Why Muslim model Halima Aden is this season’s breakout star

Every runway season, those in watch the catwalks for the industry’s next breakout star. This season, that honour belongs to Halima Aden.

The 19-year-old Somali-American first made headlines last November when she competed in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant in hijab. Aden has since signed with IMG Models, the agency that represents the likes of Kate Moss, Karlie Kloss and Lara Stone, and she’s walked for Yeezy in New York and Max Mara and Alberta Ferretti in Milan. Aden can also be spotted on the cover of the latest edition of CR Fashion Book, the magazine helmed by former Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld, which has been credited with helping to launch the high-fashion modelling careers of Gigi Hadid and Kate Upton.

While Yeezy designer West is infamous for his street casting – a term used to describe the practice of scouting “real people” for shows and campaigns instead of calling up modelling agencies – Aden’s appearances at Max Mara and Alberta Ferretti signal a push into more diverse casting at more established brands.

Brandon Hall, creative director at Sutherland Models in Toronto, says the current conservative political climate in the United States has triggered a reaction in its fashion industry, with American-based casting directors and designers actively seeking out models who represent a variety of ages, sizes and cultures. “It’s reflective of the real world,” he says.

With more than 25 years in the business, Hall has witnessed several trends in the demand for model types and says that the Canadian fashion industry has typically been at the forefront of inclusivity. “It’s part of our identity as a country,” he says, pointing to Glow magazine’s April 2017 cover featuring model Bali Kaur Bassi, who is of Punjabi heritage, as one recent example of a more diverse approach. “I really hope it’s not just a trend.”

Backstage at the Alberta Ferretti show in Milan, Aden reflected on her moment in the spotlight to a reporter from American beauty magazine Allure. “We have to start somewhere, and I’m happy to be the first,” she said. “I’m just looking forward to more empowerment for us all, and opportunities for everyone to try new things. Hopefully we will get to a place soon where a hijab in a fashion show is just as normal as anything else.”


  • The Chanel counter at Holt Renfrew Bloor Street in Toronto is getting an update to fete the launch of the new Rouge Coco Gloss. Running from Mar. 1-26, Coco Café is a Canadian-exclusive pop up that will feature a photo station, manicure bar and nail photo booth, master makeup classes and a fragrance “juice” bar. Shoppers can get their hands on the Rouge Coco Gloss two days ahead of its national launch on Mar. 3. For more information, visit www.chanel.com.
  • In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, Parks Canada is giving away free 2017 Discovery Passes to offer Canadians the opportunity to explore the country’s natural wonders. Available for pick up at Mountain Equipment Co-op stores and online, the passes give unlimited access to national parks, marine conservation areas and historic sites across the country. For more information, visit www.pc.gc.ca.
  • Toronto’s fashion-loving cinephiles are in for some special programming. As part of her ongoing Designing the Movies series, Globe Style columnist Nathalie Atkinson is presenting three stylish musicals at the historic Revue Cinema: Funny Face (Mar. 2), Top Hat (Mar. 5) and The Gay Divorcee (Mar. 9). For more information, visit www.facebook.com/designingthemovies.
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