Sisters Howayda Moussa and Hanadi Chehab set up Integrity Boutique at the end of January 2010 to bridge a gap in the market. The boutique was founded as a designer-retailer of modest evening and formal wear aimed at both the modern Muslim and non-Muslim woman who wants to dress stylishly, but with that extra coverage. This cross-cultural fusion is cleverly expressed through Integrity’s designs, marketing and retail approach, which are inspired by European and local designers, including Chanel and Alannah Hill. The interior fit out of their store is French inspired with black and white striped wallpaper, faux Louis XVI chairs and ornate chandeliers. “We want to be different from the rest … we want to stand out”, say Howayda and Hanadi.
Before opening in Bankstown Centro, Sydney, in August 2011, Integrity Boutique was located in a smaller, nearby shopping village. Since that time Integrity has developed a loyal following with a new and growing base of customers from interstate and overseas, including Lebanon, Thailand and the UK. A strong presence on Facebook has contributed to their global retailing success.
Integrity’s diverse audience base has also grown because of its sophisticated marketing images. One of these depicts a young woman in a maxi dress with long, flowing brown hair, casually tossing a scarf by her side. Like the name of the boutique, this provides a subtle reference to Muslim women and the Islamic faith, while still appealing to the tastes of a much broader market.
In their words
“I had just put on the scarf. I was looking for new places to shop but everywhere had the same traditional, sack-like clothes. I couldn’t find any variety! I wanted to be able to express my faith, but still look and feel beautiful, classy and feminine.”
“Why Integrity? It’s honest, pure, and it’s strong. We had a lot of names but when, I typed in ‘modest’ on the internet, ‘integrity’ popped up and then I tried the dictionary to see what integrity stands for, it was everything we were aiming to do. Everything — in one word.”
“We have non-Muslim ladies coming to our shop. People who want to look classy, who want to wear a garment that not everyone’s wearing. They have quality, they have designs and they have something different … We always wanted our clothing to be for everyone and we wanted to blend in with the Western world. We want the Muslim woman to feel that she’s no different to anyone else and that she can still engage with fashion.”
“Feminine prints, soft prints. We don’t want the hard layers. We feel the fabric, put it to our face, how does it feel against the body. It’s the quality of the fabric, and the cut, the clean cut. Modest, classy and feminine. In a few words, that describes it all.”
“We love the elegant use of black and white and pearls in Chanel and the girly lace, florals and embellishments of Alannah Hill. It’s so pretty and feminine …”