A Moroccan creative turned her 68-year-old mom into a streetwear style icon on Instagram

Najate Leklye styled by her daughter Meryem Slimani for the Instagram account @meryemsfirst.
Najate Leklye styled by her daughter Meryem Slimani for the Instagram account @meryemsfirst. Courtesy of Meryem Slimani
  • Meryem Slimani styled her 68-year-old mother Najate Leklye into an Instagram fashion sensation.
  • Leklye’s outfits are inspired by Slimani’s Moroccan heritage and her love of hip-hop culture.
  • With 55,000 Instagram followers, the mother-daughter duo has featured in several fashion campaigns.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Many people have cherished childhood memories of playing dress-up with their parents.

For Rotterdam-based creative, Meryem Slimani, 37, dressing her 68-year-old Moroccan mother in striking outfits of the day on Instagram is a joyful subversion of this parent-child dynamic.

One scroll down the Instagram account @meryemsfirst reveals photogenic Najate Leklye sat in front of Moroccan-inspired backdrops wearing kaleidoscopic color palettes and cool streetwear ensembles with sports hijabs. Think neons, animal prints, and those sneakers that are currently sitting in your ASOS cart.

Their mother-daughter relationship has secured them 55,000 Instagram followers and collaborations with the likes of Uniqlo, Fila, and Daily Paper.

“Everyone sees something of themselves in us,” Slimani told Insider. “Maybe it’s the mother-daughter connection. Maybe it’s being a third culture kid. Maybe it’s not feeling at home in any place, but it could also be just someone who loves fashion or sneakers.”

Najate Leklye and Meryem Slimani.
Mother-daughter duo Najate Leklye and Meryem Slimani. Courtesy of Meryem Slimani

Their images tell the story of a migrant family, straddling Dutch-Moroccan identity. But for Slimani, these aesthetics are not a staged creative choice.

“My culture is such a big part of me that I don’t even really think about it,” she said, noting that the craftsmanship and rich detailing of traditional Moroccan clothing sparked a life-long interest in fashion. “It just comes together that way because it’s in my heart, it’s in my soul.”

Najate Leklye styled by her daughter Meryem Slimani for the Instagram account @meryemsfirst.
Najate Leklye, styled by her daughter, Meryem Slimani, for the Instagram account @meryemsfirst. Courtesy of Meryem Slimani

Leklye encouraged Slimani to dress herself from a very young age, and use fashion to express herself. “I would look crazy and get bullied for it, but I didn’t care,” Slimani said.

By the time Slimani was entering the workforce, the 2010 economic crisis in the Netherlands had already reduced employment opportunities in creative industries, as an analysis published by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs shows. So, Slimani turned her hand to fashion and lifestyle blogging in 2015 and relied on her mother to photograph her outfits.

Slimani said she soon felt alienated by the blogging community because she felt out of place.

“At some point I was like, I don’t feel like being in front of the camera anymore,” Slimani said, noting that these spaces felt oversaturated yet lacking in diversity. “I was feeling very uninspired by Instagram and like the streetwear scene and the body-positive scene.”

“I thought, there are like millions of us and we all sort of are trying to do the same thing. Let me put my mom in front of the camera – that’s gonna set me apart,” she added.

Slimani said that her mum has always been her “biggest cheerleader” and was “totally up for it” when she floated the idea because it was another way to champion her daughter’s creativity.

At the time, Leklye had been diagnosed with breast cancer and her fashion sense shifted, as she moved away from more conventional feminine styling choices and towards comfortable options, swapping out heels for sneakers.

Najate Leklye styled by her daughter Meryem Slimani for the Instagram account @meryemsfirst.
Najate Leklye poses in an outfit her daughter, Meryem Slimani, styled. Courtesy of Meryem Slimani

Relaxed clothing and baggier silhouettes aligned perfectly with Slimani’s love of hip-hop culture, which she has always felt very influenced by.

“I just felt at home in that culture. That was the space where I felt accepted for who I was,” she said, adding that it was the only form of culture on mainstream TV that centered around people of color.

For Slimani, it’s important that she uses her platform to send the message that age does not have to determine how you dress, and that women who wear hijabs do not have to exist within the box society often places them in, she said.

“The biggest compliment that I can get is from young girls tagging their friends and saying ‘this is you in 30 years,'” she said, laughing. “I want to show younger generations to stand for what you believe in and that wearing hijab doesn’t mean that you’re less than. It doesn’t mean that you’re repressed.”

As much as the account aims to inspire others, it is fundamentally a way for Slimani to carve out a space to tell her personal story, one that she would have liked to see when she was growing up. “This is my way of giving little Meryem someone to look up to,” she said.