Hadid dons a hijab for Vogue cover

Rory Ellis discusses the latest controversy to court Vogue Arabia

Rory Ellis
20th March 2017

Gigi Hadid’s decision to sport a hijab for the inauguration cover of Vogue Arabia  is not the first time she and supermodels alike have taken photos with a certain political edge. Karlie Kloss and Gigi’s best friend, Kendall Jenner, are all accustomed to sparking a little controversy. Waves of outraged readers have taken to the world of social media to voice their anger about the cover, claiming these ‘culturally appropriated’ photos to be distasteful and offensive.

On the cover of Vogue Arabia, Gigi wears a bejewelled veil resembling a cloth mask more than hijab. However within the pages of the issue she wears a more traditional purple hijab, seemingly at the heart of the debate surrounding the magazine’s contentious move. Some twitter users have complained that the photos are an effort to appropriate aspects of Islam and create some publicity for the expansion of a leading fashion magazine.  Others rage against the injustice that Hadid’s cover is considered ‘arty’ and fashionable, while Muslim women around the world are judged for their decision to wear one. I’m aware that these are subjective generalisations of what are a very mixed and complex bunch of opinions, but it’s certain that there is no shortage of public engagement with an issue that has always been prominent in the fashion industry.

I’m going to avoid suggesting what should and shouldn’t offend people because as a white British male, I have no idea what can be and is offensive in this particular context. That said, I personally felt that Vogue didn’t by any means try to cause offense. Those highlighting the oppression of hijab-wearing women must be aware that this is no fault of Vogue, in fact, their decision to feature traditional Muslim dress in this way seems to be a stylish promotion of the garment that contradicts many of its stereotypes.

“Some Twitter users have complained that the photos are an effort to appropriate aspects of Islam and create some publicity for the expansion of a leading fashion magazine”

Could it have been a Muslim model on the cover? Yes. Would it have been better to do that? Possibly. But perhaps having a half Palestinian model is not the worst decision. Though her Palestinian roots have been disregarded as a fact she wheels out when it suits her, I feel it should be considered here. Her childhood in a Muslim household does, in truth, make her more representative of the Arabian peninsula than it does, say, an entirely American model a la Karlie Kloss or Cara Delevingne. Plus, her varied ancestry, which contains Dutch and Palestinian inheritance, makes her a more suitable candidate for Vogue’s attempt to reach out towards the Arab world and diversify their brand.

This cover, in Hadid’s words, is an attempt to ‘show another layer of the fashion industry’s desire to continue to accept, celebrate, and incorporate all people’. And her very own background is an effective way of showing this inclusivity. However, if you’re under the impression that this was the job for a practicing Muslim or a resident of the Arabian peninsula, then perhaps comments should be directed towards the management and casting directors of Vogue.

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