It has been a disappointing few weeks for Black and ethnic minority swimmers.
After the high of celebrating Alice Dearing as the UK’s first Black athlete to swim at the Olympics, there was the subsequent scandal when a swim hat specifically designed for Afro hair was barred from elite competition.
But in more positive news, Nike Swim has announced the launch of modest performance swimwear in a push to improve diversity and inclusion in the sport.
Last year, Nike revolutionised modest swimwear with the Victory suit; an innovative head-to-toe system for seamless water flow. This year sees the launch of the Victory 2.0 collection – a line of full coverage, performance swimwear designed to empower women in the water.
They say the aim is to create love for the water, as well as serving those who already love swimming.
Which is an important goal amid the context that 95% of Black adults and 80% of Black children in England do not swim. One in four Black children leave primary school not knowing how to swim.
The new Nike line includes tunic tops, swim leggings and a hijab that can be mixed and matched for women seeking full coverage, as well as full range-of-motion in the water.
Nike Swim worked with Muslim Sisterhood to create some stunning campaign imagery and to get their feedback on what makes a product truly inclusive.
‘Swimming is often an activity that Muslim women are excluded from because of our modesty requirements, so we wanted to create a campaign that was inclusive of different ages and shows that anyone can swim and enjoy the water,’ explains Lamisa from Muslim Sisterhood.
‘I’ve never really learnt how to swim because of not ever having the right swimwear and it’s something that’s held me back from enjoying the water.
‘Having swimwear that meets your needs personally as well as on a practical and technical level is encouraging. It makes staying active and having fun easier.’
Zeinab from Muslim Sisterhood says she has always loved the water, but she never really had functional swimwear for her needs.
‘I’m thankful that my family took me swimming from a young age,’ says Zeinab. ‘We didn’t have modest swimwear back then so it meant wearing leggings and long sleeve tops with our swimsuits.
‘I remember some of the leisure centre staff weren’t always understanding and there was a worry that they wouldn’t let us swim because of our makeshift swimming fits.’
Models of varied age ranges, ethnicities, body types and modest dressing were cast within this campaign. The Muslim Sisterhood say the models were chosen from real communities so they would have the chance to tell authentic stories.
‘Modest dressing doesn’t look the same and hijab is interpreted differently for different people and that’s something that should be normalised,’ says Zeinab.
‘We wanted to show the versatility of the Victory Swim collection in meeting the needs of each individual. Sports and swimming, in particular, shouldn’t be something that is limited by age: we wanted to see everyone having fun and staying active whether that’s a mother and her baby in the water for the very first time, friends splashing around together or a more mature woman taking time for herself through swimming.
‘We take a lot of pride in our all-female sets that prioritise Muslim women and non-binary folk of colour.’
The aim of this swimwear collection is to allow everybody to comfortably take part in water sports.
Instead of sacrificing movement for modesty, female athletes can now dive, body-surf a wave or power down a lane in performance swimwear that won’t leave them battling drag or struggling to keep their hijab in place.
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