During a time of lockdown and self-isolation, model Imaan Hammam seizes the moment to reset and reevaluate her life along with her own fashion know-how. Pulling all her industry hacks to the fore, going behind and in front of the lens, styling and photographing her own cover shoot.
It’s 9am in Imaan Hammam’s New York City apartment and verses of the Quran float through the soothing blue space. Ever since the lockdown came into effect, the Moroccan-Egyptian model begins her day by taking care of her mind, and these moments of meditation and introspection are key to commencing on an optimistic note. Accustomed to traveling the globe shooting for the world’s biggest publications and international campaigns – always surrounded by big crews – it is unexpected to learn that the model is serene during the lockdown, using the time to rediscover herself with the help of books and activities that she’s never had the chance to enjoy due to the rhythm of her fulminant career.
“What I miss most are my friends and family back home, but I don’t mind being alone,” shares Hammam. “Of course, I also miss being outside and being free, and all those things we took for granted, such as walking in the park or going to my favorite coffee spot. Now, I take moments during the day to do some yoga and breathe to center myself. It feels surreal that the world has stopped, but as challenging as it can be, I believe it is a great opportunity for self-discovery, and I’m all about that.”
On the topic of discoveries, Hammam was scouted at the tender age of 13, at Amsterdam Central Station, after finishing her classes. Following her first modeling contract, she was catapulted to fame when she opened Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy SS14 show at 16; an honor for someone taking her first steps in the industry. Many Vogue covers followed, from US to Japan, Spain, and numerous other countries. Prior to this month, she graced two Vogue Arabia front pages: issue two and our first-year anniversary, next to the iconic sexagenarian supermodel Iman Abdulmajid. Her CV also counts campaigns for Celine, Tiffany & Co., and Calvin Klein, and she is one of the very few – if not the only – black Arab models to become the face of Chanel makeup.
Although born in the Netherlands, Hammam is a proud member of an Arab household, with a Moroccan mother and an Egyptian father. She confides that she had a happy childhood, surrounded for the most part by women, and spoke Arabic at home. On her Instagram, she recently shared the recipe for a secret tanning lotion developed by her mother, using a mix of carrot juice and Moroccan argan oil.
When asked to style, direct, and photograph the cover of Vogue Arabia’s Do It Yourself issue, Hammam made sure to use the opportunity to again showcase her heritage. In her bathroom, in her living room, or simply leaning against a mirror, she is a vision of poise, and a true Arab beauty donning a high turban and a black shirt hand-embroidered in North Africa. “I used scarfs from back home that remind me of Morocco and I’m also wearing an abaya that I got on a recent trip to the Gulf,” she notes.
Being one of the most relevant players in today’s modeling community, Hammam believes that Covid-19 is reshaping the world and the way we see things, and this will naturally have an impact on the fashion industry. “I definitely see creatives coming together with new possibilities for the future, which is exciting,” she says. “I hope that the primary focus now is to beat this thing, and to use the lessons we learn for the better.” Until this occurs, it is in her home sanctuary that Hammam can be found, most probably devouring another book and dreaming of lazy days on the beach. “I just finished The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma. And I’m a sucker for Rumi’s poetry, which I always read!” Coincidence or not, Hammam’s love for the Persian poet has never felt so right. Perhaps his words are the perfect quarantine mantra for the Arab cover star: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Originally published in the May 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia