Hijab goes high street

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By setting a new trend through an advertising campaign, the hijab has now been accepted as a symbol of the new, liberated, fashionable woman who has a mind of her own (she chooses to wear the hijab).

Last week, the world of fashion was in a tizzy over the photos of Maria Hidrissi – the Muslim model who was featured in high street major H&M’s latest campaign. In the photos, she is wearing a pair palazzos, a trenchcoat, a scarf and oversized shades. and, of course, a hijab. Hers is the very picture of chic, with the hijab complementing and finishing her stylish ensemble. Naturally, the photo has gone viral, and reports claim how, in one sweep, Brand H&M has managed to endear itself to millions of its customers, while creating a whole catchment of new followers. Smart marketing strategy that, but there’s more to this move than just that. It is a refreshingly different endorsement of the ‘perceived’ notion of fashion.

Fashion is a ‘Western’ concept, which brings with it a sort of a stereotypification. And because, in the Western Press, the hijab has been associated with ‘backwardness’ or a regressive slant, it was always considered to be an impediment to style – and we mean the textbook definition of style. Sure, you have well-dressed women who wear the hijab, but somehow theirs statements are ‘niche-like’. They are more like Muslim women who like to dress well, and they are not really recognised as being fashionable in the mainstream sense. The point about the H&M campaign – and it’s all the more relevant simply because this is high street fashion so everyone around the world gets to follow these trends – is that it opens up the world of fashion. And it does so without trying very hard: all it does is integrate the hijab into a look, gives it an international release, and it becomes a rage. By setting a new trend through an advertising campaign – conceived respectfully and very intelligently – the hijab has now been accepted as a symbol of the new, liberated, fashionable woman who has a mind of her own (she chooses to wear the hijab). What’s more, you don’t even have to be a Muslim to want to wear a hijab now: it’s now in vogue.

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