Hijab-wearing model breaks barriers on the Melbourne Fashion Festival runway


The Melbourne fashion festival runway will feature its first hijab wearing model. Hanan Ibrahim has just started her professional modelling career, but is already working for major designers as she challenges the cultural stereotypes of a Muslim woman.

It’s been just over a month since Melbourne-based radiation therapist Hannan Ibrahim decided to pursue modelling full time.

Already she's modeled for designer Lisa Gorman - marking a big step in her modelling career and a giant leap for diversity in the Australian fashion industry as she makes modelling history by becoming the Melbourne Fashion Festival’s first ever hijab-wearing model.

Hanan Ibrahim is set to make history, walking the gala Melbourne event's catwalk.
Hanan Ibrahim is set to make history, walking the gala Melbourne event's catwalk.

Ms Ibrahim, 25, said she hoped to open up new avenues for other Muslim women.

 “Australia is known for being a multicultural country and living in Melbourne you feel that. But in the fashion industry you don’t see it. So I hope to break down some stereotypes and break down some boundaries that some Muslims feel boxed in to," she told SBS News.

Hanan Ibrahim in make up

She said the designers have been only too willing to accommodate her modesty standards.

“I have a bag I normally bring with me, of all the different colour hijabs I have and the stylists and designers  pick one to match the outfit," she said.

"But the majority of the designers I’m walking for this week have actually custom made hijab’s for me. I was blown away.”

Born in Kenya, of Somali background, Ms Ibrahim’s love of fashion was born in her mother’s boutique, west of Melbourne.

The middle child of 11 siblings, she said  wearing the hijab hasn’t always been easy.

“Islamaphobia has been on the rise for some time, so there has been times when it’s been hard to wear a hijab and be a visible Muslim right after something was aired in the media that was quite provocative and negative.”

Ms Ibrahim may be the first hijab-wearing model on the Melbourne Fashion Festival runway, but she certainly won’t be the last.

Festival CEO Graeme Lewsey said they’re just scratching the surface of the industry’s diversity potential.

Hanan Ibrahim in rehearsals for Melbourne Fashion Festival

“Our model agents are training models from diverse backgrounds, that’s a change. We’re really hoping it just doesn’t become an issue anymore, that it’s normal, the new normal," he said.

He said the fashion industry had come a long way - trying to shed the image of ultra thin, monocultural models.

“We cannot expect designers and the industry to just focus on a small minority because it’s no longer relevant to emerging generations. If you’re not doing, it they’ll call it out," he said.

As Ibrahim prepares to mark another career high, she said she is hoping her success will inspire other young Muslim women like what they see in the mirror.

“I really hope to inspire other young Muslim women who are wearing the hijab, who love fashion, that there is a place for us," she said.

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