Halima Aden plans her return to fashion

After stepping away from fashion in 2020, Somali-American model Halima Aden is ready to re-enter the industry — this time, she said, on her own terms, and not as a model.

In an interview with BoF, Aden announced that she signed with Creative Arts Agency in August 2021 and has been working on her ambitions in the industry.

“Nothing about my entry into fashion was mediocre… I entered with a bang and then left the modeling industry with a bang. Now it’s only fitting that I’m back in charge – and what better way than to have the CAA to support me?” Aden said.

Aden signed a contract with IMG in 2017 after competing in the Miss USA Minnesota 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,” Aden said of her decision to leave IMG. “I knew right is right.”

While she no longer sees herself walking the runway, she said she would like to learn more about the business side of the industry, though she declined to comment on specific projects she has in mind. Aden said working with modest e-fashion company Modanisa on a line of hijabs in 2021 was a turning point for her, prompting her decision to return to fashion. She became the company’s first global ambassador in 2021.

“It just made me feel like, OK, I have a vision. Because as models, you understand that we do not have creative freedom, we are only there to realize the creative vision of the team,” said Aden. “This collection gave me my first taste of what it was like to be in creative director mode.”

She will continue to work with Modanisa and her second hijab drop will debut in 2023.

The former model said that this time, she feels confident in her ability to forge 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 has negotiated better financial terms and wants to better advocate for herself in each individual project she takes on.

She hopes her return to the fashion industry can be an example to young women who can stand up for themselves and not have to sacrifice their values, she said.

Aden said that going forward, she hopes to continue working with RefuShe, a nonprofit organization serving Kenyan refugees that she began volunteering with in 2019. Next year, she also hopes to publish a pair of children’s books about the experiences her in a refugee camp.

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