The Nike Pro Hijab has been named the ‘most important’ design of the year.

When Nike unveiled its first high-performance hijab earlier this year, the announcement was met with a very mixed reaction.

While many applauded the sportswear giant for recognising the needs of Muslim sportswomen, others accused the brand of “cashing in” on a “symbol of oppression”.

One thing is for sure – it’s one of the year’s most talked-about products. And now, it’s been named the most important design of 2017.

The Nike Pro Hijab won the General Excellence category in the Innovation By Design Awards, run by Fast Company magazine.

The annual awards celebrate the best ideas in design, across categories including health, fashion, apps, websites, and social good.

 

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“By creating the Pro Hijab, Nike sends an important message about inclusion and encourages a generation of Muslim girls to think of themselves as athletes,” an accompanying article on the Fast Company website said.

The Nike Pro Hijab, which will become available for sale in spring 2018, has been crafted in breathable mesh fabric that was intensively tested by athletes. Nike also made the back of the hijab longer than usual so it wouldn’t come untucked during sports.

Nike said it was inspired by a conversation with Emirati weightlifter Amna Al Haddad, who used to compete while wearing the hijab.

“[She] recounted how the garment’s weight, the potential for it to shift during action and its lack of breathability disrupted her focus,” Nike said.

“She also detailed her extreme difficulty finding performance hijabs; Amna had only one competition-worthy covering, so she had to hand wash it every night during competitions.”

Al Haddad was one of the first to leap to Nike’s defence when it came under fire for the controversial product.

With the Nike Pro Hijab Launch, I do realize there is a lot of mixed reactions as to why Nike decided to create such a product “now.” __ From my perspective as a former athlete who competed in Hijab, in the past, the big brands didn’t see the need or market for it as it was not “popular” and it was unheard of to see women train, exercise and compete in hijab. __ It is a recent phenomenon where more women have expressed a need for it and more professional athletes have fought for rights to compete with a headscarf, and have an equal playing field. We made it big in the news, we couldn’t be ignored. __ As Muslim women, we have been vocal in the media about it – personally since 2011 – the big guys can’t help but notice us “the underdogs” and our impact in the sports industry and world. They know that we are here to stay and decided to join the party and create another “competitive” sport hijab in the market, which by the way, did exist in the market for few years now. __ As an innovative company, they will create products and they will meet market needs – whatever they may be. It is not dismissing any other hard work done in the past to develop sports hijabs, it’s just there is more competition in the market for modest clothing now. __ I support Muslim women with or without hijab, and how they dress is their choice. And with the Nike Sports Hijab, it surely will encourage a new generation of athletes to pursue sports professionally, and without us athletes who fought for this right and made it happen, Nike wouldn’t “just do it.” __ Ps. This is purely my opinion on the matter, not paid for or asked to be written. Much Love, -Amna

A post shared by آمنة الحداد Amna Al Haddad 🇦🇪 (@amna.s.alhaddad) on

“From my perspective as a former athlete who competed in hijab, in the past, the big brands didn’t see the need or market for it as it was not ‘popular’ and it was unheard of to see women train, exercise and compete in hijab,” the weightlifter wrote in an open letter.

“It is a recent phenomenon where more women have expressed a need for it and more professional athletes have fought for rights to compete with a headscarf, and have an equal playing field. We made it big in the news, we couldn’t be ignored.”

 
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Al Haddad said she believed the Pro Hijab would “encourage a new generation of athletes to pursue sports professionally”.

“I support Muslim women with or without hijab, and how they dress is their choice,” said the weightlifter. “Without us athletes who fought for this right and made it happen, Nike wouldn’t ‘just do it’.”

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