Rising Somali model Ugbad Abdi is considered to be Fall 2019’s breakout star. She credits fellow-Muslim refugee model, Minneapolis-based Halima Aden as her inspo. “Before Halima, I just assumed there was no place for the hijab in the fashion industry,” Ugbad told i-D. “I have now realised that Muslim women can be anything we want to be.”
Ugbad is styled by Vanessa Reid for ‘Ugbad in Tanzania’, lensed by Viviane Sassen for Vogue Italia May 2019./ Makeup by Irena Ruben
Another Midwestern Girl Makes Good
Trump’s Muslim ban — and the left’s response to it — clouds the American Midwest which did go for Trump, as a bastion of anti-Muslim hate. Yet Ugbad Abdi grew up in Iowa, leaving a Kenyan refugee camp where she lived for nine years, before coming to America. These real-life success stories are lost in the anger and angst of Trumplandia, and the relentless battle between Israel and Palesine.
From Des Moines, Ia to Paris, France
Just months after finishing high school in Des Moines, Iowa, Ugbad was signed by Next and flown to Paris to walk for Maison Valentino in her first runway show. There she was, walking alongside Naomi Campbell and other famous models.
After the show, in another Instagram post, Ugbad said, "Am I dreaming?!! Can someone pinch me please? This is the most breathtaking and emotional show I’ve been soooo fortunate enough to be a part of. You are such an unbelievable visionary @pppiccioli and I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity."
The Politics of Change
Change comes from many directions, not only pure politics — which are deadly in America, right now. Historically, fashion has hardly enjoyed the reputation of leading social change. Yet, my instincts tell me that the best of fashion — and fashion brands — are taking on positions of real leadership on topics from sustainability to racism.
It must also be said that in the #TimesUp era, women in fashion can lead a dialogue that spills out into the larger culture — and politics — in less threatening but ultimately more influential ways. There’s a significant network of infuential older women eager to protect and promote these young women, seeing in them the next level of advancement on a multitude of issues that must be changed for our world’s survival.
Many of us are crushed over the slow pace of social change and the clear backlash against it — from racism to religious bigotry to misogyny and sexism. These young women can and will change the world, and it’s the responsibility of each of us to keep them safe and successful.
These walls of separation between fashion and politics must fall.