A New Zealand Police uniform hijab by Wellington designers has turned heads overseas, and Leicestershire Police in the UK are now trialling the prototype for their officers.
After 16 months of a collaborative design process - involving fabric research, pattern sampling and trialling – the hijab was launched at the New Zealand police graduation by Constable Zeena Ali in November last year.
Massey University College of Creative Arts senior lecturer Deb Cumming, who worked on the design project, said the hijab had garnered interest overseas after being circulated on an internal police newsletter.
"There was quite a substantial response from a number of different international police, who were very impressed on the design and how it looked so professional, and the also technical aspects involved in the design," she said.
"Leicestershire police have asked for our sample to be sent to them and they're doing their own wear trials and health and safety requirements that are part of their approval process, so they're obviously looking quite seriously at introducing it for the UK police."
The operational hijab was introduced into the uniform for NZ police as a piece of headwear that can be worn with their other issued headgear.
The "incredibly thorough" design process had collaborated with the Muslim community to ensure the hijabs were culturally appropriate, while also catering for "the rigorous performance need" of being a policewoman.
"That was a fantastic process because we needed to learn more about cultural considerations, and what was also culturally acceptable," Cumming said.
"We also needed to have all the information for the hijab to be effective on an operation, active, performance level."
"We did really extensive wear testing and we got user responses throughout all the sampling prototype responses in order to keep refining the design prototypes until we had the completed one."
Cumming said it was really important Muslim women felt comfortable and included if choosing a career with New Zealand police.
Constable Zeena Ali had been involved in the trialling of prototypes and said the police and Massey design team had made adjustments throughout the process.
Ali, who was originally from Fiji but had lived in New Zealand since she was a child, said she was hoping to inspire other women in the Muslim community to join New Zealand police.