Gigi Hadid, Appropriation or Progress?

By: Andrew Van Wilpe

The American fashion model, Gigi Hadid has come under some scrutiny, in recent days, following the release of the cover of Vogue Arabia’s first edition. In the black and white cover photo, the model sported a beaded veil, bare shouldered. Inside the magazine there is another photo of Gigi dressed in a more traditional looking, hot pink and fuchsia hijab.

Although, Gigi is of Palestinian decent, coming from her father’s side, she is not of the Muslim faith. The critics accuse this 21-year-old model and Vogue of religious appropriation. Her critics are upset because they believe Gigi and Vogue are glamourizing something that other women are criticized for. One critic tweeted, “So Gigi is getting praised for wearing a Hijab bc “fashion” while women who actually wear Hijab are attacked, shamed, and threatened?”

The question from most of the critics is, “why Vogue did not choose an actual Muslim model for this cover?” It seems the issue is more about representation. Critics believe Vogue should have used a Muslim model if they wanted to avoid this controversy and wanted to promote inclusion.

On the other hand, supporters see the use of a widely known fashion model, wearing tradition head coverings, as a pragmatic way to “normalize,” these traditional head coverings. One twitter user commented, “It’s great she is using her fame to promote the #hijab and the Palestinian people.”

Her supporters see this as a positive step forward in the fashion business to expand representation. Hadid herself, posted on Instagram, “I hope that this magazine will show another layer of the fashion industry’s desire to continue to accept, celebrate, and incorporate all people & customs and make everyone feel like they have fashion images and moments they can relate to… & learn and grow in doing so.”

Despite all the controversy surrounding this edition of Vogue Arabia, we see an interesting step away from the traditionally Eurocentric fashion industry. Mohieb Dahabieh, Vogue Arabia’s special projects director wrote, “Now that Vogue Arabia has landed, the time has come to open our eyes and embrace our own ancestry and let go of a hindering common approach that praises the foreign and ignores the home-grown. This cover is the first step on that journey.” The industry is moving into a market and part of the world they’ve neglected in the past and with that move we can expect innovation and fashion that we haven’t seen before.

Whether this shoot was religious appropriation or the fashion industry’s attempt at expanding representation, we must consider each side’s argument and criticisms to better expand diversity, inclusion, and representation in the industry. There is a right way and wrong way to do things. This is what the industry must learn in order to achieve these goals.