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Halima Ade, the first supermodel to wear a hijab, and pose in a bikini, has left the lucrative fashion industry she worked in and moved into modest fashion design.

The Somali-American, who was born in Kenya’s refugee camp, saw it as a matter to preserve her self-worth in a volatile sector that was increasingly at odds with her Muslim values. She said that she was proud of her decision to quit.

Fashionistas and Muslim influencers who had admired Aden’s pioneering career were shocked to hear about her departure in November. Aden, who turns 24 this Sunday, was the first contestant to wear a burkini and a hijab in Minnesota in 2016, in a US state beauty pageant.

When her fame was growing in 2019, she posed again in them for Sports Illustrated’s annual swimmingsuit issue. Aden, however, felt more boxed in personally – sometimes literally.

She said that she was given a box and a place to change in. But many times, it was her who was privy to the privacy. She recalled that she saw her fellow young women change and undress in public in front of cooks, chefs, staff, designers, and assistants. She said, “It was very jarring.” “I could not work in an industry that lacks basic human respect.”

Becoming a designer

Aden seemed relaxed when she said that she would be quitting catwalks and photo shoots. Instead, she is going to be a designer. “Wow, this is the best relief I’ve felt since 2016 when I started my journey.” She shared her Instagram post, “Keeping that in was literally poison!”

Her traditions, which were so different than those of other supermodels, were portrayed by brands and made into a marketing gimmick. In 2017, American Eagle replaced her headscarf with a pair jeans.

“But… This isn’t my style?” She protested the incident on Instagram. Aden said that she was unable to recognize her hijab in the same way as traditional wears it.

woman in maroon leather jacket sitting on stairs

Aden now workin in Istanbul, was much more relaxed as she was surrounded by Middle Eastern fashionistas, while she attended an event organized by Modanisa. Aden will only be designing collections for the Turkish online store, which is one the most prominent names in modest fashion, valued at $277 million in 2019.

It is already more than 10% of the global fashion industry worth $2.2 trillion, and there’s plenty of growth potential, according to DinarStandard (an advisory firm that focuses on emerging Muslim markets).

Modest fashion spread

In the last few years, modest fashion shows have been held in cities around the world such as London, Riyadh, and Moscow. Aden is delighted by the mix of cultures in the streets, and this trend is especially strong in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. She said that Turkey’s most treasured asset, Istanbul in particular, is its diversity. There are many women who don’t wear hijab as well as those who do. Istanbul offers a glimpse of the whole world.

Aden’s modeling career has helped the industry grow in the last decade. Aden is soft-spoken and smiley. She seems confident in modest fashion’s ability for surviving crises such as the coronavirus pandemic or changing fads.

She said that it was the oldest fashion staple. It has been around for hundreds and hundreds of centuries, and it will be around for hundreds more. She said that Islam and fashion are “100 percent compatible” because Islam has no prohibition against being fashionable. Luxury brands DKNY and Dolce & Gabbana has already embraced the trend and created collections for modest women.

Aden criticized “a lot tokenism,” especially in fashion, where people want their money, but don’t want support them in the issues they face. It is important that you represent your clients, who are Muslims, and speak out when they face injustices.