After stepping away from fashion in 2020, Somali-American model Halima Aden is ready to reenter industry — this time, she said, it’ll be on her own terms, and not as a model.
In an interview with BoF, Aden announced she signed with Creative Arts Agency in August 2021, and has been working through what her ambitions in the industry are.
“Nothing about my entrance into fashion was mediocre … I came in with a bang and then I left the modelling industry with a bang. Now it is only fitting that I come back on top — and what better way than to have CAA supporting me?” said Aden.
Aden snagged a contract with IMG in 2017 after competing in Minnesota’s Miss USA pageant wearing a hijab, and went on to walk the runway for Yeezy, Fenty, Dolce and Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger and pose for spreads in Vogue, Elle and Allure. In November 2020, she announced her decision to walk away from it all, citing incompatibility with her religious beliefs.
“I knew what was at stake,” said Aden of her decision to leave IMG. “I knew that right is right.”
While she no longer sees herself walking the runway, she said she’d like to learn more about the business side of the industry, though declined to comment on specific projects she had in mind. Aden said working with modest fashion e-tailer Modanisa on a line of hijabs in 2021, was a turning point for her, spurring her decision to return to fashion. She became the company’s first global ambassador in 2021.
“It just made me feel like, okay, I have a vision. Because as a model, you understand we don’t have creative freedom, we’re just there to make the team’s creative vision come to life,” said Aden. “This collection gave me the first taste of what it was like to be in creative director mode.”
She’ll continue to work with Modanisa, and her second drop of hijabs will debut in 2023.
The former model said that this time, she feels confident in her ability to chart her own path in the industry, whereas when she started her career, she felt her agency was limited. In her new contract with CAA, she said she negotiated for better financial terms and wants to better advocate for herself in each individual project she takes on.
She hopes that her return to the fashion industry can be an example to young women that they can stand up for themselves and don’t have to sacrifice their values, she said.
Aden said that going forward, she hopes to continue working with RefuShe, a non-profit organisation serving Kenyan refugees she started volunteering with in 2019. Next year, she also hopes to publish a pair of children’s books about her experiences in a refugee camp.