Asma Bibi identifies herself as an African-American Muslim Hijabi, is a talented and experienced fashion designer from Philadelphia and one of the first hijabi contestants to appear on “Project Runway.” Her current fashion line, “Hijabi Pop,” grew popular among Muslim women seeking cool, modest-wear. Asma ́s line was even featured on the runway at New York Fashion Week 2018!

PROJECT RUNWAY — Season:18 — Pictured: Asma Bibi — (Photo by: Joe Pugliese/Bravo)

R.What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

A. Being raised in a city like Philly, I was inspired by the culture and art. As a young girl, I wanted a way to express myself as an individual because I didn’t feel like I could be as vociferous, mostly because I was extremely shy and quiet in my earlier years. It made sense for fashion to become my voice without my having to say much. Those who I felt could relate to me, complimented me on my clothing. It felt safe. It felt natural. I fell in love with fashion as an expression at age 13. 

R. Who do you look up to as an inspiration?

A. Every strong woman I knew, met, or saw who stood up for themselves and stood for the choices they made, unapologetically, excited me! I think it’s how I forced myself to talk more and speak my mind. I appreciated the soft, feminine yet powerful voices I heard. I heard it in my mother, my grandmother, my aunts, and the female community leaders. I knew there was no wrong in having a voice. Islam is my belief system. It never mentions a woman cannot speak or be great or talented. I want to help diminish any lie ever told against the Muslim woman. 

R.What does the word “fashion” mean to you?

A. Fashion: A way to express yourself with your individualism, through the art of dressing! My personal style is that I do so much in a day, I want to be functional and comfy. I love statement pieces, bold colors, asymmetric silhouettes, and chunky shoes. Super into metallics and iridescent! I dress to how I feel and it changes based on my mood, the weather, and the event. But I don’t limit myself. Expressive fashion should be fun! 

R.What are your goals as a fashion designer? 

A. To build a successful fashion lifestyle brand that caters to modest-wear options mainstream that are U.S. based, fashion-forward, accessible, yet fun to shop. This vision eventually will expand to clothing options for the entire family.

R.Throughout your journey from an aspiring fashion designer to a professional one, what have you discovered about yourself?

A. I discover more of who each day. Who I was at 20 is for sure not who I am at 30. Life is a process where the goal is to progress and grow with time. Being born Muslim, I battled myself in my teens with coming to terms with how people defined me because of the way I looked. I eventually learned that people don’t understand which is why they hate. I am comfortable in my hijab and my way of life at this point in my life. I also understand the struggles young girls and many women face with misrepresentation and/or stereotypes. Just another form of discrimination and bullying. However, I appreciate my individuality and learned that being gratefulness of every step of progress and growth, you obtain so much more. You just have to pay attention to what your world is telling you, not what people are telling you. 

R.What era of fashion do you feel like you can relate most to and find inspiration from? 

A. This is an interesting question. In my teens, I fell for the Medieval and Victorian dresses from the 18th century, full coverage and elegant femininity. I admired and adored the elaborateness of it all. It also reminded me of the gaudiness of Alexander McQueen’s aesthetics, which I’m in love with. People are so intimidated by EXTRA. I love EXTRA, anytime, any occasion.

R.Which fashion icons inspire you?

A. Halima Aden – for being a mainstream Hijabi model that inspires Hijabis just like me that there are no limitations! 

Rihanna – for being unapologetically edgy with fashion flair that gets you excited to see. 

Tracie Ross – for the elegance and femininity to her styles. She gives a soft edge I have always liked seeing. 

R. What does it mean for you to represent the hijabi community on “Project Runway?”

A. It has been an honor to be featured as one of the four African American Hijabi fashion designers on “Project Runway.” It speaks volumes to the potential for modestwear and what it means for Muslim women and those who can relate to be a part of mainstream media. It allows for us to have a voice and that potentially means, an outlet for us to be understood and for our way of life to be seen less as a scare and more of a harmless and peaceful choice. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to put myself in front of a screen for people to see ME and the parts of me that make me ME, but my desire to be an inspiration forced me to come out of my comfort zone to be the “Hijabi” for Season 18. 

R.If there is one advice you could give an aspiring fashion designer, what would it be?

A. There’s so much to say! Do NOT focus on what others are doing. Be different. Embrace your individuality. Love yourself. Hold yourself accountable. Never settle. Aim for perfection. Be true to yourself in all things. And dare to do what others have not. That’s called making history. You’re too amazing to not shine for who you are. 

R.How can we follow your journey? 

A. My clothing brand is on IG, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Youtube under Hijabi Pop. Our website is www.hijabipop.com, and please like and subscribe to our YouTube page under Hijabi Pop. More content and tutorials coming soon!

Watch the premiere of Project Runway, Season 18, on Thursday, December 5!

Rumki Chowdhury
Rumki Chowdhury

ONLINE ASSISTANT EDITOR FOR HAYATI MAGAZINE, PUBLISHED AUTHOR, POET AND JOURNALIST WITH AN MA IN ENGLISH LITERATURE. BORN IN BANGLADESH, RAISED IN USA, LIVED AND STUDIED IN UK AND NOW, AN ENGLISH TEACHER IN SWEDEN. ALSO, MARRIED AND MOTHER OF THREE DAUGHTERS.

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