How Meryem Slimani Turned her Mother Into a Style Icon

Meet the 66-year-old hijabi breaking age barriers

We tend to consider our mothers as a kind of guiding light throughout our lives. But we rarely look to them for our style inspiration. Or at least that’s what I thought until I discovered 35-year-old Meryem Slimani’s IG account. Known as @meryemsfirst on the gram, Dutch-Moroccan Slimani regularly shares photos of her 66-year-old hijabi mother wearing sleek (often monochromatic) streetwear ‘fits. Think head-to-toe tracksuits, shiny Air Max and a Supreme cap, layered on top of a Nike hijab. Having now amassed almost 15k followers, it’s safe to say she has turned her mother into the internet’s most exciting and inspiring fashion muse.

“I was going through a really tough phase when my mother got breast cancer in 2014 and I fell into a very heavy depression after juggling a crazy work schedule and hospital visits for chemotherapy”, says Slimani explaining how she turned to blogging as a way to express her emotions. At that time, it was her mother who would take pictures of her, which she recalls as, “a very fun thing that distracted us from the pain we were both going through”. She admits having always embraced an unapologetic and daring sense of style, which she believes to have inherited from her Moroccan roots. “We have style engrained in our DNA”, she says before adding, “if you look at the colours in the medina, the craftsmanship in leatherwork, ceramics, jewellery, woodwork and tapestry, the extravagant details of caftans, our festive food and so much more; Morocco has great character and layers.”

But when she became a mother herself about three years ago, Slimani didn’t have time to commit to her online persona anymore. At the same time, Susan Bijl, a Rotterdam-based accessories brand, got in touch with her to create content for a bag collection. “I was really into @jaadiee, who takes pictures of his grandfather in full hypebeast looks and so that’s how I thought about using my mother as a model”, says Slimani, discussing how that was particularly meaningful, as she knew it would make her mother feel so happy and far more confident. “I noticed the way her eyes lit up when I told her how beautiful she looked”, she continues.

She has since been shooting her mother and styling her with a mix of items from her mom’s, her husband’s and her own closet— a move that turned a therapeutic hobby into her dream job, as she’s often contacted to freelance as a stylist and art director. Although she admits there wasn’t a political agenda at first, she unintentionally turned her mother into the ultimate role model, an exemplar of a 60+ Muslim woman who’s able to express her personal (and religious) identity through clothes, defying tired rules of modesty and style. “In the Western world, there are a lot of misconceptions”, admits Slimani. “But there is not one type of Moroccan woman, Muslim woman or Islam just like there is not one type of Dutch woman, Christian woman or Christianity and my pictures show a positive view from our own perspective instead of another negative headline in the news or political debate that mostly have people outside of our community talking about us”.

By putting her mother in the spotlight, Slimani demonstrates that the hijab and age shouldn’t be considered as barriers, and show that Muslim women are in fact capable of breaking free from traditional expectations and simply brazenly be themselves.

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