At yesterday’s unveiling of Kanye West‘s fifth Yeezy collection during NYFW, history was made. 19 year-old Halima Aden walked down the runway wearing a hijab, instantly generating a wave of support and accolades on social media from livestream viewers.
— IMG Models (@IMGmodels) February 15, 2017
This wasn’t the first time Aden’s name appeared in headlines. Last year the Minnesota teenager competed in her state’s Miss USA pageant wearing her traditional Muslim headpiece, and then later in a burkini for the swimsuit segment.
— Leila Navidi (@LeilaNavidi) November 27, 2016
Although she didn’t win the competition, she did gain something far more valuable — a lucrative modelling contract with IMG Models. After signing the Somali-American, IMG President Ivan Bart told Business of Fashion that he “found that she was just so brave to stick to what she really believed in and yet go after the American dream of being in a beauty contest.”
Aden was also featured in the influential fashion magazine CR Fashion Book, where illustrious editor Carine Roitfeld also sang her praises. “Halima is breaking boundaries of beauty and perception by being herself. I find this incredibly inspiring, and I know she will be an icon.”
Though the decision may seem based on inclusivity, it’s also one that’s good for business. Muslim shoppers spent $266 billion on clothing and footwear in 2013, potentially reaching $484 billion by 2019, according to a Thomson Reuters report.
At the time of her signing, Bart was optimistic but cautious about the industry’s acceptance. “We’ll see how the industry reacts to Halima and works with the restrictions or not.” Meanwhile, Aden chooses to deliver a more refreshingly positive outlook, well befitting a groundbreaking new role model.
“A lot of people will look at you and will fail to see your beauty because you’re covered up and they’re not used to it. I wanted to spread a positive message about beauty and diversity, and to show other young Muslim women that there is room for them.”
That’s a message we can get behind.