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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

First hijabi Miss England finalist recycles KFC box for catwalk clutch bag

Sara Iftekhar is one of 50 contestants hoping to take home the crown in the annual beauty pageant

Sara Iftekhar modelling her eco-friendly dress with recycled KFC clutch bag. REX/Shutterstock 

Muslim law student Sara Iftekhar has become the first hijab wearing contestant to participate in the final of the Miss England competition.

The 20-year-old, who currently studies at the University of Huddersfield, wore an eco-dress alongside 49 other hopefuls at the two-day competition at Kelham Hall in Nottinghamshire, in the English midlands.

The finalists all wore ethical outfits as part as a campaign to rid the world’s oceans from plastic waste.

Revealing the turquoise blue dress to her thousands of Instagram followers, Ms Iftekhar said: “My eco dress for the Miss England 2018 Finals (Thank you all for the nice messages, I really do appreciate it).”

Ms Iftekhar, who started her own clothing business at the age of 16, accessorised the look with a clutch bag which she made herself from an old KFC box.

Explaining her choice of accessory, she said: “So if you know me personally then you’ll know that I love KFC, so I thought I would make a stylish eco friendly clutch bag keeping it with the plastic ocean rescue theme. I decorated a @kfc snack box using left over fabric and made beautiful waves to give the ocean like feel and decorated my clutch with some seashell.”

The winner of the Miss England competition will be announced after a fashion show on Tuesday evening. The woman who takes home the crown will go on to represent England at the Miss World competition in Sanya, China.

While contestants have worn hijabs in the qualifying round, Ms Iftekhar, who also holds the titles of Miss Huddersfield and Miss Yorkshire Popularity, is the first to wear the garment in the final of the beauty contest.

Speaking to the BBC about the experience, she said: "I did not expect to be making history. I do feel proud.

"At the end of the day, I may be the first woman to wear a hijab [at the Miss England final]. However, I am just a regular girl and we all have a fair opportunity in this contest."

Ms Iftekhar has also set up a fundraising page in support of Miss England 2018’s chosen charity, Beauty with a Purpose.

"I participated in Miss 2018 in order to show that beauty doesn't have a definition. Everyone is beautiful in their own ways, regardless of their weight, race, colour or shape," she wrote on her Go Fund Me page.

As well as taking part in the traditional catwalk competition, finalists are encouraged to take part in other activities including raising money for charity, competing in a sports round, taking part in a “beauty beach shoot” and completing “a general knowledge quiz”.

Sara Iftekhar. Instagram / Miss England 

A statement on the Miss England website reads: “Miss England celebrates the achievements of women and we are looking for a positive role model to inspire others. Miss England is so much more than a beauty contest.”

Miss World, the oldest running international beauty pageant, has frequently come under fire from women’s rights groups, who argue the event is degrading to women.

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Read more: Muslim student becomes first hijabi Miss England finalist

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In 1970 protesters stormed London’s Royal Albert Hall where the Miss World pageant final was being held and threw flour bombs.

The organisation ditched the famous swimsuit element of the competition in 2014 following decades of criticism.

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