Asiya's Culturally Appropriate Activewear

Over the past decade, social worker Fatimah Hussein has worked with young Muslim girls at the Brian Coyle Community Center gym in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. Despite their enthusiasm, Hussein was struck by the challenges the girls faced while playing sports—their heavy hijabs weighed the girls down, their long skirts made them trip, and the fabric of their modest clothing caused them to overheat.

After researching participation rates of Muslim girls in sports, Hussein (herself a Somali immigrant) found that they were about half of that of their peers. So she joined forces with Minnesota-born marketer Jamie Glover to found Asiya, a brand of activewear that enables movement while helping girls uphold their cultural beliefs.

In 2015, the pair partnered with the University of Minnesota’s school of apparel design to create prototype uniforms for the community center’s Muslim girls to wear. Then late last year, Asiya—named for a highly revered woman from Islamic history, Asiya bint Muzahim, who is known for her courage in standing up against injustice—created Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns to fund production of the brand’s first line of activewear hijabs, which are the first of their kind in the U.S. In November, the campaigns raised $77,119, more than 150 percent of its goal.

Available in three styles—Lite, Sport, and Fit—each pull-on hijab offers a different level of modesty and movement. A built-in headband keeps the hijab in place, and the fabric is lightweight, sweat-wicking, and breathable.

The brand has already received some high-profile press from People magazine and Refinery29 and won the social entrepreneur track at this year’s MN Cup, the state’s premier startup competition. After beginning production earlier this month, online sales are expected to begin in March in conjunction with Asiya’s official launch. (Asiya is still taking pre-orders via its Indiegogo page.) Then beginning in April, the brand plans to go to work on developing its next line—team uniforms and activewear—that are sure to help a new generation of Muslim girls prove it’s possible to be modest and athletic at the same time.

“We want to see everyone, everywhere have the opportunity to come together,” said Glover in Asiya’s Indiegogo video. “There shouldn’t be a barrier as simple as clothing that keeps people apart.”

If you’re not in the market for a sweat-wicking hijab, you can still pitch in by sponsoring a young female Muslim athlete or team of athletes. •