Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana earlier this month launched a collection of hijabs and abayas (head scarves and robes) targeting Muslims around the world. The news made waves on social media, receiving both brickbats and roses. However, by no means is D&G the first global fashion brand to do this. According to an article in The Guardian , in recent years, a clutch of labels both high street and designer, such as Mango, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, Oscar de la Renta and Monique Lhuillier have produced one-off collections that have featured flowing gowns, scarves and wide-leg trousers, often sold around Ramadan. But D&G is perhaps a first when it comes to a global fashion brand exclusively marketing these items as ‘ hijabs and abayas ’.

It’s no longer just fashion and food, you can now do several things the Muslim way – branding, air travel, following a comic book character, inoculations, holidays, accommodation, beauty and banking.

The Muslim way

A blog post on OgilvyNoor’s Website, a wing of Ogilvy and Mather, which offers advice on how to build brands that appeal to Muslim consumers explains the difference between shariah and halal – intrinsic to Islamic culture.

For Muslims, shariah means the guiding principles of life, the code by which they live. Halal refers to the specific ingredients of a product (for example, products that exclude pig-related derivatives, are from animals slaughtered as per Islamic guidelines, and contain no alcohol).

Lubna Karim, a food blogger from Chennai, says that till a few years ago, waiters at restaurants would stare if she asked whether they served halal food, and go on to reassure her they served only hygienic food. “I will never opt for a place even if it serves the best vegetarian cuisine in the world along with non- halal meat. But things are rapidly changing. Now I can see halal certificates hanging on the wall of most restaurants/cafes … some even print halal logos in their menu or name board, ensuring they serve 100 per cent halal meat.” Late last year, Malaysia’s first shariah -compliant airline Rayani Air began operations with its maiden flight taking off from Kuala Lumpur to the resort island of Langkawi. In-flight meals served are completely halal , with alcohol consumption strictly prohibited on board.

In 2013, Marvel Comics added the fictional character Kamala Khan, an American Muslim, to its pantheon of characters. According to news reports, Malaysia’s Halal Industry Development Corporation received a $100-million investment in 2014 for the production of vaccines to treat hepatitis, meningitis, and meningococcal diseases. The vaccines currently available for these diseases are pork-based; pork is forbidden in Islam. Calling itself a “ halal tourism specialist”,, launched in 2009, helps customers book “holidays with an Islamic ethos”. And Saudi-Arabia-based luxury hotel chain Shaza, which is halal -lifestyle focused, planned a massive expansion. Halal cosmetics, available in global markets for a while now, have come up in India with the launch of Iba, a brand of cosmetics started by Ahmedabad-based Ecotrail Personal Care. And in 2014, India’s largest State-owned bank, State Bank of India, launched its Islamic Equity Fund. Likewise, Lloyds Bank, one of UK’s major commercial banks, offers shariah -approved banking services.

Seizing the day

Clearly, purveyors across sectors have found ways to cash in on this segment.

According to a Thomson Reuters report, in 2013, the global expenditure of Muslim consumers in the food and lifestyle sectors was around $2 trillion and is expected to reach $3.7 trillion by 2019. In India alone there are over 180 million Muslims.

And it’s time to look at this group seriously, believes Bengaluru-based entrepreneur Junaiz K. With an eye on this market’s potential and the belief that it’s under-served, nine years ago, Junaiz founded Poshop's Islamic Boutique, an apparel store and perfumery, for both men and women.

Over the next five years, the venture is looking to expand via franchises to reach a 300-store-strong presence.

“We noticed that customers were looking to West Asia whenever they wanted to buy Islamic wear,” Junaiz says. “So we thought, why not give them this in India,” he adds.

Washington-based Consultant Rehana T Raza is pleased at how this section is being wooed.

Inclusivity through exclusivity

“I do not actively observe halal or shariah but have many family members who do, so I am glad to see the launch of such products. I think it will provide them more options and opportunities to integrate more seamlessly with fashion and cosmetics,” she says.

“I could also see myself leaning towards more Muslim-friendly options when it comes to holiday bookings since I don’t drink, and existing holiday products usually charge a lump sum that includes a charge for alcohol in the package,” she adds.

Raza is excited to see if the launch of exclusive services such as holiday packages and flights motivate more international travel within her community “so that they can learn about other cultures and their histories”.

The third, one-billion market

“We often talk about Muslims as the third, one billion market – after China and India. Around the world there are something like 1.6 billion Muslims (estimates vary),” says John Goodman, President, Ogilvy Noor. “And for many marketers this is a largely untapped market,” he adds.

If addressed properly, Goodman believes this is a very high potential market with rapidly increasing purchasing power. “However, they also tend to be more critical and analytical of large companies’ business ethics, and demanding in terms of product quality and delivery. If not obliged, it is a market that is easily offended and is not very forgiving,” he warns.