How Nike and Adidas are exploiting the modest opportunity in sportswear


The global modest fashion industry is expected to grow 6% year-over-year to reach $313 billion in 2022, according to the platform’s State of the Global Islamic Economy 2022 report. Salaam Gateway information – and is expected to reach $375 billion by 2025. According to the report, the largest modest fashion markets are Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Outside of the Middle East and Africa, the modest fashion community is expected to reach $170 billion in value in 2022.

Nike and Adidas hold the largest sportswear market share in the Middle East and Africa, according to Euromonitor, followed by Reebok, Puma and Timberland. For modest wear, Nike’s main markets globally are the United Arab Emirates, Southeast Asia and Canada (whose market for modest wear is growing); while Adidas says consumer demand for modest sportswear is highest in Europe and North America. Both brands say they are seeing an increase in consumer demand in Canada, as well as in Turkey.

A key challenge is understanding the nuances within each community, where definitions of modesty may vary. For Nike and Adidas, this has meant creating collections that go beyond the basics.

“When we started collecting [Nike first launched modest swimwear in 2020], we started with the centerpieces of what we fundamentally believe should be modest swimming,” says Ivy Spargo, senior vice president of product and merchandising at Nike Swim. This included swim hijab, swim leggings and swim tunic. “Since then, with input from consumers and market purchases, there have been opportunities to expand silhouettes and add to the range that allow consumers to layer and have different scales of modesty.”

Major brands are also expanding their offer by collaborating with emerging designers. In August, South African designer Thebe Magugu teamed up with Adidas to design a collection inspired by his heritage, which includes modest swimwear. “It was important that this collection offered a diverse range of clothing that covered many sporting and performance needs – with the inclusion of modest swimwear,” Magugu said. “It makes me proud to play a small role in advocating and helping to make the sport more inclusive.” It highlights a three-piece set, which is “lightweight and chlorine resistant and comes with an adjustable inner hood to ensure hair is well hidden, while the outer layer provides full coverage.”

Authenticity starts with inclusiveness

Nike Swim tapped London-based design agency Muslim Sisterhood to help bring its products to the right customers and communities. “For them, the product – modest swimsuits, burkinis – was really important,” says Sara Gulamali, co-founder of Muslim Sisterhood. “They wanted it to reach a Muslim audience, but how – ‘what story do we want to tell?’ So it was really up to us to say, “actually, that’s what I think sports brands have been lacking in the past.”


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