“Fire really shows my peak of growth in fashion and personally,” declares Ikram Abdi Omar. While it’s not an element that perhaps would come to mind from first meeting her, once she steps in front of the camera it’s almost as if a spark is lit from within. And, when you look closer, it’s evident that she has an undeniable passion for pushing boundaries and a fierce determination that has ignited her career. Ikram embodies the very essence of the fiery spirit that fuels the fashion industry.
Born in Sweden to Somali parents, the model moved to the UK when she was just eight years old. Describing her childhood as “very interesting”, Ikram was a sporty individual and creative, always doing henna designs for her friends. But, it’s fair to say, her mind was far removed from the world of fashion. In fact, it was a career in dentistry she had always envisioned herself pursuing–that was the masterplan. In 2017, Ikram began her studies in biomedical science at the University of West England (UWE) in Bristol. But, as with many masterplans, they tend to change.
It was during her first year of university, just as she was beginning her path into the field of dentistry, when the fashion world came knocking. Or rather, Ikram came knocking for the fashion world. “I applied to an agency. I wasn’t scouted like many others,” she recalls. It was a slow burn for her foray into the fashion field but, as she says, she worked her way up and “really stayed dedicated to what goals I had in mind”.
Dedicated indeed, in 2018 Ikram made her debut at London Fashion Week for British designer Molly Goddard’s FW18 collection. Following that, modelling jobs naturally increased, but with attending university full-time, it became a balancing act that could no longer be balanced. “Living and studying in Bristol and trying to model in London was almost impossible to do,” the 27-year-old admits. “I knew I had to choose either fashion or university.
The fashion and modelling space was where Ikram could see a vision for herself, and there was clearly a passion ignited to not only succeed in the industry but where she could see positive changes to be made. “I went with modelling because I saw there was a market for me and felt that barriers could be broken,” she affirms. While it was a path she could visualise for herself, taking the leap to leave university was met with uncertainty from her family. “I just had to step-by-step explain the goals and vision,” Ikram explains. “They were a bit hesitant at first, but I have a great relationship with my parents, so the communication was always there… they trusted in me.”
And Ikram was right. She was entering a space where there was ground to be made and barriers to break down and as a young hijab-wearing Muslim model, she was one of the first to do so. While there was a burning desire in her to make change, it was never about becoming the poster child for the industry or a role model, it was simply about showing other Muslim women that there is representation for them.
“I don’t see myself as a role model but I understand why young girls who look like me look up to me,” Ikram muses. “It’s more about the changes I’m helping break in the fashion industry and proving to everyone that no matter how you look, you can make it if you stay dedicated.” A true sign of a burning desire to pave the way, Ikram is inspiring a whole new wave of young Muslim women. Having walked numerous catwalks at fashion weeks, both ready-to-wear and haute couture, and fronting huge fashion campaigns for the likes of Burberry and Nike, Ikram is here to show that “fashion and modesty go hand-in-hand and you can look effortless dressing modestly.” She adds, “There are so many ways you can look stylish and be with the fashion trends, but showing the modest twist with it is what I feel younger Muslim women are drawn to.”
This is certainly something Ikram explored wearing Cartier’s High Jewellery collection, Le Voyage Recommencé, for this story, a cover that was particularly evocative for her. “Clothes and the setting can really change how a model works,” she notes. “What was the most exciting was showcasing fire with the choices of clothing… I feel this really pushed me to tap into that fiery side of me.”
Reflecting on her journey so far, it’s evident this GRAZIA inferno and Ikram Abdi Omar go hand-in-hand. “There is a spark of fire in me that really gets me through a lot of things. Without that, I feel I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” With this sheer grit and determination to succeed, the flame is firmly ablaze for Ikram.
PHOTOGRAPHY Esra Sam
FASHION DIRECTOR Anna Castan
MODEL Ikram Abdi Omar
TALENT’S STYLIST Siân Gabari
HAIR Jean-Luc Amarin
MAKEUP Andrey Sebaoun
NAILS Nafissa Djabi
FASHION ASSISTANTS Imogene Legrand & Gabriela Cambero