PROJECT RUNWAY -- "Blast Off" Episode 1801 -- Pictured: Asma Young -- (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo)
Photo: PROJECT RUNWAY -- "Blast Off" Episode 1801 -- Pictured: Asma Young -- (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo)/Barbara Nitke/Bravo
Photo: PROJECT RUNWAY -- "Blast Off" Episode 1801 -- Pictured: Asma Young -- (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo)/Barbara Nitke/Bravo

Atlanta’s Asma Bibi joining ‘Project Runway’ season 18 debuting Dec. 5

Originally posted Tuesday, December 3, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Atlanta designer Asma Bibi is part of a growing trend called “modest wear” fashion

She is also one of the few “modest wear” designers to make it on Bravo’s “Project Runway,” which returns Thursday at 9:30 p.m. for its 18th season. “I’m the fourth one,” she noted in an interview at Sweet Hut Bakery in Duluth this week donning her own orange hijab with a handful of pearls knitted into it.

She is competing against a diverse group of 15 other contestants vying for $250,000 and plenty of other prizes. They hail from South Korea, Moldova and American cities such as Austin, Newark, N.J. and Chicago. 

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

Here are some of Bibi’s biographical notables. 

Born: Seattle

Raised: Philadelphia

Age: 31

Fashion history: Her parents ran a clothing business and her mom taught her the basics of garment making. Via YouTube and online tutorials, she taught herself more advanced designs. She was credentialing doctors in Philly when she decided in 2016 to move to Atlanta and start her own clothing line called Hijabi Pop. She received help from Sheffie Robinson and a couple of local business incubators Bantinium Lab and Atlanta Founder Institute

Why she came to Atlanta: “My family has been here for 15 years. Atlanta is good for business, especially minority businesses. The Muslim community isn’t as big as the one in Philadelphia but I knew they were here. There’s a market. And I figured I could get help from a business standpoint.”

Building her business: She has sold her clothing at vending events and on her website to individuals and retailers. “Bootstrapping it,” she said. “It hasn’t been easy. There are days I want to curl up in the fetal position and cry.”

Why “Project Runway”: Visibility and learning from others, both the judges, mentor Christian Siriano and fellow designers. Dozens of designers have leveraged their time on the show into full-fledged careers. 

Her aesthetic: “I’m a colorful girl. I’m always big on color while providing full coverage of the garment. Fun silhouettes, something funky and edgy. On the show, I tried to stay true to my aesthetic.” She said she is targeting women 18 to 35 year olds who value modesty but seek trendiness in their styling. 

What’s wrong with most options for Muslim women today: “Too simplistic. What about the girl who wants something a little edgy? People have no idea how hard it is to find. I was born and raised Muslim. I know the ins and outs. I know how it goes down.” 

Being a women, black and Muslim: “I’m a representative of women who look like me. When I walk out the door, I have to be mindful who I am inside when I walk out. It can get stressful. Sometimes, people judge me based on how I look. They may be intimidated and not comfortable walking up to me. I sometimes have to exude myself.”

UPDATE: Unfortunately, during the debut episode, the first challenge was a team challenge and she was paired with someone with a completely different visual feel. There was very little integrating the two looks. Asma struggled with her cotton fabric. The judges also felt like Asma had too many ideas and executed them poorly. So she was cut the first episode. 

On TV

“Project Runway,” 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, Bravo

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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