One of the country’s biggest retailers joins U.S. brands like American Eagle, Nike and Apple in donning the religious headscarves.
The hijab is becoming as American as Apple and blue jeans.
Macy’s honored World Hijab Day on Thursday by revealing its new clothing line with the Verona Collection, a boutique Islamic fashion brand. The modest array of maxi dresses, long-sleeved blouses, versatile cardigans and pants — as well as the hijabs and abayas, or the robe-like dresses worn by some Muslim women — will be available for $12.95 to $84.95 at macys.com beginning Feb. 15.
“Verona Collection is more than a clothing brand. It’s a platform for a community of women to express their personal identity and embrace fashion that makes them feel confident on the inside and outside,” said Lisa Vogl, founder of Verona Collection, in a statement.
Having one of the America’s largest retailers embrace a hijab-friendly collection – Macy’s has 670 locations in 45 states – is the latest sign that inclusivity sells. After all, Muslim shoppers are expected to spend $464 billion on fashion and $73 billion on cosmetics across the globe by 2019.
L’Oreal Paris UK recently included a hijab-wearing model in its Elvive World of Care Campaign, the first time a woman dressed in the head wrap worn by some Muslim women has fronted a major mainstream advertisement for hair care. Model Amena Khan later withdrew herself from the campaign following backlash over tweets she’d posted in 2014 that were deemed as anti-Israel, but it was a huge step for a beauty brand to highlight a hijabi, regardless.
And the breakout star of American Eagle Outfitters’ Fall 2017 campaign was a Somali refugee turned American model sporting a denim hijab.
“Thank you @americaneagle for encouraging young America to follow their passions, express their individuality, and pursue their unique paths,” Halima Aden, 19, wrote in an Instagram post.
Aden scored a coveted IMG modeling contract after competing in the Miss Minnesota pageant wearing a hijab and a burkini in 2016. She landed the cover of Vogue Arabia in June 2017, and became Allure magazine’s first hijab-wearing cover girl last July.
— Halima Aden (@Kinglimaa) June 20, 2017
The hijab has been in the spotlight in other ways lately, such as Apple including a hijabi emoji last fall.
Marketing to Muslims feels long overdue, considering the global Muslim population spans nearly 1.7 billion people, with 3 million living in the U.S. And Muslim shoppers spend an estimated $230 billion a year on clothing, according to the 2015-2016 State of the Global Islamic Economy Report.
So it’s not surprising that American Eagle’s $20 Dark Indigo Hijab sold out within a week of its July 8th debut.
I just got Halima Aden's denim hijab and I'm in loveee 😻
— fay (@faydahir) July 16, 2017
Hiba Tahir, 21, from Mississippi was among the first to buy one.
“I never could have imagined, when I started wearing the hijab in middle school, that I’d purchase one someday from American Eagle of all places,” she told Moneyish.
Actually, I'm going to buy it anyway. Just to say I bought a hijab from American Eagle. So, so cool. More of this @ other retailers pls
— Hiba Tahir (@hhtahir) July 14, 2017
Tasha Cannon, who told Moneyish she recently reverted to Islam, also couldn’t wait to get her hands on one.
“There are days when I cover, and days when I don’t. I’m looking for something stylish and trendy, and I think denim is really timeless and classic,” said Cannon, 34, from Philadelphia.
“It was just really beautiful, really awesome to see, especially from American Eagle,” she added. “It’s such a mainstream brand embracing the hijab, and bringing in a Muslim model, which made me feel really proud to be a Muslim-American woman, myself.”
“We are unfortunately in a time where discrimination against Muslims and other minorities is far too high,” Houston customer Sabina Mohammed, 29, also told Moneyish. “The AE hijab coupled with the model, Halima Aden, sends a message of not just acceptance, but also celebration of diversity.”
American Eagle isn’t the only major fashion label embracing the religious head covering.
Nike revealed the Pro Hijab last . year, a $35 breathable performance headscarf featuring its famous swoosh, to help female Muslim athletes like U.S. Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammed and figure skater Zahra Lari just do it. It goes on sale next January.
Japanese retailer Uniqlo teamed up with Muslim fashion designer Hana Tajim in 2015 for a collection that included colorful turbans, scarves, hijabs and wraps. It launched in Southeast Asia, and came to the U.S. in 2016.
Thank you @Mattel for announcing me as the newest member of the @Barbie #Shero family! I’m proud to know that little girls everywhere can now play with a Barbie who chooses to wear hijab! This is a childhood dream come true 😭💘 #shero pic.twitter.com/py7nbtb2KD
— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) November 13, 2017
And Barbie and her Toyland squad can also try inclusivity on for size thanks to $6 Hello Hijab scarves from the Pittsburgh nonprofit For Good, which crafts the doll-sized head coverings from hijabs donated by Muslim women. Plus, Mattel revealed its first hijab-wearing Barbie last fall, modeled after fencer Muhammed as its latest “Shero.”
But the often misunderstood religious headgear still sparks a lot of hate and fear. Many of the comments on American Eagle’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, for example, feature furious shoppers calling the hijab “un-American” and threatening to boycott the brand.
And Wajahat Ali, an attorney and New York Times op-ed writer, told Moneyish that while the hijabs marketed by mainstream fashion brands are a step in the right direction of inclusivity, he’s worried that they also perpetuate stereotypes.
“It continues a long, troubling pattern of fetishizing Muslim women through the hijab. We have to radically change the image and understanding of what being a Muslim means, and what Islam is,” he said.
Many “Master of None” viewers probably didn’t realize Aziz Ansari’s character Dev was Muslim until he addressed his religion in a Season 2 episode, considering he eats pork, drinks alcohol and is never seen praying. His mother doesn’t wear the hijab, either, except for when she visits the mosque.
“Being Muslim includes the hijab, but it also includes a hipster in Brooklyn who skateboards and doesn’t pray five times a day, or a Pakistani entrepreneur, or a white convert from Colorado who doesn’t wear the hijab, either,” Ali said.
Companies need to engage with Muslim communities on the grassroots level, he said, and to give Muslims more representation in their editorial departments and corporate headquarters.
“They need to advance the diverse narrative of what it means to be an American Muslim, over simply jumping on the bandwagon and using a fetish item to sell clothes,” Ali added.
But shoppers like Cannon note that American Eagle has been leading diversity campaigns, such as embracing plus-size models like Ishka Lawrence, and no longer following the industry standard of Photoshopping its models.
“Even if this [hijab] is driven by business … it still can draw controversy, and people boycotting the business,” said Cannon. “So one way or another, American Eagle is embracing the hijab, taking a stance and standing up as an ally. So for that, I am grateful.”
This story was originally published on July 20, 2017 and has been republished to include Macy’s new collection.
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved