The Business of Modest Fashion – Aida Zein

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Aida Zein
Aida Zein

Born in Australia to Syrian parents, Aida Zein is an independent designer-retailer specialising in modest street and casual wear for Muslim women. Initially intending to pursue a career in law, Aida commenced a degree at the University of Technology, Sydney, while juggling work as a paralegal and later a private investigator. Her decision to put on the headscarf and dress modestly found her grappling with what to wear. She started making her own clothes and soon found friends asking her to make them outfits.

Presenting her collections at house parties allowed her to build up a loyal clientele and she moved into wholesaling to Islamic clothing stores. It was the positive reaction Aida received after holding her first large fashion parade that gave her the confidence to open her first boutique in a quiet street in Yagoona in south-west Sydney. With the support and shop fitting skills of her husband, Aida created a bright pink and purple ‘girly’ environment in which to showcase her early collections. By 2009 she was one of the first Muslim fashion retailers to move into the shopping hub at nearby Bankstown Centro.

Aida’s signature fabric is denim; she loves its ease of wear and care and the flexibility of layering her designs for denim skirts, tunics and dresses with tops, bolero jackets, vests and scarves to dress them up or down. Her most popular garment, the high waisted denim cargo skirt, is designed to suit the needs of the busy, active, fashion-conscious young mothers that make up much of her clientele.

In their words

“What inspires me is people’s reaction when I bring out a new item, a new colour and new fabric. The best bit is seeing a woman wearing something that you’ve made. You know it took you nine months to put that outfit together and it sold within five minutes of her trying it on.”

“My signature style I’d have to say is my high waisted denim skirt … Knowing that for us to be in the trend but still continue to be modest, it’s just the best feeling.”

“Denim is my absolute baby. I love designing the denim dresses, the denim skirts. You can wear it with absolutely everything. You can wear it with a pair of heels or ballerina flats. You can complete an outfit so easily. It’s funky, it’s hip, it’s everywhere. In my opinion denim will never go out of fashion.”

“I love dressing up, I love matching the colours. Before it was harder to put the scarf on, there wasn’t that much of a selection. Now with so many different designers, so many different tastes, it’s beautiful… Now we’ve funked it up and are doing our own thing.”

“When I’m putting an outfit together I’m constantly thinking about the best way to make it as modest as possible yet still keep the trend, the funkiness … With me, designing is not necessarily doing one whole outfit from head to toe. I like the layering, the extra accessories, a vest, an extra neck scarf, a top, because you can wear that outfit so many different ways.”

Interview with Aida Zein [6:44]