Home » FEATURES » Looking Chic: H&M Features Hijabista Mariah Idrissi in its Recycling Ad

Looking Chic: H&M Features Hijabista Mariah Idrissi in its Recycling Ad


Mariah Idrissi as featured in the latest H&M Advert

Mariah Idrissi as featured in the latest H&M Advert

 

H&M breaks from the fashion pack with a series of diverse, inclusive and ground-breaking adverts which includes a fierce hijabista. 

 

From: Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé

Toronto, Canada

 

‘Looking chic,’ hair beautifully wrapped in a checked hijab, eyes shielded by sleek aviator shades, Mariah Idrissi stands in the door, against that most British of scenes, the fish and chip shop.

“Look chic,” booms the narrator’s voice.

She is the first boundary-breaking woman to don a hijab for H&M, and the hope of British Muslims who see it as a tentatively outstretched hand that they are becoming a part of the “tapestry of British society.”

Idrissi joined Pardeep Singh Bahra of Singh Street Style, a transwoman, plus and not-so-young-but-still-beautiful models, and other glorious fashionistas in the latest H&M ad which boldly proclaims, “There are no rules in fashion but on: recycle yours clothes.”

 

"Breaking Rules: Wear a hat indoors" (Photo Credit: H&M)

“Breaking Rules: Wear a hat indoors” (Photo Credit: H&M)

"Breaking Rules: Be a princess" (Photo Credit: H&M)

“Breaking Rules: Be a princess.” (Photo Credit: H&M)

 

Much like Sikh model Waris Ahluwalia shattered the fashion status quo by becoming the first Sikh to be featured by Gap, the Instagram star struck a deep and shattering blow for representation of Muslimahs in the mainstream.  A blow that matters greatly at a time where Muslim women are under siege for publicly displaying their relationship with God through the veil.

 

"Breaking Rules: Stand out, blend in." (Photo Credit: H&M)

“Breaking Rules: Stand out, blend in.” (Photo Credit: H&M)

"Breaking Rules: Mix pink and red" (Photo Credit: H&M)

“Breaking Rules: Mix pink and red” (Photo Credit: H&M)

 

In the global West – from Paris, to Montreal, and London – veiled Muslimahs face increasing rates of violence in the public sphere.  In September, the BBC reported that Islamophobic crimes increased by 70%, with more than half of attacks directed at women, those most visible ambassadors of the religion when wearing hijab.

During the Charter of Values debates in Quebec, which sought to prevent any ‘ostentatious’ religious symbols in the public service, police and women’s interest groups reported heighted rates of violence against veiled women, with many women indicating that they felt unsafe leaving their homes.  Only recently, attacks on veiled women rocked headlines in two Canadian cities, with one 4-months pregnant Hijabista knocked to the ground.

It is perhaps because politicos have discovered the veil’s power as distraction politics – something currently crippling legitimate electoral debate in Canada’s federal elections – that it can harness and leverage rage and public outrage over cultural and religious difference.

And so representation and inclusion in such an uncertain context matters.

To Idrissi, her own inclusion in the ad isn’t about tokenism, telling The Standard, “The advert is all about diversity, saying everyone should recycle.”

She continues, “I didn’t think I would be a role model but why not? It is great that a big brand has recognised the hijab, hopefully this will help society become more tolerant.”

“Hijab is not simply about covering up,” Idrissi tells Ramp1885.  “We must consider the ‘hijab’ of ones character. Hopefully we can establish a bridge between modesty and fashion and show the world hijab is a beautiful thing.”

 

Mariah Idrissi (Photo Credit: Instagram)

Mariah Idrissi (Photo Credit: Instagram)

 

In The Guardian, Remona Aly writes that H&M is reframing the debate and reshaping the power of positive visibility, writing “The move by H&M, GBBO and others normalises the image of a woman in a hijab within areas that people wouldn’t normally associate with Muslim women.”

“Idrissi isn’t just another “hijabi”,” she continues.  “She’s a woman who confidently blends faith with fashion. (…)  Featuring women in this way is something I find empowering, and confidence boosting, and it nurtures that old British Muslim sentiment of “belonging”. I hope it will render Muslim women less “them” and more “us” and will promote a shift from a minority complex to a majority mindset.”

Though putting Mariah Idrissi in the limelight perhaps isn’t exclusively about lofty objectives like promoting diversity and reframing narratives, but a calculated, deliberate business move for H&M.   According to Thomson Reuters, Muslims are projected to spend $484 billion on clothing and footwear by 2019, up from $266 billion in 2013.

Investing and tapping into global Muslimahs’ sense of style might just be good business.

Designers and fashion houses have taken note, with Ramadan collections coming out at Mango, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Uniqlo and Oscar de la Renta, proving that economic markets are major cultural deciding factors.  As H&M spokeswoman Elnaz Barari told The New York Times, “Everyone is welcome at H&M and we never take a religious or political stand.”

Everyone is welcome.  Everyone – and their disposable income, of course.  But whether economic or lofty, Hijabistas are responding and the effects of inclusion aren’t going unnoticed.

“It always feels like women who wear hijab are ignored when it comes to fashion,” Ms. Idrissi told The New York Times. “Our style, in a way, hasn’t really mattered, so it’s amazing that a brand that is big has recognized the way we wear hijab.”

Mariam Veiszadeh, a Muslimah lawyer, writer and advocate based in Australia told CNN that there remains more to be done, telling CNN, “Women may face a glass ceiling when it comes to the workforce but women of colour have to contend with a concrete ceiling.”

Veiszadeh ends with a thud, “I look forward to the day when a hijab-clad model no longer makes headlines.”

We couldn’t agree more.

 Read more about Mariah Idrissi’s concrete-ceiling shattering move.

 

*Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé is a writer, professional do-gooder, world traveler, polemicist and explorer of the ateliers of fashion artisans around the world. She tweets @Isabelle_BT and blogs at isabellebourgeault-tasse.tumblr.com.

 

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