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DUBAI: US-Somali model Halima Aden is set to be a judge for this year’s Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge finals, held on Feb. 3.

The annual program, in its fourth outing, aims to discover and accelerate the work of innovative and impactful fashion startups. Through mentoring and financial support, the company seeks to help the best ideas break through.

According to the brand’s website, the program offers opportunities to individuals from “historically underrepresented communities, including black, indigenous, people of color, people with disabilities and women.”

On Feb. 3, the judging panel, which also includes Hilfiger, managing director of Fashion for Good, Katrin Ley, and professor of entrepreneurship at INSEAD business school, Adrian Johnson, will pick two winners who will receive a $100,000 cash grant each, a year-long mentorship with Hilfiger and INSEAD experts and an INSEAD program.

An additional $15,000 will be awarded to the finalist who wins the “audience favorite vote.”

Over a multi-stage process, 259 applicants were narrowed down to five finalists — who were announced this week — to develop their project plans virtually with the support of Hilfiger and experts.

The first of the finalists are Care+Wear, a healthwear company based in New York that provides accessible clothing, recovery bras, patient gowns and scrubs to people in hospitals.

The second is IDA Sports, a British company designing footwear and soccer cleats specifically for female athletes.

Koalaa is a UK initiative, engineering upper-limb prosthetics made like clothes.

Tactus is a Dutch-American tech brand that designs smart clothing that translates music into vibrations for the deaf community.

The last finalist is Moner Bondhu, a startup founded in Bangladesh that provides mental health and wellbeing services with a focus on garment factory workers, women and youth.

Aden, who grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp before fleeing to Minnesota with her family, has a longstanding relationship with the American designer.

She fronted the campaign for the label’s first hijab. In 2019, she made history as the first person to wear a hijab and burkini in the pages of Sports Illustrated — and returned for the publication’s 2020 issue, wearing a custom Tommy Hilfiger burkini.

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