Does 23-year-old Londoner Mariah Idrissi represent a shift in the British high street’s attitudes to inclusivity?
Over 12 per cent of London’s population identify as Muslim. Despite this, when it comes to fashion, the city’s high streets often fail to acknowledge the presence, or indeed the needs, of Islamic communities. However, H&M’s new campaign – Close the Loop, which promotes sustainable fashion – features a hijab-wearing model called Mariah Idrissi.
“It always feels like women who wear hijab are ignored when it comes to fashion,” the 23-year-old Londoner told Fusion. “Our style, in a way, hasn’t really mattered, so it’s amazing that a brand that is big has recognised the way we wear hijab. It might be because hijab fashion has boomed in the last few years and to finally see a hijabi in mainstream fashion is a big achievement.”
The campaign, which takes the form of a video, was made to promote H&M’s new initiative which allows people to recycle clothes at their stores. In fact, the positive ethos of this campaign was a major factor in Idrissi’s decision to accept the job. “I thought it’s for a good cause,” she says.
Idrissi, who is of Pakistani and Moroccan heritage, was discovered – as many models have been – on Instagram. However this wasn’t her first foray into the world of fashion and beauty – she’s the founder of Salon Marrakesh, a beauty salon in Westbourne that specialises in henna and halal nail polish.
Idrissi isn’t the only religious minority to star in the film, it also features a Gulf Sheikh and a group of Sikh men. They were very respectful of her faith, particularly when it came to interactions with the opposite sex. “If the cameramen noticed something not quite right, they would call a woman over to fix me, it was sweet,” Idrissi says. “It just showed that little bit of respect.”
While Western society and it’s media often fixate on the idea that the hijab is a symbol of oppression, Idrissi isn’t phased. “Some people think it’s great that women can be beautiful and wear a hijab, and others think they’re forced to wear it,” she says. “I’m quite thick-skinned though, so if people did say anything to me, I wouldn’t notice it anyway.”