In 2017, Nike's Pro Hijab first became available on the global market. The moisture-wicking head covering made sports more comfortable and accessible for competitive female Muslim athletes, a group long overlooked by major athletic wear brands.
The winner of Fast Company's top design award that year, it has gone on to be a hit: According to Morocco World News, sales of the design rose 125% in the first quarter of 2019.
Now, Nike is releasing yet another garment for Muslim women: a modesty swimsuit.
Technically the suit is made up of separate pieces: a hijab, a tunic, and pants. "We really love to design products for athletes [especially] when we see an underutilized part of the market, or when people can't participate in the area they want to participate in," says Martha Moore, creative director vice president at Nike, via Skype call. "We were fortunate enough to travel to southeast Asia, and do that thing that designers do: observe."
Moore and the rest of the Nike design team noticed that while they were used to seeing non-Muslim and American women enjoying water activities in string bikinis and skin-tight one-pieces (in co-ed pools and on public beaches), women in southeast Asian and Middle Eastern countries had to swim in women's only pools, since they had few modest swimwear options that provided full coverage.
Even when total coverage, wetsuit-style bathing suits are available to women, there is the additional concern that they don't provide optimal mobility in the water. "When we did see people swimming in Australia in full modesty outfits, we learned from lifeguards that that's who they are most concerned about because of how heavy and layered they are ... it becomes a dangerous issue, [they're] super heavy in the water," Moore says.
"[We thought: What could we do to really facilitate women swimming for their whole lives as a daily habit? Then we went shopping and we saw lots of competitor products in the marketplace, and the competitor products were the lowest common denominator of what is needed to swim in the water: a long tunic top, some pants, and you'd have to wear your own hijab. It was heavy, stretchy, and clingy and pretty much not attractive from our perspective."