• Retail Dive

American Eagle sells denim hijab to reach a growing niche

Dive Brief:

· American Eagle Outfitters now sells a denim hijab and is promoting the item with the help of young Somali model Halima Aiden, according to Bustle and other reports. A request from Retail Dive for more details wasn't immediately returned.

· The move follows Nike’s plans to sell a performance hijab for Muslim women athletes, announced earlier this year and slated for its spring 2018 collection.

· Many apparel retailers are looking to the Middle East for overseas growth, where in many areas a young and growing middle class includes fashion-forward women interested in head coverings that allow them to conform to their traditions with style.

Dive Insight:

Retailers like Spain’s Mango and DKNY are increasingly catering to fashionable Muslim girls and women, with collections released ahead of the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims in the U.S. tend to be young, educated and upwardly mobile — a.k.a. a retailer’s dream.

The potential in the Middle East was also underscored by Amazon's acquisition in March of Dubai-based Souq, which operates in Egypt, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

As the U.S.’s Muslim population has grown — Islam is expected to become America’s number two religion by 2050 — retailers and designers are increasingly paying attention to this demographic. That makes Muslim women and girls a growing niche. The styles favored by many religiously observant women can have a spillover effect as well. Modest swimwear, like that designed by Orthodox Jewish women, is catching on among some women who aren’t interested in the garb for religious reasons, but rather, just prefer the look or the opportunity to cover up.

The fact that Nike and American Eagle are getting into this category demonstrates how powerful a niche this could be and flies in the face of the current political climate in the U.S. often marked by fear of Muslims and calls for them to assimilate. News of Nike's plans for the Pro Hijab follow a powerful (and controversial) ad that went viral in the Arab world, showing some women wearing the piece as they run, ice skate and participate in other sports.

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