British hijab-wearing model Mariah Idrissi has it covered

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Mariah Idrissi on the red carpet at a film premiere in London. (Getty Images)
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Mariah Idrissi sporting different modest fashion looks on her Instagram page. (Photo courtesy: Instagram)
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Mariah Idrissi sporting different modest fashion looks on her Instagram page. (Photo courtesy: Instagram)
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Mariah Idrissi on the red carpet at a film premiere in London. (Getty Images)
Updated 17 August 2019

British hijab-wearing model Mariah Idrissi has it covered

  • “Saudi Arabia is a blessed land both physically and spiritually,” Idrissi said
  • “I would love to be a part of changing some of the stereotypes around the country through my work in fashion and film,” Idrissi commented

LONDON: Born in North West London to Moroccan and Pakistani parents, model Mariah Idrissi has made quite a name for herself – starring in campaigns for major high street retailers, hosting TED Talks and sharing snaps of her travels with her 88,000 Instagram followers.
The hijab-wearing model has been vocal about her preference for modest fashion and spoke to Arab News about her style, faith and achievements.
“I wear hijab to represent my faith, my culture, and because I genuinely love the idea of modest dress,” she said. “I think it’s important to feel comfortable in what you wear and also not lose a sense of your personality, hence why there is so much diversity in modest styles.”


Her breakthrough came when she was scouted in a shopping center. She did not think it would lead to anything; however, she was casted for an H&M ad. “The campaign went viral. From that moment I realized how little the media represented Muslims, and if they did it was often negative. That motivated me to continue to pursue a career in fashion and change the narrative around how hijab is viewed in the West,” she explained.
She also gave her first significant public speech in 2016, a TEDxTeen live-streamed to millions, about how modest clothing has now become a trend. Idrissi believes the fashion industry is catering more to women who want modest wear than it did a decade ago.
“I feel it is definitely improving,” she said. “Summertime can still be a little bit of a struggle in comparison to autumn and winter which is cooler, so there is still room for improvement.”


After her breakthrough with H&M, Idrissi went on to participate in projects with leading brands, including MAC Cosmetics and M&S in the Middle East. She also looks forward to working on projects in Saudi Arabia when an opportunity arises.
“Saudi Arabia is a blessed land both physically and spiritually. I feel there is so much potential and opportunity. I would love to be a part of changing some of the stereotypes around the country through my work in fashion and film,” Idrissi said.
She is now working on a few film projects, both features and documentaries, to continue challenging negative stereotypes around Muslims.


Moreover, she aims to inspire other potential modest models and advises them to always ask why before embarking on this path. Asking why has helped her on this career journey because even through difficult times, she was able to push forward.
As her upbringing has taught her, Idrissi is demonstrating that modernity and progression are not in conflict with tradition and customs: They are two sides of the same coin.


Film Review: Afghan tale of three troubled pregnancies fails to deliver

Director Sahraa Karimi profiles the lives of three young Afghan women. (Supplied)
Updated 59 min 52 sec ago

Film Review: Afghan tale of three troubled pregnancies fails to deliver

VENICE: Dubbed Afghanistan’s first female director, Sahraa Karimi grew up in Iran with her refugee parents, and later studied cinema in Slovakia.

With 30 shorts and a couple of documentaries under her belt, she travelled this year to the Venice Film Festival with her debut fiction feature, “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha.”

Studying and making movies in Europe was not her scene. “Somehow, from a storytelling perspective, I don’t belong to that part of the world,” she said, recalling her days in Slovakia. “I belong to Afghanistan.”

She returned to Kabul to shoot “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha,” which was produced by Katayoon Shahabi of Noori Pictures that once helped introduce Iranian directors such as Asghar Farhadi and Mohammad Rasoulof to the world.

In her film, Karimi profiles the lives of three young Afghan women, linked only by problems with the men in their lives.

Hava’s (Arezoo Ariapoor) husband is callous to the point of being cruel, and her only comfort is talking to the baby in her womb. But when it stops kicking, she panics.

Maryam (Fereshta Afshar) is a popular television news reporter who wants to divorce her philandering husband. However, he insists on giving their marriage one more chance, and Maryam finds out she is pregnant.

Another expectant mother, 18-year-old Ayesha (Hasiba Ebrahimi), comes from a middleclass family but is left with no choice but to marry her cousin after being dumped by her cowardly boyfriend.

The three stories, while seemingly interesting, fail to engage because there is hardly any dramatic curve in them.

Possibly the only high point about the movie was Karimi’s relaying of the real-life tales she drew from women during her travels as a UNICEF representative. The experience was cathartic for many.

“Women don’t share their secret lives with their families or their communities, because they’re scared of rumors and gossip,” said Karimi. But with the female director, they felt comfortable and began to speak “about their suffering, wishes, and dreams.”

The more difficult part for Karimi was the shoot itself. The crew had to film under trying conditions with at least four bombs exploding in and around Kabul. But she labored on.

This probably prevented her from getting better technical results from an interesting concept, but the film could still have been pepped up with livelier storytelling.