Muslim menswear gaining traction
Najihah S 
Arco infuses the Indian kurta designs in its modern, minimalist line
THE booming Muslim wear market is estimated to hit US$327 bil (RM1.4 tril) by 2019, according to the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2016/17.

While Muslim wear for women remains the main target for most businesses, Muslim menswear is now beginning to stir the apparel market.

In recent years, apparel brands such as Johan Rosli, Acro Apparel and UMMA have emerged. And they are trying to differentiate themselves to stay ahead in the competitive industry.

Jubah Lelaki Johan Rosli, the company behind the Johan Rosli brand, infuses modern and trendy jubah (Arabic robe) cuts in its apparels.

Realising the difficulty in finding the perfect fit for his style of jubah, Kedah-born Johan Rosli started taking sewing classes to learn the basics of making clothing.

Johan single-handedly sewed his jubah prototype to better understand the business

He then progressed to produce modern designs that suited urban Muslim professionals.

“I am a huge fan of jubah but at that time there weren’t any modern or trendy ones in the market.

“The cut was old school and very big. So in 2010, I tried to sew one for myself as I felt it couldn’t be that hard to do.

“In reality, it was very hard. So, I enrolled for sewing classes and started creating my own design and cutting,” Johan says.

The first design took him two months to complete, but once he perfected the art, he decided to start the jubah business in a small way via an online platform.

That was in 2013, and as the orders started growing, he hired a few seamstresses to help him.

Aside from the geometric designs and bright colours, Johan Rosli distinguished his brand of jubah with others through its customisation services.

Although most of his jubah designs are mass produced, customers can still have their own designs made if they wish. In the process, they can choose the type of fabric to be used, and the colours, designs and cutting too.

It takes more than a week to manufacture a batch of jubah which is mostly made of cotton and priced between RM120 and RM220.

Johan Rosli has also diversified its jubah collection to cater to women as well. He also supplies jubah for special occasions such as weddings, and makes corporate uniforms and customised outfits for television productions.

Johan says that sales of his apparels can increase 10-fold during festive seasons. They are mostly made up of offline purchases through outlets such as Parkson Alamanda Putrajaya and Parkson Maju Junction.

Recently, Johan Rosli received online orders from Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia, mainly due to its social media marketing efforts.

Johan says that acceptance of Muslim menswear has grown exponentially, and social media is the best platform for the company to promote its collections.

He hopes to own a Muslim megastore in the future and believes that customers’ testimonies are essential for his company’s growth.

Monetising a pastime
Arco Apparel founder Adib Hassan says when it comes to menswear, a good quality design can be expensive.

The 34-year old marketing graduate who spends his free time sketching began designing clothes as his business venture.

Adib set up Arco Apparel early this year at his home base in Kuching, Sarawak. “The idea to design my own clothing for myself started in 2015.

“But the idea to have my own clothing line came up when my wife suggested I sell the clothes that I designed.

“It took a while to gain confidence to start my own company. But I registered it earlier this year,” he says.

On the clothing he designs, Abid says: “Since I like the Indian kurtas, I chose it as my first clothing line to be launched in conjunction with Ramadhan.

“I picked the materials myself and placed the items at my wife’s boutique for a start,” he says.

Adib’s clothing line is now available online as well as at several stores in Kuching where he sells on consignment. All his items are priced at RM89.

“The first challenge in the clothing business is to make a name for yourself. I am not known in the fashion or design scene, and neither am I a celebrity, so it was not easy.

“But social media is always a good start. Promoting my clothing online was a great way to create awareness,” Adib says.

At first, Adib says he just made 100 pieces of clothing. But thanks to overwhelming response, he has increased this to close to 300 pieces.

He feels it’s a good start, considering that it has not even been a month since his company was launched, and prospects are already looking bright.

“My future plans are to produce more minimalist designs and affordable clothing wear for men,” he says.

UMMA expands offerings
A brand that is synonymous with modern wear for Muslim women, UMMA comes from the Arabic word Ummah, which means “a community bound together by religious ties”.

It was established in Kuala Lumpur last year after Zaireen saw the need for comfortable, versatile, fashionable and affordable clothing that does not compromise on modesty.

Since then, the brand has branched out to a new segment and offers short and long sleeved shirts for Muslim men.

Branded under the name UMMA For Men, Zaireen Azman who founded the company says the line was launched in April to coincide with the festive season.

“There is a growing market for menswear and shoppers are beginning to go online,” she says of the rationale to grow its offerings.

Men’s shirts are priced at RM159 each, and so far, 75% of the stock has been sold since April.

In terms of demographics, her customers that buy men’s shirts come mostly from the Klang Valley, Johor, Singapore and Brunei.

With the success of its men’s range, UMMA aims to introduce a full collection of comfortable and casual menswear in the near future.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 240.