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Performance hijab options grow, from Nike to Sukoon Active

Sukoon Active's performance hijabs come in two styles:

Sukoon Active's performance hijabs come in two styles: classic (left) and up-do. Photo Credit: Sukoon Active

Nike broke new ground recently with the release of its first-ever hijab.

The Pro Hijab is geared toward Muslim athletes, with de rigueur features like a breathable, sweatwicking fabric, plus coverage.

The $35 product promptly sold out on its website, though is available at retailers such as Macy’s.

A lack of modest activewear options is something Arshiya Kherani, 28, is long familiar with. For nearly a decade, the Manhattan entrepreneur and runner has worn a hijab. She grew frustrated by the lack of modern and high-performance options.

“I’m born in the United States, I’ve lived in New York for 10 years — fashion and aesthetic is something that I think about,” Kherani said. “I didn’t see why that shouldn’t translate to my activewear.”

After raising more than $26,000 on Kickstarter in 2016, she launched Sukoon Active, tailored toward Muslim women like herself, and others who dress modestly, with a collection of performance hijabs and shirts.

amNew York spoke with Kherani about what goes into making her activewear.

What are your thoughts on a major brand launching a hijab product?

It more and more validates the need for this product and products that serve not just Muslim women but women across many demographics. The athleisure trend is great in a lot of ways, but one thing it’s really not from my perspective is inclusive. It really caters to one type of body and to one aesthetic in terms of coverage.

What’s your sport?

I’ve been running for at least four to five years. I started more recently doing more races. I used to run in a bandanna before. When I signed up for my first half-marathon, my bandanna fell off during the race. I’d been running for 2 1⁄2 hours, and I’m the most stressed that my scarf fell off. That was the aha moment — this is a product that people need, that I need.

Is the bandanna a common substitute?

Bandannas are super common. I used to wear beanies a lot during winter training. Some women would just wear regular daywear scarves. The issue with that is it’s a lot of fabric, and the extra fabric would fall and move around and get caught.

What goes into designing Sukoon’s hijabs?

You need something that’s going to stay on your head better. Nike created a pull-on product. For us, it was a matter of balancing functionality and aesthetic. The updo hijab creates the aesthetic of a wrap. It attaches with Velcro — it’s really secure and eliminates any need for pins or extra tying. The classic hijab is our take on the classic style. We use a Velcro system to mimic a traditional wrapping system and keep it in place. Across both, we use a high-performance merino wool. It’s a completely natural fiber, it grabs really nicely to your hair.

What performance and coverage needs went into designing the clothes?

We used the high-performance merino wool. And mesh paneling in high-sweat areas on the sides and back for additional ventilation. We do an A-line fit and a high crew neck for coverage. In terms of length, we do tunic-length shirts to cover your butt so you can wear leggings and still get that coverage when running, doing yoga, whatever it might be. We initially were only going to create activewear hijabs. There was no idea of a broader line. That information came from surveys. Really plugging into the community’s needs is really important.

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