Veils, one of the oldest female accoutrements, have been an unexpected fashion accessory to emerge from the couture, ready-to-wear, and bridal runways in the last two seasons. The face coverings, alongside iterations of the head wrap, have been embraced from New York to Paris and, if the SS19 fashion month is anything to go by, they are not going anywhere anytime soon.
In addition to casting hijab-wearing models, including Halima Aden, Ikram Abdi Omar, and Amina Adan, Western designers are sending out catwalkers in towering turbans, neatly tied scarves, and chiffon veils covering their faces. The inclusion of the “hijab” in fashion continues to divide opinion – in a powerful opinion piece in our September issue, hijabi journalist Eman Mustafa Bare mused whether Muslim women should be celebrating or deriding the modest looks touted on runways. “While the buzz around the hijab on runways is helping normalize public opinion of the garment, the high-fashion industry has a responsibility to do more for the women behind the veil,” writes Bare.
When it comes to diversity on the runway, there have been brands that have led the shift towards more inclusive casting, with Chromat and Pyer Moss both selecting hijab-wearing model Kadija Diawara to walk in their SS19 ready-to-wear shows. And it wasn’t just them – in London, Omar appeared at the J. JS Lee show. Also during LFW, wedding-like veils dominated the runways, popping up at Mary Katrantzou and Simone Rocha. This comes just one month after Danish designer Reza Etamadi made a bold statement against the burqa ban being enforced in Denmark by including models wearing niqabs and hijabs alongside police officers at Copenhagen fashion week.
Of course, fashion’s current obsession with the veil isn’t as sudden as you’d think. Nearly a decade ago, Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy drew inspiration from the Berbers of Morocco, which translated into a lineup of eye-catching veils draped over models’ heads. In 2011, inspired by the night sky of the Sahara desert, Giorgio Armani sent out models outfitted in Tuareg head wraps and tribal jewelry. So while Gucci, Marc Jacobs, and co can all be lauded for increasing visibility for underrepresented groups, it still remains unclear if the headgear is more than just a fleeting fashion trend.