As a former healthcare worker herself, Aden shared why it was important for her to be involved in the project.

By Faith Brar
June 16, 2020
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Halima Aden has always challenged the status quo. The 22-year-old model has already made history twice, first by competing for the title of Miss Minnesota USA in a burkini and then for being the first model to wear a hijab and burkini in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Now, Aden is doing her part to help healthcare workers of all faiths get access to proper personal protective equipment (PPE) as they continue to work amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Somali-American model recently partnered with Allure and fashion tech start-up, Anywear to help design a line of hijabs and turbans, along with matching face coverings, for frontline workers. Aden's work is part of Anywear's Banding Together Project, which was formed to create cloth-based protective gear that can help healthcare workers avoid discomfort, abrasions, bruises, and marks left by other types of PPE. (See: Medical Workers Are Speaking Out About Skin Breakdown Caused By Tight-Fitting Face Masks)

Aden, who is a former hospital worker herself, shared why it was important to her to be involved in the project: "Having worked in a hospital, even several months into my modeling career, it was important for me to support this project," Aden said on the project's website. "As many hijab-wearing women are working at healthcare facilities, I wanted to make sure they have a comfortable option for wearing a mask while keeping their hair covered."

As a company, Anywear strives to reduce the negative environmental impacts caused by the fashion industry. Its Banding Together Project, however, was brought to life upon the realization that doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers shouldn't be subjected to physical pain caused by uncomfortable masks worn during long shifts. (Related: 13 Brands Who Are Making Cloth Face Masks Right Now)

To help create more comfortable face coverings and fine-tune the designs, Anywear formed a Frontline Committee made up of three medical professionals, who offered their perspectives on possible solutions. "Until now, what we've been required to wear has kept us safe, but hasn't been the most comfortable," Jacqueline Oraedu, MPAS, PA-C, a physician assistant and member of the Frontline Committee, shared on the Banding Together Project's website. "It's also hard to appear personable behind a mask. Not only will these designs be more comfortable, [but they will also] allow us to show some personality."

The Banding Together Project's products include several different types of customizable headbands, face masks, mask strap-extenders, and medical caps that come with buttons to hold mask straps in place and ease pain and discomfort, particularly around the ears. All products are made in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s recommendations for cloth face coverings and are hand- and machine-washable.

Aden's inclusive designs offer several options as well. The Hijab Set (Buy It, $45, bandingtogetherproject.com), for example, comes with a headwrap and matching face covering, available in a variety of "soft shades that bring a feeling of peace," according to Aden. You can also get a turban (Buy It, $52, bandingtogetherproject.com) separately if you already have enough face masks at home. On the flip side, you can also snag a three-pack of Aden's Tetra Fabric Face Coverings (Buy It, $40, bandingtogetherproject.com) or a three-pack of her Bamboo Fabric Face Coverings (Buy It, $40, bandingtogetherproject.com).

"I really wanted the pieces to give a feeling of tranquility and calm, so I went with soft shades that bring a feeling of peace," Aden said of her designs. "It can also get hot running around at the pace health care employees are right now, so a breathable fabric was a must." (Related: What It's Really Like to Be an Essential Worker In the U.S. During the Coronavirus Pandemic)

The best part? Every time you purchase one of Aden's designs (or, TBH, any design from the Banding Together Project), Anywear will match with a donation of an adjustable headband, hijab set, or medical cap to a healthcare worker in need. Plus, all proceeds from The Banding Together Project will be used to cover the costs of labor, materials, manufacturing, and distribution of products for donation to hospital workers.

"This is giving people the tools to feel comfortable and do their job to the best of their ability," Aden told Vogue of her partnership with Anywear. "There are so many hijabi women working in healthcare, and their comfort is as important as anyone else's in the workforce."

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