When Vogue Arabia introduced its print issue in March, it had already broken a number of barriers within Condé Nast International's stable of publications. In addition to being the only edition of Vogue to launch digitally first, it was also the first Vogue to represent an entire region. Finally, it was the Middle East's first premium fashion magazine to launch in two languages, Arabic and English.
But its debut issue — starring the half-Palestinian Gigi Hadid wearing a hijab — quickly sparked backlash. While some readers called it cultural appropriation, others condemned Gigi for using the hijab as "art." The magazine took its readers' comments to heart, casting Dutch-Moroccan model Imaan Hammam as the April cover girl and tapping hijabi model Halima Aden to appear on its June cover, which were better received. However, for its latest issue, Vogue Arabia has returned to the Hadid gene pool.
On Tuesday, Vogue Arabia revealed its September 2017 issue, which stars Gigi's younger sister, Bella. Photographed by Karl Lagerfeld, the dual-language covers show Bella in head-to-toe Fendi while wearing a jet-black pixie wig — no hijab. The garments themselves are modest, but as The New York Times pointed out, not explicitly Muslim, with Bella wearing a netted fascinator in one cover portrait and a high-necked satin dress in another.
Like Gigi, Bella has been vocal about her Palestinian roots, though it's unclear whether they were raised in the Islamic faith. People reported in January that their father Mohamed Hadid is Muslim, as is Gigi's boyfriend, Zayn Malik, who is British-Pakistani. ("I wouldn't call myself a 'devout' Muslim… but I'm very proud of my heritage," Mohamed, who reportedly fasts during Ramadan, told Modern Luxury in August 2010.)
In a statement, Editor-in-Chief Manuel Arnaut, who replaced founding EIC Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz after her abrupt exit in April, described how proud he and his team are to have produced a "more than 300-page issue representing the best of Arabia, highlighting regional tastemakers and our most celebrated fashion designers."
Indeed, the cover imagery is stunning, made only more so when considering who was behind the lens, but the same pushback the publication received after its Gigi cover is already starting to appear in its Instagram comments. "You guys need to play the game right… this is called Vogue Arabia and the women on the cover do not represent Arabia whatsoever even though they have a half arab heritage they still represent and identify as a westerner," said one commenter, with another writing: "Ok we love bella but she's every where and your magazine is just like any other, add the Arabian taste to fashion for God's sake." Bella is everywhere; Vogue Arabia marks her fifth cover this month, as she already fronts international titles like Harper's Bazaar China and Elle Russia.
In a release, Vogue Arabia hinted that it has "a few surprises still up its sleeves" and looks forward to a "momentous final quarter of 2017." In the meantime, there's still a lot to look forward to inside its September issue, including exclusive interviews with both Lagerfeld and Hadid, as well as portraits of "hijab-wearing street-style muses of modesty." We'll be sure to keep an eye out for Hadid's full editorial once it hints newsstands.