Photography: Salma Alessa Creative Direction: Aiesha Bousheri
Enjoying Morning Chalk Up? Access additional exclusive interviews, analyses, and stories with an Rx membership.
How it started: In Islamic culture, hijab refers to a concept of modesty and privacy, often expressed through women’s clothing. Haya Alneama, owner of Born Primitive Middle East, a female-run branch of the apparel company, says women who choose to cover their heads, called hijabis, also need to cover their arms to their wrists and legs to their ankles.
- While hijabis can wear more revealing pieces in what Alneama calls a “protected area,” like Alneama’s female-only affiliate, BMS – Wellness Functional Training. Outside of these spaces, they need to be covered. (Inside the gym, Alneama says her athletes wear booty shorts and sports bras.)
- “We do have mixed gyms in the country – a lot of them,” Alneama says. “We do have outdoor activities that our people are getting more and more into; [the covered athletes] want to run on the beach, they want to ride bicycles, they want to go to parks and do yoga, and all of these activities, they need to be dressed modestly.”
Alneama’s covered athletes spurred the creation of the Modest Edit. She says her athletes started wearing Born Primitive pieces – many from the men’s section – in “very, very interesting ways, to look very sporty yet covered.”
- “Of course the athleisure market in the whole world is booming,” Alneama says. “[But] no one significant has tapped into the modest athleisure market, where it is a huge market in the Middle East and the world as well.” Aside from the Modest Edit, Alneama says she knows of one other small brand, The Giving Movement, tapping into the modest market.”
- “People do want to be comfortable, but yet covered,” she continues. We give them the option of looking sporty and chic… yet covered, not look odd wearing something that doesn’t fit in a sports environment.”
The collection: The Modest Edit uses pre-existing Born Primitive items to create looks for covered athletes. Alneama says they’ve tailored these pieces into a lookbook, designing 12 different outfits that cater to different levels of modesty.
- “There are multiple levels of how modest you want to be, and we try to be as loose with that in our photoshoot,” she says. “So there are some girls who are just wearing leggings and a top. For some, that is not modest enough, so there is another girl who is wearing leggings and shorts on top of that, to have a bit more coverage.”
- Other images show different lengths of shorts and long tunic-style tops extending below the butt.
Alneama and Born Primitive Middle East are based in Kuwait, where it gets very hot. Though some of the items are long-sleeved, she says the Born Primitive Athleisure line material is made from a “super soft and super cool” fabric “very light and cool.”
Athletes: Alneama and the all-female Born Primitive Middle East team have brought on a few top athletes, including Hajer Jamal, the fittest women in Kuwait, and Amal Alshahrani, the fittest women in Saudi Arabia, to represent the brand and Modest Edit. Alneama says the women in her gym are loving the collection, smiling when she says they dress in “Born Primitive head to toe.”
- “Kuwait is very into fashion and Kuwaiti girls are very into fashion,” she says. “They do want to look very stylish and fashionable. So when girls are wearing the [Born Primitive] items in a fashionable way, I go ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe you thought about that!’”
- “The ladies are already wearing the bras and leggings in the gym when they’re free, now they get to wear whole outfits – they still get to wear the brand they love,” Alneama says. “That’s a nice way to receive them and respect them and give them something to wear all the time.”