Rap superstar turned designer Kanye West broke boundaries by putting a hijab-wearing Somali-American model on the New York catwalk Wednesday, unveiling a new, more adult Yeezy Season 5 collection.
Halima Aden, 19, made her runway debut on day seven of New York fashion week at one of the hottest and most exclusive tickets in town — West’s at times experimental collaboration with Adidas.
She walked in front of West’s reality star wife Kim Kardashian and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour not long after West was slammed by fans for meeting then president-elect Donald Trump in December.
Born in a Kenyan refugee camp and now a US citizen, her appearance in such a high-profile show will propel her into a much bigger league than did the headlines she first made last year — when she became the first woman to compete in a Miss Minnesota beauty pageant in a hijab.
Style bible Vogue said her appearance made her the show’s “most talked-about new face” and credited her with starting a “meaningful conversation” by proudly representing Muslim women at fashion week.
While finding looks that meet her required modesty can be challenging, Aden told Vogue that so far her experiences had been positive.
“My goal is to send a message to Muslim women and young women everywhere that it’s okay to break stereotypes and be yourself,” the magazine’s website quoted her as saying.
“I haven’t received any pressure to be anything other than myself,” she told Vogue, “and for that, I am so grateful.”
The Season 5 show saw West apparently bounce back from a reported mental breakdown as his family was still recuperating after Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in Paris in October.
And after a fiasco last season, which saw one model collapse due to extreme heat, West bucked the trend and refused to broadcast it live.
It was a radical departure for the 39-year-old whose shows have been over the top — presenting at locales from Madison Square Garden to New York’s Roosevelt Island — since he started his fashion line two years ago.
But on Wednesday his latest collaboration with Adidas was shown in a more traditional, stripped-down industrial space in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood, in an area along the Hudson River used by other designers.
Guests were warned not to use phones, take pictures or videos, and not to post anything on social media — but of course, those warnings appeared on social media anyway, as did a few photos.
The clothes departed a bit from his usual sportswear, though that influence was still present.
Denim hit the Yeezy catwalk for the first time, in the form of high-waisted jeans, shirts and jackets.
Coats in leather or fur put the label into another sphere, as did an anthracite gray blouse with a decidedly feminine cut.