Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, shortages of masks and PPE gear have posed a problem, particularly within the United States. Thanks to generous donations from private organizations and designers making efforts to produce additional supplies, the situation has improved. Still, even when frontline workers have access to the right gear, issues can arise. Created for short-term use rather than 24/7 wear, traditional masks can quickly become uncomfortable. In fact many hospital workers have reported scarring and irritation due to the restrictive ear straps. For hijabi doctors and nurses the situation is further complicated with standard-issue masks that don’t account for headscarves and facial coverings.
With its debut collection, Anywear attempts to address those issues. Dubbed “Banding Together,” the capsule of specially designed face coverings serve as an extra protective barrier and shield for reusable masks like the N95. Fashion heavyweights such as hairstylist Chris McMillan and makeup artist Daniel Martin were among Anywear’s first collaborators. Now model Halima Aden has come on board with a range of hijab and turban sets. Many brands have pivoted to mask making, but few have addressed the needs of frontline workers from all faiths. Aden’s custom hijabs add something new to the equation and the market—precisely what Anywear’s cofounders Emily Shippee and Adi-Lee Cohen had in mind. “When I started speaking to Adi about inclusivity and the designs, we wanted to make sure we included women who need to cover their hair and do so comfortably,” explained Shippee via email. “Of course, nobody was better for that than Halima because she used to clean hospital rooms when she first started working and had valuable, firsthand experiences.”
Aden’s days at the St. Cloud Hospital in Minnesota are more than just a footnote to her high fashion Cinderella story. As a housekeeper, she learned the ins and outs of sanitizing and sterilizing patient rooms. “You need to rely on the doctors, LPNs, and nurses but also the housekeepers and cleaning staff,” shared Aden on the phone from her hometown of St. Cloud. “We do a huge part in keeping patients healthy.” Proper mask usage is part of that task. During her time in health care, Aden experienced what it was like to wear them beneath her hijab. “Early on, I understood the importance of wearing that extra protective gear, whether it was the gloves or the personal protection equipment, so when COVID-19 happened, and there were so many shortages, I felt such sympathy. I struggled with my scarf and having to pin it,” she says. “I can remember wishing that there was a way for the hijab to be a part of the uniform instead of me having to go and match the fabric and never be able to find scarf options to go with my scrubs.”