Newsflash: Not everyone wants to look like a Kardashian.
Body-hugging outfits that show some skin are what we typically see on celebrities and fashion runways, so those designs are often highlighted in shop windows and on e-commerce sites. But in the real world, there is a huge population of women who — for reasons related to work, religion, or even just personal taste — seek out clothing that is on the conservative side. Fashion and trends are just as important to these shoppers, so they want to buy the same designers found on mainstream and high-end e-commerce sites, but often they have to sift through pages of low cut tops and above-the-knee dresses to find items that fit their needs.
That’s where a new site called Mode-sty wants to help. Mode-sty (pronounced mōd-stee), which is currently in beta mode running individual flash sales as it builds out its full retail site, seeks to stock women’s clothing that is conservative but still on-trend with the latest fashions.
Mode-sty founder Zahra Aljabri decided to launch the Minneapolis-based company after years of struggling to find fashionable clothing that fit her lifestyle as a corporate attorney and a Muslim woman. In a recent telephone interview, she explained:
“If you’re a conservative dresser, then you’ve always felt that you’ve had to work extra hard to be stylish and on-trend and look like everyone else in the mainstream. You go into a Macy’s or any traditional retailer and you have to sift through things that are sheer and low-cut and super short, and you’re just constantly searching looking for something that meets what you’re looking for.
When you take your dress code seriously, that’s your number one shopping priority: You check sleeve length and neckline first, and then you look at the style. Often, you feel like you end up with with a compromise, which isn’t a true reflection of how you’d like to dress.”
With this in mind, along with help from her husband, computer programmer and machine-learning expert James Faghmous, Aljabri decided to take the leap and leave her job as an attorney to launch Mode-sty, aiming to be a one-stop shop for women with the same kinds of clothing needs.
In beta mode, Mode-sty has been running pop-up “flash” sales that have featured clothing selected from designers including Rachel Roy, BCBG, Jones New York, and Calvin Klein targeted at mid- to up-market fashion-savvy consumers. “We’re trying to stay at a price point that is around $200 or less,” Aljabri says, noting that the site has seen very encouraging levels of demand in its first pop-up sales.
At the moment, Mode-sty is self-funded and has just three full-time staff: Aljabri, Faghmous, and a dedicated fashion buyer. The company is in talks with potential investors, Aljabri says, and hopes to have its full retail site along with personalized stylist services and “virtual closet” features up and running by January 2013.
A quick web search shows that Aljabri is certainly not alone in her shopping needs: The Internet is full of blogs and web forums for women who adhere to conservative dress codes yet want to look stylish. Indeed, it’s estimated that women seeking out conservative clothing, whether for work or religious reasons, makes up at least 1/30th of the $31 billion online women’s apparel market in the United States. When you start to take into account potential demand from other regions, such as the UK, Israel, and the Middle East, the addressable market gets even bigger.
Mode-sty may be starting small, but it’s got a really smart idea and a well-designed site and aesthetic. I don’t have any religious or professional restrictions on what I can wear, but I personally love everything I’ve seen in the site’s first pop-up sales. If Mode-sty can execute on its vision, I think it could really be on to something big here.