Halima Aden reflects on Ramadan, modest fashion and her dream Eid outfit
The 22-year-old model talks to Net-A-Porter on reconnecting with family this Ramadan, her childhood memories of Eid, and the outfit she dreams of wearing to usher in the holiday this year.
Halima Aden is used to breaking barriers. Born in Kakuma, one of the largest refugee camps in Kenya, she moved to America when she was seven. In 2016, she joined the Miss Minnesota USA competition. In a game-changing moment, she donned the burkini, a modest swimsuit that covers the whole body except for the face, hands and feet, for the swimsuit round.
Since then, the Somali-American model has gone on to push the boundaries in fashion. She has become the first model to wear a hijab on the cover of Vogue, and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue in a burkini. Aden has also walked the runway at fashion weeks for brands such as Yeezy, Tommy Hilfiger and Max Mara, all while donning the hijab.
In a recent interview with Net-a-Porter’s digital magazine Porter, Aden shared her thoughts on her Muslim identity, memories of Eid and championing the modest fashion movement. Here are some insights.
“Ramadan is our holy month in Islam for Muslims partaking in the holiday, but I think it’s a time for us all right now, while so many of us are at home – hopefully with family. The things that Muslim families typically practice during this time are now being shared by the entire world – reflecting and bonding with loved ones; it really is a time of self-growth.
“Although nobody expected the world to shut down, I think one of the best things we can take away from this period is the extra time we’ve been given, because we all have busy schedules, work and life commitments. This month, I have much more time to reach out to some of those relatives I probably wouldn’t have, or to people I’ve lost contact with over the years. It is a time to reconnect – and not just with yourself.”
“Although nobody expected the world to shut down, I think one of the best things we can take away from this period is the extra time we’ve been given, because we all have busy schedules, work and life commitments." – Halima Aden
ON HER CHILDHOOD EID MEMORIES
“There is always a big emphasis on what children wear for Eid. Growing up, I remember my mother having my outfit ready and laid out a month in advance. One year, I even recall sleeping in my fancy attire, as I was so excited to try it on the night before and knew I would be waking up early for prayer. I remember so much of that time, from the ages of about eight to ten, when I would go shopping with my mom.
“Where I live in Minnesota, we have the largest Somali diaspora community in the US, so there were a lot of girls around my age who were also celebrating. We didn’t really have the option of modest fashion back then, so it was about running to the Somali stores, because a lot of the shops would get their Eid shipments around a month in advance. I was like, ‘First come, first served – we’re going, Ma!’”
ON DONNING THE HIJAB
“I always knew the hijab was a big part of my identity. I still want to be able to attend a red carpet, or my cousin’s wedding – different events throughout life – and feel glamorous, beautiful, confident and wear something that still says, ‘I’m 22 and so full of life!’ For a very long time, finding looks that were modest but still modern was impossible.
"I’m so grateful we’re living in a time where the modest movement has taken off and people are realising it’s the oldest fashion staple, and not just for Muslim women – so many women choose to dress modestly.”
"I’m so grateful we’re living in a time where the modest movement has taken off and people are realising it’s the oldest fashion staple, and not just for Muslim women – so many women choose to dress modestly.” – Halima Aden
ON THE MODEST FASHION MOVEMENT
"It’s not as if Muslim women don’t want to look classy or go to the gym. There’s a huge need, and I think companies are waking up to that. Whether I had a part in that I can’t say for sure, but throughout my journey, the conversation has changed. I’m still getting messages from parents telling me their daughter is taking swim classes for the first time, and that means so much to me. Even to this day, I don’t know how to swim, because I didn’t grow up with a burkini as an option.
"It goes so much deeper than just clothes and looking good and what’s on trend – it really is something that will impact the lives of so many women. I’m incredibly happy these girls are getting a chance I never had, and my mother’s generation never even came close to having, which is positive representation: A young woman of colour who wears a hijab, who’s Muslim, who lives in a small town in Minnesota and still made it in fashion. I didn’t have to change who I am; that is the message I think it gets to these girls."
"I’m incredibly happy these girls are getting a chance I never had, and my mother’s generation never even came close to having, which is positive representation: A young woman of colour who wears a hijab, who’s Muslim, who lives in a small town in Minnesota and still made it in fashion." – Halima Aden
ON WHAT SHE’S WEARING FOR EID
“I already gave a preview on my Instagram of what I would probably wear this year. It’s a white dress by Ellery, and it’s so extra – my family would probably laugh me out of the room if I wore that look. In Minnesota we’re still really laid-back in terms of fashion; I think in reality I would most likely wear a cute summer dress with a blazer or a patterned skirt; something a bit more toned down but still classy. But in my dream Halima world, I would wear that white gown to enter Eid in, with the scarf styled like a ponytail, draping over one shoulder.”
Read the full interview here