Model Halima Aden, one of the first models to wear a hijab, has spoken out about her departure from the catwalk because working in fashion has forced her to compromise her religious beliefs.
Aden, who was hailed as a trailblazer for being one of the first models to wear a hijab and walk for major fashion labels including Kanye West’s Yeezy, was criticised after posting a series of images on social media that were interpreted as an illustration of times where she had ‘lost touch with who she is,’ and led the model to comment; “I can only blame myself for caring more about opportunity than what was actually at stake.” The model shared a post of herself in a campaign for Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, writing: “(Rihanna) let me wear the hijab I brought to set. This is the girl I’m returning to, the real Halima.” In another post, Aden spoke about the feeling that comes from being “a minority within a minority”, adding: “What I do blame the industry for is the lack of Muslim women stylists.” She said this had led to very little understanding of the hijab within the fashion industry.
Last year, she told the Observer that her hijab was a non-negotiable in her contract with the modelling agency IMG. “It’s not because I don’t think people are going to listen – it’s more so they know what to expect,” she said. In other social media posts, Aden wrote about feeling the weight of being the most high-profile modest fashion model. “Fellow Muslim sisters would send me DMs and even publicly tag me at the start of my career to say ‘stop dressing like an old woman’… which made me feel like I was doing something wrong … I remember wanting to be the ‘hot hijabi’ as if that didn’t just defeat the whole purpose,” she wrote. “A hot mess is what it was truthfully.”
Aden shot to fame in 2016 following her turn in the Miss USA beauty pageant, when she caught the eye of the fashion editor Carine Roitfeld. She soon signed to the global modelling agency IMG and made her runway debut at New York fashion week where she walked for Kanye West’s Yeezy and Maxmara. Eighteen months ago, Halima set conversations about modesty and fashion alight with both critics and supporters when she became the first headscarf-wearing model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.
As a truly extraordinary year comes to a close, it is clear that the fashion industry is having to redefine itself and, I have no doubt that Aden will be a trailblazer in setting the new standard.