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The Rise of the Token Hijabi?

Swedish Designer Insults Hijabi Blogger Who Walked Her Runway

Considering the post-9/11 world we live in where islamophobia is at an all-time high – the rise of Muslim, hijab-wearing models has enforced the idea that when it comes to the fashion world, we may have reached a point where actual barriers are being broken.

Although it may seem like we’re on the path towards inclusivity—take the successful career of Halima Aden for example—one thing’s for sure: we’re still a long way away. Just yesterday, Moroccan-Swedish blogger Imane Asry shared backstage footage from a fashion show she’d walked on International Women’s day whereby the designer berates the blogger for wearing a hijab
The vlog trails the blogger’s journey from her arrival to the show and ends during a shocking conversation with Swedish designer Gudrun Sjodens, who follows her initial “Hello” to the blogger with a brazen “Oh wow, they put one of those on you,” referring to her hijab.

Asry maintained her composure as the designer went on to add commentary about recent protests that took place in Sweden against women’s right to wearing the hijab—all while standing next to her stylist, who not only dressed Asry, but wrapped the colourful hijab herself.
Albeit shocking, the designer’s comments are a model example of the realities that typically occur behind closed doors. Asry’s vlog allows us to pose the question of whether the industry’s recent embrace of people of colour and Muslims is in fact an attempt at championing diversity or simply a marketing strategy using the old-age method of tokenism as an attempt to look outwardly accepting.

This question is one Asry herself has contemplated, telling us: “I think that there are brands who have woken up and realized that they do not cater to everyone and are not very inclusive and therefore genuinely work towards having a more diverse brand, both internally in the brand with their employees and values and externally in their marketing and communication. While others just jump on the current trend of having people of color and or hijabis in their marketing simply to bring more sales and PR points.”

And if not people, the industry has shown time and time again its comfort in using religious or ethnic symbols as accessories, with the most recent Paris runways filled with white Gucci, Versace, and Valentino models donning scarves on their heads wrapped in suspiciously similar ways to hijabs and turbans—sparking reasonably angry reactions from Muslims and Sikhs the world over.

In Asry’s case, it’s clear that Sjordens’s team hired and dressed her as their token ethnic/religious minority despite the designer’s clearly discriminatory views, which is nothing short of a perfunctory effort at being inclusive—begging the question of just how many other designers, platforms, or brands do the same?

Watch Asry’s video here:

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