Last year, with the launch of the wildly successful Nike Pro Hijab, Nike positioned themselves as forerunners in global sportswear brands explicitly considering and creating apparel with their female Muslim women customer base in mind. Come February 1st 2020, this streak continues with the launch of Nike’s ‘Victory Swim’ collection, a true game-changer in its effortless fusion of full coverage swimwear with performance innovation.
The Victory Swim’ collection features the Nike Victory Swim Tunic Top, the Nike Victory Swim Leggings, and the Nike Victory Swim Hijab as well as the Nike Victory Full-Coverage Swimsuit, which also includes swim separate options. Each item within the Nike Swim collection is constructed from warp-knit fabric, which ensures sleek, stylish garments that are lightweight, quick drying and breathable. Furthermore, all the pieces come with head-to-toe UPF 40+ rating, which is ideal for the athlete or wearer needing sun protection and are available in either a blue or black colourway option.
It should be noted that Nike is nowhere near the first company to market modest sportswear or apparel specifically for water sports. For decades, retailers such as ‘Capsters’ and ‘Mu’mine’ have ben carving and leading the way in creating sports-specific hijabs and websites such as Ahiida have stocked pieces such as the ‘Burqini’ a full body, two-piece swimsuit with an attached headwear feature or ‘Hijood’. However, whilst the latter garments offer style and full coverage to a Muslim female swimmer, they tend not to necessarily be designed with functionality and movement in mind, often being too heavy in water to enable optimum performance.
This is where the Nike Victory Swim Collection hopes to step up and close this gap; its Nike Victory Swim Leggings offers a streamlined silhouette without compromising on modesty, lending the wearer desired speed and agility in the water without excessive cling. Centring practicality and comfort in their design, both the Nike Victory Swim Tunic Topic and the Victory Full-Coverage Swimsuit include a built-in sports bra with perforated cups. Finally, the Nike Swim Hijab features an integrated mesh pocket, a genius design aspect that ensures hair remains in place whilst undergoing aquatic activity; goodbye frustrating flyaway strands.
The global significance of the Nike Victory Swim Collection can be fully understood in familiarising ourselves with the current experiences of Muslim female athlete participation at the highest competition levels. In the Rio Olympics of 2016, 14 Muslim female athletes came home with medals including notably, the fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad of Team USA. Delivering a breathtakingly poised and regal performance, Muhammad became the first Muslim-American woman wearing a hijab to compete in the Games and win bronze. Despite such progress, the coverage of the 2016 Games were marred by commentators’ fixating on the attire of Muslim female athletes competing in contrast to their non-Muslim female athletes and even to their non-hijab wearing Muslim female athlete peers, reducing them to a source of spectacle and their clothing choices. Islamophobic discourse like this denies and takes away the agency of Muslim women like myself and at best, is patronising and distracts from more useful, appropriate analysis of the sporting performance of elite Muslim female athletes.
Whilst Muslim women have been participating in the Olympics since 1936, sporting federations have been slow to the mark in addressing the strict regulations that discriminate against Muslim female athletes wearing hijab, with FIFA maintaining a hijab ban until 2014 and FIBA overturning their ban on religious headwear only in 2017. It should be noted much of this decision by the governing body arose from the organising efforts of Muslim female athletes such as Asma Elbadawi, who undertook a social media campaign with the hashtag #FIBAAllowHijab.
Against the current backdrop of Islamophobia as a worrying growing global phenomenon and countries like France implementing a ‘burkini’ ban, it is refreshing to witness a global sportswear brand like Nike utilise their platform to show up, listen and cater their products to Muslim women. The inspiration for ‘Victory Swim’ arose from the positive reception that the Nike Pro Hijab garnered and a desire from designers at Nike to engage in truly inclusive creative practices that sought to meet the needs of all women athletes especially those historically overlooked such as plus-size women and Muslim women. As the Creative Director of Nike, Martha Moore put it “to us, Nike Victory Swim Collection shows the power of innovation to invite all women to discover the joy of sport.” When the entirety of global (competitive) sport challenges its enshrined prejudices and follows in Nike’s footsteps by understanding and addressing the barriers head on faced by Muslim female athletes, the impact is likely to be extremely exciting and will allow Muslim women to take up space and continue what they have always been doing; showing up and winning,.
The Nike Victory Swim Collection is available February 1st on nike.com and at select retailers globally.