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Brands ride 'hijabsters' wave

News, 10 June 2015

JAKARTA: Global brands are looking to engage a group of educated and aspirational young Muslim women in Indonesia and Malaysia known as hijabsters.

According to figures from Asean Confidential, a Financial Times research service, more than 10% of women in Indonesia wear the hijab, a religious symbol which has been reinvented as a fashion item integral to the idea of femininity.

These "hijabsters" are well educated – more than half of women in their 20s who wear the hijab are university graduates, compared with just 7.5% of the female population generally.

They are tech-savvy and heavy users of social media, meaning that peer recommendations are influential.

And with more than one quarter of them in management or entrepreneurial positions, they also have significant spending power. The FT noted that sharia banks have been approaching online hijabster communities with the offer of tailored ATM cards and special events.

But it is not necessary to be a Muslim brand to speak to this market, according to Harriet Robertson, director of global insight and brand consultancy Flamingo, who described this generation as being both Muslim and modern.

"They are holding on to both of these spheres simultaneously," she told a recent event in Singapore. "Brands that connect aren't doing so through the lens of religion… the brands that are connecting are tapping into the intersections of modern and Islamic values."

An example of this, she said, was The Body Shop, the skincare and cosmetics retailer. "In Southeast Asia, among the reasons why it connects with young Muslims are [that] its core values sit very tightly and it is halal. It talks about its sourcing, it talks about its trade and its transparency. These are all Islamic values, which strike a chord."

Zara is another, as Asean Confidential data show that more than 20% of hijabsters cited it as their favourite international fashion brand, well ahead of its nearest rival, H&M, which polled less than 10%.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff