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Get to know Ikram Abdi Omar – the hijabi model hitting the LFW catwalk

Making her runway debut at Molly Goddard’s AW18 show, Abdi Omar is bringing some much-needed diversity to fashion

Back in February, when Molly Goddard assembled a group of models and sent them out onto the catwalk as part of her LFW show at the ICA, there was one that particularly stood out. Among the girls that featured in the line-up was Ikram Abdi Omar, whose pale, drop-waisted dress was paired with something little-seen on runways: a hijab.

Born in Sweden to Somalian parents, the Bristol-based Muslim model has been working with the likes of modesty-based luxury fashion retailer The Modist for a while now, and has also taken turns on the runway at London Modest Fashion Week, Goddard’s show marked her debut on the LFW scene.

Joining forces with London's Bookings management, Abdi Omar follows in the footsteps of Halima Aden, who was the first hijabi model to sign to an agency. Aden hit headlines for her appearance in Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 5 show back in 2017 while wearing the traditional head covering, and has since gone on to become the face of Nike’s Pro Hijab line. “It’s amazing that this is starting to happen,” Abdi Omar tells us. “It’s so important too. I felt like we’re showing young girls that look like us they can do anything they want.”

Also appearing as part of Nicopanda and Ryan Lo’s shows, the decision to cast Abdi Omar this season seems particularly significant, and perhaps signals what we hope will be a more inclusive future in fashion (and beyond). Of course, we’re totally behind her burgeoning career in modelling – which is why she made her way into the Dazed 100 this year.

Here, we get to know her a little better, as she talks inspiring the next generation, the crazy world of modelling, and how fashion is more similar to biomedical science than you might think (hear her out, okay?) 

Tell me a bit about how you got into modelling...

Ikram Abdi Omar: I was modelling for some brands and keeping up with fashion on my social media, and eventually I applied to become a model with the agency I’m now with. I was really nervous but they loved me, so I signed with them there and then. Since then I’ve been working with the likes of The Modist, whose front cover I was on recently, which was amazing. And then that led to walking for Molly Goddard at London Fashion Week in February.

What was it like walking at Molly’s show? 

Ikram Abdi Omar: I was just excited. To be chosen to be part of this close-knit group of Molly’s friends and family was a great feeling and I loved meeting everyone and being included in it. It was such a unique experience and unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I went to meet Molly just before and she’s such a nice person and so dedicated to her work, and to have a special headscarf made for me by her and her team was just amazing.

How did you feel when you found out you’d been included in the Dazed 100?

Ikram Abdi Omar: It was such a surprise, I was so shocked! I’ve been following it over the last few years and to be included on it this time around was amazing – I was so happy. It also felt important to me. You know, my inclusion says something to the young girls out there: if they see me as part of it, or see me on the front cover of a magazine and I look like them, it’s sending out a message that if I can do it then it can happen for them too.

“I hope that we’ll see a shift to fashion becoming a more diverse, inclusive place that reflects the multicultural world we live in. There are so many different kinds of beauty and I hope to see a broader range of it celebrated on the catwalk” – Ikram Abdi Omar

Do you feel a sense of duty to be kind of a role model now?  

Ikram Abdi Omar: No, not at all, I don’t feel any kind of pressure, I’m just so glad I’m in the position that I am, doing what I’m doing, and in the process I might be inspiring a younger generation to believe in themselves. I want them to realise they can be anything they want to be.

How do you see the fashion industry progressing – what will it look like five years from now?  

Ikram Abdi Omar: I hope that we’ll see a shift to fashion becoming a more diverse, inclusive place that reflects the multicultural world we live in. There are so many different kinds of beauty and I hope to see a broader range of it celebrated on the catwalk.

Now you’ve walked for Molly Goddard, who would you like to model for next?

Ikram Abdi Omar: I’ve always loved Fendi and Tom Ford, so I’d love to walk for either of them. Those Fendi scarves – I’d love to wear one of those, it would be perfect!

Talking of headscarves on the runway, we recently published an article exploring the idea that fashion was fetishising the hijab – Versace had models that appeared to be wearing the traditional head coverings with mini-dresses, for example. What are your thoughts on this?

Ikram Abdi Omar: You know, I think scarves can be worn so many different ways and sometimes it can be just what it seems to be as part of those shows – a fashion accessory. I think it comes down to the person wearing it to imbue it with special meaning in the way that a hijab is. That said, I’d like to see more hijabi models on the catwalks wearing head coverings, that would be the ideal.

What would you be doing if you weren’t modelling?

Ikram Abdi Omar: I do a lot of henna art for birthdays and weddings still, which I love doing, and I love to draw – I’ve always been quite creative. Before I started modelling, I was studying biomedical science at university, so I’d probably still be doing that, too. Biomedical science and fashion aren’t so different though – you’re exploring new environments and working in conditions that are always evolving in both, and meeting new people and travelling to new places. So yeah, fairly similar... kind of.

Vote for Ikram Abdi Omar in the Dazed 100 here