Meet Feriel Moulaï: modest fashion’s new muse

The hijabi model and Grazia cover girl on female empowerment, the democratisation of fashion, and why Muslim girls wanting to break into the industry should stay real
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Meet Feriel Moulaï: modest fashion’s new muse

Silk Kaftan, Pucci, Dhs2,850 at Harvey Nichols - Dubai

Last September, Feriel Moulaï shot to fame making her debut as the first hijabi model in history to walk at Paris Fashion Week. “It was a huge career moment. As a Belgian model wearing a headscarf, walking in Paris was unbelievable,” she recalls of the Koché show. “Christelle Kocher is a talented and visionary designer. The scouts from the Koché show spotted me on Instagram and loved my style so they invited me for a casting in Paris. 
I didn’t know I'd be meeting Christelle at the casting but she told me she loved my attitude and energy, and that I represented her brand as a powerful and feminine woman.”

Feriel joins the new wave of hijabi models which includes Halima
 Aden, Ikram Abdi Omar, Kadija Diawara, and Amina Adan. On being at the forefront of the modesty movement, Feriel reflects, “We live in a beautiful era where we can be whoever we want and live in accordance with our passion and choices no matter what these are. I am honoured to be part to this incredible adventure, where I can reflect my feminine energy in the way I want. 
The spirit of this amazing experience is about being  proud to embrace whoever we are and feeling comfortable with it.”

She continues, “Fashion is for me a huge way to empower women. It’s a lens through which we can view the world in different ways. 
For me, fashion means being connected to people from different cultures, ideologies and choices. The runway has become more inclusive, and the industry is opening new opportunities for more people and for different models. The modelling industry is becoming more democratised and reflecting the multicultural world we live in. I like this new direction.”

Blazer, Jonathan Simkhai Dhs2,700. Trousers, Theory Dhs1,550. Veil, Moulaï’s own. Coat, Dries Van Noten Dhs6,600 all at Harvey Nichols - Dubai

So when Harvey Nichols – Dubai came to cast its Moments of Serenity campaign, Feriel was an obvious choice. “I loved being part of this campaign,” she tells Grazia. "The team was wonderful, I had the opportunity to work with Jolie Wernette-Horn again which is always a great pleasure, and the images reflect my vision of the luxury even when you want to be modest.”

Feriel points out, “The campaign was shot before the current worldwide situation and the images reflect the tranquility that we need it this time, being serene but still gorgeous even if it’s at home.”

Her favourite look from Harvey Nichols – Dubai Ramadan edit? “Definitely the glamorous sequinned green gown from Dundas,” she replies without hesitation. And the runways she dreams of appearing on? “I love being feminine, powerful and glamorous and for me there are some huge fashion houses like Versace, Alexandre Vauthier, Dolce & Gabbana, Thierry Mugler, Balmain, and many others that represent my vision of this kind of woman.”

Dress, Dundas Dhs6,600. Shoes, Nicholas Kirkwood Dhs2,800 both at Harvey Nichols - Dubai

When she was growing up, Feriel was inspired by '90s supermodels Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and most of all, Cindy Crawford, but today, she’s now paving the way for a new generation of girls to follow in her footsteps in fashion. “My recommendations  to young Muslims girls who are looking to break into the industry are tostay real, be yourself, and don’t change to please anyone, but that’s my advice to everyone!” she laughs. “Also, never give up and don’t be disillusioned by rejection.”

Earrings, Oscar De La Renta Dhs1,350. Trousers, Parosh Dhs2,000. Gown, Avaro Filgio, Dhs7,800 all at Harvey Nichols - Dubai

Feriel is currently quarantining in Brussels and spending her time working on her YouTube channel “to keep my beautiful audience happy and inspired.” She explains, “I have a Biochemistry Degree specialising in Cosmetology and I created this channel to share my tips and my beauty formulas. I had this idea to share my expertise in cosmetology with a lot of people and YouTube was for me the perfect way to do it.”

During Ramadan, Feriel is also sharing her favourite iftar and suhoor recipes. “Staying hydrated is so important,” she admits. “I try to eat some complex carbohydrates to have long lasting energy for example: porridge rather than of sugary processed cereal, fibre like fruits and vegetables to help feeling full longer and prevent hunger pangs early in the day. I don’t eat a lot of fruits because of the amount of sugar. I love spinach and I make vegetable smoothies I enjoy adding protein in my suhoor like chicken breast) yoghurt, chickpeas, eggs and cottage cheese.”

And if her starring role in the Harvey Nichols – Dubai Moments of Serenity campaign hasn’t convinced you Feriel’s one to watch, the hijabi model also graces the April/May 2020 of Grazia Middle East. “I’m delighted and honoured to have been chosen for the cover of Grazia,” she reveals. “Having had the opportunity to work with the great team who accomplished such amazing results was so exciting. I loved the idea of a cover focusing on diversity with Hermès.”

Feriel Moulaï on the cover of Grazia Middle East's April-May 2020 issue

Feriel adds, “I've received so many lovely messages on Instagram from people who appreciated the spirit of spreading the message of positivity and diversity. So many told me that this is the cover they’ve been waiting for!” And her message for Grazia readers? "Try to keep in a flow of positive thoughts, stay focused on the good, and try to laugh at least once a day. We can't control everything but we can - or at least try to - keep our attitude positive, be kind and stay grateful."

Additional reporting: Marta Naffa  Photographer: Jeremy Choh  Model: Feriel Moulaï at Art Factory  Fashion Editor: Laura Jane Brown Art Director: Jolie Wernette-Horn Hair and Make up: Helena Narra  Stylist Assistant: Christina Arrighi Photographer's assistant: Chris Cao Creative Production Manager: Alicija Aputyte  Producer: Ximena Sabatini