Mariah Idrissi made headlines for being the first Muslim woman to appear in an advert for H&M. The 23-year-old had never modelled before her stint with H&M but has suddenly found her claim to fame, not only shining a spotlight on herself, but also on the role of hijabi women in the fashion industry. She now intends to keep modelling for advertisements whenever the opportunity arises.
H&M's advert was part of its Close The Loop Campaign, which aims to promote sustainable fashion through recycling clothes. Idrissi appeared in the video in a patterned headscarf, a nude coat and round sunglasses as the voice-over said: "Be chic." The commercial featured a diverse cast alongside Idrissi to highlight the fact that anyone can be a part of the fashion world.
"At first I thought [the media frenzy] was a bit ridiculous," admits the Moroccan-Pakistani henna designer. "Maybe it's because I'm a hijabi but I see so many Muslim women who are bloggers so it's not really a shock to me to see a Muslim model. But then I started to realise more and more how Muslim models only appeared in local media in countries like Indonesia. In the Western world, wearing a hijab for the second biggest retailer in the world is actually a big deal. It's amazing."
Idrissi said that she couldn't understand why the fashion industry ignores hijabi models and that she thinks it definitely needs more. She cited the fact that Islam is the second biggest religion in the world: "There are a lot of Muslim women to sell to." A recent report by Thomson Reuters backed Idrissi's comments, revealing that Muslims spent $266bn (£175bn) on clothing and footwear in 2013. This number is expected to increase to $484bn by 2019. Idrissi said that the fashion industry was losing out on a huge market by not using more hijabi models.
"There's so many different outfits that could be modelled by a hijabi – like a trenchcoat. Why couldn't a Muslim model a trenchcoat? It's something modest. The hijab is just a piece of material on the top of your head but that little material will open up doors to a whole other market. You just opened doors to so many more customers by showing that it's not only something that non-Muslims or women that don't cover up can wear."
While Idrissi pushed for more hijabis in the fashion industry, she said she personally doesn't want to focus on the fashion side of the hijab, but instead focus on the deeper meaning behind it. She said that many people were still unaware about what the hijab stands for and she wanted to be a part of pushing out the message of the Muslim headscarf.
"The hijab is about modesty," explained the salon owner. "It's about modesty not only in the way that you dress, but in your character and in the way that you speak. The hijab is also not just for women. Men have a hijab as well. They have to be modest in how they speak and act and even the way the dress."
When asked whether her appearance in the H&M commercial was about fashion or about media representation, she said it was about neither. "To be honest it's about recycling.That's what the advert is really about, so everyone is incorrect."