Why is Nike Suddenly Interested in Hijabs?

Business is all about adaptation. Those who are able to cater to the changing needs of their customers, survive and thrive. Those who stay set in their ways and refuse to change, end up as cautionary tales we learn in business school. Lack of innovation is perhaps the biggest cause of failure for companies.

Nike is not the first major company to announce a special collection for Muslim women. Earlier last year, Dolce & Gabbana made headlines by launching its abaya line and becoming one of the first Western designers to cater to hijabis. H&M went viral for hiring its first hijabi model, and CoverGirl hired popular YouTube makeup artist Nura Afia as its first hijabi brand ambassador. Three years before all of this, Marks and Spencers launched its burkini, which proved to be extremely successful in Dubai and Libya.

This is hardly surprising- Muslim consumers spend around $230 billion annually on clothing- more than the clothing market of the UK, Germany, and India combined. In addition to this, the Middle East and Africa are the fastest growing market segments in the sports apparel industry. In recent years, hijab fashion has grown so popular worldwide that even non-Muslim designers are catering to hijabis. To ignore the needs of such a large percentage of consumers would put Nike at a huge disadvantage, since it is not the first company to start designing athletic wear for Muslim women.

Fashion blogger zozoliina wearing Madamme BK's burkini
Nike's decision to make athletic hijabs is hardly revolutionary. Muslim women have always struggled to find hijab-friendly athletic-wear. In middle-school, gym class was my least favorite for this very reason. It was extremely difficult for me to find clothes that allowed me to be comfortable yet modest at the same time. Fortunately, in recent years, Muslim designers have worked hard to change that. From Madame Bk's designer burkinis that made it easier for us to go to the beach without feeling awkward, to the dozens of Muislim women who have launched their own lines of hijabs for every occasion, hijabis no longer struggle to find what we need to wear.

Therein lies my concern; how can these Muslim small-business owners compete with a corporation like Nike? While it's great that major companies are now including hijabis in their target market, they are doing it at the expense of Muslim designers and small-business owners. This is hardly "liberating". In fact, it will have devastating consequences for Muslim women who can no longer make a living from serving the needs of their own community.

As a hijabi I cannot support a corporation that will exploit labor from Muslims in Bangladesh to make overpriced products that will threaten the livelihood of other Muslim business-owners. We Muslims must stand with our community and support our sisters because corporations will never be on our side. Celebrate the hijab by supporting hijabis; we make cuter clothes anyway. 

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One Response to Why is Nike Suddenly Interested in Hijabs?

  1. This entire post absolutely ROCKS! Thank you for all the hard work you put into it. It really shows. Angry Status

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