British Model Ikram Abdi Omar Breaks Long-Held Beauty Barriers

Photographed by Stephanie Alcaino

It’s taken the fashion industry quite some time to catch up, to learn, to grow, to understand, and to finally acknowledge that beauty is not one face, but rather many.

Diversity is prevailing, making way for a societal shift in the appreciation of many body types, heights, sexual orientations, races and religions. Accepting your skin is tough already, but add in the industry’s long-standing affinity for Scandinavian beauty ideals, and you have yourself some growing pains. Fortunately, faces such as Bristol-based model Ikram Abdi Omar are helping to place an emphasis on visibility. “I feel blessed because when I was a young girl, I never saw anyone with a headscarf taking part in runway shows, magazine shoots or fashion in general,” expressed Abdi Omar.

As fate would have it, Abdi Omar began her career doing shoots for modest fashion brands, but signed to Bookings Model Agency on a whim, joining a small—but growing—community of hijabi models, like Halima Aden, who have been signed by a major agency. Soon thereafter, she made her runway debut at London Fashion Week, walking for Molly Goddard’s Fall/Winter 2018 show—a refreshing display of real faces and girlish tulle. Of the opportunity, Abdi Omar said, “I felt so grateful with the amount of support and love people showed me. It means a lot to me because something I have worked so hard for was being recognized, and it gives me more hope for the future knowing that I have people supporting me.” The striking Swedish-born model has since signed with Premier Model Management, where she continues to pave the way for future Muslim models, the only way she knows how—by being herself.

Off the runway, fashion heavyweights—the likes of Dolce & Gabbana and Nike—have extended their range, offering modest fashion collections as well as campaigns fronted by Muslim models. “Seeing top designers being inspired by the headscarf, and having them showcased during the Fall/Winter 2018 shows, really indicates how modest fashion has inspired the industry,” added Abdi Omar on the important shift. Maybe it was a moment of magic, or the start of a movement that took way too long, but fashion finally applauded Abdi Omar for who she was, and not who they wanted her to be. It goes without saying that Muslim women are among the most unrepresented in high fashion, and this pursuit of inclusivity has not gone unnoticed. “I feel that the industry’s next step is just to make sure this representation continues so that any young person who has hopes and dreams has someone who looks like them to look up to,” noted Abdi Omar. The simple idea that many religions, beliefs, skin tones, hair textures, and body frames don’t have to be ignored, but rather appreciated and even celebrated, is nothing short of a revolution.

Looking forward, this Dazed’s 2018 Top 100 appointee would like to one day take on more than just the fashion industry. With a love of beauty, Abdi Omar revealed that she would enjoy having her own cosmetics line. Until then, her sights are set on walking for brands like Tom Ford, Fendi, and Prada, and of course, becoming one of the top U.K. runway models in the world.

With notches on her proverbial fashion belt, including her strong LFW debut, her mother by her side, modesty on her mind, and a strong belief system in place, Abdi Omar’s star will undoubtedly continue to rise as a champion of change.