Nike’s head start

With the Pro Hi­jab, the com­pany is out­fit­ting mil­lions of ath­letes for the first time.

Fast Company - - Contents - By El­iz­a­beth Se­gran Pho­to­graph by Sa­man­tha Ca­so­lari

With the Pro Hi­jab, the com­pany is out­fit­ting mil­lions of ath­letes for the first time.

While Amna Al Had­dad, a weight lifter from Dubai, was train­ing for the 2016 Olympics, Nike of­fered to help op­ti­mize her per­for­mance. At the com­pany’s Ore­gon campus, sci­en­tists used mo­tion-cap­ture tech­nol­ogy to study her move­ments. Dur­ing the process, Al Had­dad re­al­ized her real need was much more el­e­men­tal. She had searched for a hi­jab suit­able for weight lift­ing, but noth­ing stayed in place. She set­tled for a sin­gle, stretchy scarf that she hand-washed nightly. “We have so many tools at our dis­posal,” says Me­gan Saalfeld, a Nike se­nior com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor. “[We thought,] This is some­thing we can solve.” With Saalfeld in charge, de­sign­ers set to work on a hi­jab that em­ploys Nike’s col­lec­tion of light­weight, breath­able ma­te­ri­als and abil­ity to cre­ate prod­ucts that are se­cure yet com­fort­able. The hi­jab, which is be­ing pro­to­typed, will be re­leased next spring. It has sparked dis­cus­sion at the com­pany about what else Nike can of­fer women who dress con­ser­va­tively—a style chron­i­cally un­der­served by the ath­leisure in­dus­try and its affin­ity for skintight cuts. From fo­cus groups, Saalfeld learned the im­por­tance of balanc­ing cov­er­age and func­tion: Testers asked Nike to hem one early hi­jab pro­to­type, which hung be­low the chest, so that it would look more like some­thing an ath­lete might wear. “They want the hi­jab to sig­nal that they mean busi­ness,” says Saalfeld.

Mod­est achieve­ment When it is re­leased next year, the Pro Hi­jab (shown here on a model) will be the world’s first mass­mar­ket per­for­mance head scarf.

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