the cusp of balancing both aesthetics while holding on to their culture,” said Mashhedi.

Although a deal with the Dragons was not reached, a few things did come from the exposure. After the show aired, the entrepreneurs were contacted to dress Canada’s first lady, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. That was the pivotal moment where they decided to change their brand name to Balbea, combining the words: beauty and balance. As Balbea continues to evolve, the fashion industry is carving out a place for companies just like them.

Mashhedi believes this shift is largely due to the digital and internet age, “There wasn’t a voice for these types of consumers before and social media has opened that up.”

As consumers use social media channels to express their style, they are also giving companies a window into the type of clothes they want and need — and companies are listening. International brands such as Nike, Macy’s and Uniqlo have introduced hijabs into their product lines and have diversified their ad campaigns to reflect that.

During New York Fashion Week in February 2018, there was a show that only had women adorned in hijabs and wearing abayas — a robe-like garment worn primarily by Muslim women.

“There is a growing shift towards diversity,” said Mashhedi. “It's the sign of the times, where we are graciously embracing diversity, which is great for us.”


Sayada Nabi is a Toronto-based journalist who writes human interest stories focusing on entrepreneurship, businesses development and social change. She is a graduate from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Media, and currently is a Master of Management Candidate at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto.