Ghizlan Guenez has built an empire on a singular belief that modest dressing and high fashion should walk side-by-side. By determining her own house codes, she has written a manifesto on how modest dressing for women can look, with authenticity and accountability woven into the fabric of the brand.
But not content with making the niche of modest clothing a focal point within the fashion industry, Ghizlan, founder of The Modist, the first global online destination for luxury modest fashion, is currently focusing on weaving her latest texture into the cloth: sizing inclusivity.
“Seeing one face and body is not modern,” Ghizlan starts, as Grazia begins to witness the founder and CEO engage with Dima Ayad, whose own label is carried on The Modist. “It’s not smart or progressive to ignore a whole segment of consumer.” “And who dictated that size zero was the right size to be?” Dima asks, hotly. “From super-skinny to Kardashian bodies, the world moves with trends, but that doesn’t mean it is right.”
The Modist, however, is clearly on the right path. After a stellar first year – it now ships to 120 countries – the next step in the brand’s evolution is Layeur, its own label of fashion-forward pieces that are directly inspired by its customer base. Specifically, this means expanding The Modist’s dedication to diversity, by providing an unusual and broad sizing range from XS to XXXL.
“At the end of the day, you just want to be able to shop with your friends. If you can’t have your size it’s a constant reminder that fashion is not for you, it’s not your space,” Ghizlan explains. Dima adds, “Layeur ensures all women can wear fashionable clothing. From soft, silk pieces for work to standout pieces for night, it’s beautiful to see someone in the same outfit but just in a different size.” “Inclusiveness does not just apply to Layeur,” Ghizlan continues. “It’s a core pillar of our values as a business. This woman that we represent is everywhere. She’s across faiths, ages and sizes.”
What starkly separates The Modist from rivals is its dedication to dressing all women in a consistent and meaningful way – while stamping out misconceptions that modesty exclusively relates to faith. Rather than fashion icons and film stars, Layeur counts curvy models as well as sample size in their campaigns.
“We only feature real women and their stories, not just beautiful people,” Ghizlan insists. “When you’re talking to a population of women who feel they have been underserved for a very long time, in terms of modest and curvy dressing, it’s important the messaging is authentic. It needs to stem from the right place.” Dima nods, “You need to see it on the runway and then carry it through to the store – that, in my opinion, is not happening yet. Curvy women and the availability of clothing in this region is in its infancy."
The interaction between the women is fascinating to observe. Ghizlan is calm and thoughtful in her answers. She listens, absorbs and then responds, while Dima is fiery and passionate. And as social media continues to affect women’s body image, discussing its role is more important than ever. “I’ve never touched Photoshop or Facetune, because by avoiding it, it paves the way for people to accept different shapes and appearances,” Dima argues. Ghizlan muses, “There are positives, but also negatives. Social media amplifies the voice of women who are curvy. But the negatives are girls often seeing retouched images. We need to be more real in what we are portraying.”
With this in mind, what are Ghizlan and Dima’s hopes for the future of fashion, in terms of body positivity? “I hoped to satisfy women’s fashion needs and The Modist has achieved that,” Ghizlan replies quickly. “I feel fortunate to be working in a business that is trying to change the dialogue. The Modist’s aim is to make women feel good about the choices they have made.”
“My hope,” Dima says, “Is that it is no longer an activist movement to be inclusive. I want it to be normal to see a curvy woman on the runway by 2020.” “She’s given a deadline!” Ghizlan laughs. “Yes, I have,” Dima finishes. If The Modist continues at this pace, we believe it will have inclusivity covered far sooner than that.