'It makes us feel welcome and included': Nike dips into the modest swimwear market

The new range is body-skimming instead of body-fitting, and includes a hair management piece at the back of the hijab

The VictorySwim modestwear collection from Nike. Courtesy Nike
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Nike's just done it. On Tuesday, December 10, the brand unveiled its first modest swimwear collection, Victory Swim, at Dubai's Al Barari, which is widely being heralded as an empowerment tool for Muslim women everywhere.

The state-of-the-art range features lightweight, quick-drying pieces and separates that can be mixed and matched. Keeping regional sensibilities in mind, the range is body-skimming instead of body-fitting. It also has other features to facilitate female swimmers – for example a hair management pouch at the back of the hijab, so women do not need to worry about their tresses coming undone.

The inspiration for this style comes from nature itself (a process called biomimicry), and the designers looked to the seas, says Nike's VP of design Martha Moore. Taking into account how a shark uses its gills, the team created the range in a way that would allow water to flow through the fabric, instead of collecting and slowing down the swimmer.

The collection features separates that can be mixed and matched

Moore, who was also behind last year's Nike Pro Hijab, says the modest swimwear collection has been two years in the making, and that it was the hijab that “opened her eyes to an underserved community”.

“The team went around the world and observed what people were really looking for. When they were in Southeast Asia, they noticed a lot of kids happily swimming in pools – but their mums were not comfortable because they didn’t have the right products to wear. We started asking questions and doing some research.”

Martha Moore, VP of design at Nike, showcases the new range in Dubai 

When the team travelled to Australia, a lifeguard mentioned that it wasn’t kids they worried about, but mothers dressed in conservative wear. The weight of the outfit, coupled with the currents and the fact that many of the women weren't strong swimmers could have dire consequences.

Moore adds that the range is not limited to Muslim women - it can be used by those women who, for medical reasons, are not able to handle too much sunlight, those who are conservative for non-religious reasons, or new mothers who are conscious about their bodies. “I have even heard women tell me that they feel chilly out in the beach or on the waves because it’s so windy. This is also perfect for them,” says Moore.

At the Dubai launch was Manal Rostom, founder of the Facebook group Surviving Hijab, and Nouf Alosaimi, a master scuba-diver from Saudi Arabia, both of whom did a quick swimming demonstration wearing the pieces from the range. “I was so happy to hear about the release,” says Alosaimi.

“I teach a lot of women diving, and have heard so many of my students tell me they didn’t want to go to the beach or the pool on busy days when there are a lot of men around because of how tight the wetsuit is.”

According to Alosaimi, without swimwear options that are functional and not figure-hugging, many women resort to wearing skirts or baggy T-shirts over their wetsuits, which slows them down.

Emirati figure skater Zahra Lari, who was also at the event, echoed these thoughts. “When you have to wear a lot of different layers and get in the water, it can feel super-heavy. Women who dress modestly always struggle to find the right clothes when they’re heading to the gym or going for a swim. I think this can change so many girls’ lives.”

Rostom adds that it’s a huge moment for the hijab-wearing community. “It makes us feel welcome and included. It’s a big message.”

The collection will be available in markets globally from February 1, 2020.