Jean Paul Gaultier’s First Hijabi Model Taqwa Bint Ali On Why She Doesn't Consider Herself Just A Model

BY Khulood Ahmed / Jul 20 2020 / 11:00 AM

The Tunisian-French modest fashion advocate has a powerful message for women representing minorities within the industry...

Jean Paul Gaultier’s First Hijabi Model Taqwa Bint Ali On Why She Doesn't Consider Herself Just A Model

The expansion and diversification of the fashion industry has lead to the inclusivity of various veiled models who have debuted on runways and collaborated with luxury brands in advertising campaigns.

22-year-old Tunisian-French model, Taqwa Bint Ali, recently became the first Hijabi model to collaborate with the French designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s, signifying a major step in the brand’s embracement of diversity within tis campaigns.

Born and raised in Paris, Taqwa has witness controversy surrounding hijabs within the community and works to shed light on Muslim creators and talent within the industry. She is a co-founder of the first modest fashion platform and is involved with the AKAGI CLUB project: a safe place for Muslim women who are interested in keeping active and playing sports.

Harper’s Bazaar Arabia had the chance to chat with Taqwa about her thoughts on starring in the new Jean Paul Gaultier campaign, diversity within the fashion industry and important life lessons for the next generation of hijabi girls.

Harper's Bazaar Arabia (HBA): How did you start modeling? Was it something you always wanted to do?

Taqwa Bint Ali (TBA): I do not define myself as a model. I am the co-founder of the first modest fashion platform in France, my projects revolve around highlighting and representing the Muslim creative scene in fashion, art and also sport in France. I actually never did a casting; however, I was ‘spotted’ by the values and the projects that I lead.

HBA: Can you tell us more about this collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier? What has been your proudest moment in your career so far?

TBA: For this fashion week, the house of Jean Paul Gaultier decided not to do a show and instead highlight the archives of the house.

They called on various ‘muses’ who each represented their own universe. The house made a huge step forward, in terms of diversity [by including a hijabi model] and I am so proud to be part of it. To become the first hijabi model in a Jean Paul Gaultier campaign and to be supported by such an influential French luxury brand, especially against islamophobia in France, really means a lot to me.

HBA: As an ethnic minority in the fashion industry in France, did you ever feel misrepresented?

TBA: Of course, as a hijabi living in the West I have rarely seen a representation of a North African or Arab woman, let alone someone wearing a hijab.

Today, thanks to models like Halima Aden, Ugbad Abdi, Ikram Abdi Omar and many others, it has gained increasing recognition in various aspects – not just fashion. On the other hand, in France [it is still seen as taboo]; you will never see a hijabi. . .  in an advertising poster in the street – and if this is the case it will probably be considered ‘controversial.’

HBA: What is the most important life lesson that your career has taught you and what advice would you give to young girls?

TBA: As a hijabi in the fashion industry, I would say that I learned to believe in myself first before anyone else. I encourage girls to remember you don't need them, they need you. When I say "them" I mean brands, agencies, etc. Today’s society has to be inclusive and include diversity. It needs to include people who represent minorities.

HBA: What is one thing people may be surprised to find out about you?

TBA: People are often surprised when I tell them I played basketball for 6 years. We rarely have an image of the Muslim woman in sports and this is one of the reasons why we created AKAGI CLUB: a safe place for practicing sport among Muslim women. With this project we hope that, in the future, people will no longer be surprised that a woman who wears a hijab practices sports and is active.

HBA: How do you take care of your hair under the hijab?

TBA: Just because you cover your hair, don’t mean you should stop caring for it! Since my hair is rarely exposed to the sun, I make sure to try to use oils to keep it hydrated.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Lead image courtesy of Instagram/taqwabintali