Halima Aden is breaking barriers in the fashion industry at a time when xenophobia is at a peak. A proud Somali-American model turned UNICEF ambassador, she made history as the first Miss Minnesota pageant contestant to don a hijab and a burkini on stage. A year later, she signed with international modelling agency, IMG Models, becoming their first ever hijabi model. She has since walked in runway shows for Yeezy, MaxMara, and Alberta Ferretti; graced the covers of Vogue, Paper and Allure; and racked up a six-digit Instagram following.
We caught up with the 21-year-old supermodel after H&M's Conscious collection event in Los Angeles, where she showed her support for the brand's focus on sustainable fashion. "I look at the brand’s values and if it aligns with mine," she told Refinery29 when asked why she supports H&M Conscious. "The work that [H&M is] doing with their Conscious Exclusive collection is everything that I want to work for as far as protecting our environment and brands being more conscious."
She chose to wear a v-neck maxi dress from the collection for the event, noting that she styled it modestly. "It still works for me because I paired it with a turtleneck. It looked like those two pieces belonged together.” She also fell in love with the dress’s matching scarf. “I tried a scarf that was part of the collection as an accessory, but I wore it as a hijab, and it really complimented the dress."
Halima is also embarking on her first-ever design venture. Working with Modanisa, a Turkish brand that offers modest options to women across the globe, Halima designed a 27-piece collection of hijabs, turbans, and shawls. It will debut at Istanbul's Modest Fashion Week later this month. "It's going to be major,” she teased. “My hijabis better get in formation, because I’m so excited." Inspired by her near one million Instagram followers, the collection is stocked full of pre-tied, vibrant options that are perfect for people on-the-go. "I noticed the colours and styles that my followers asked for and which ones get the most comments, so I’m hoping that every hijabi finds something that works for her and her everyday lifestyle."
She's finally starting to see a shift in the retail industry toward embracing modest fashion. "I think now, more than ever, brands [are] starting to see that there is a modest market. Women want to find outfits that work with their lifestyle, work with their individual style." Representation on the runway is increasing as well. "Just three years ago there wasn’t a single hijab-wearing model, and today, there are like ten of us, so I have to give the industry a huge bravo — I'm really impressed."
Between using her platform to spread UNICEF's message, encouraging brands to embrace the modern fashion market, and creating her own line of hijabs and turbans, Halima Aden really is doing it all. Her end-all-be-all advice? "Always stay true to yourself, know your worth as a young woman, try to always do the right thing, be patient, work hard, and dream BIG."
H&M's Conscious Exclusive collection launches on April 11th.