International Women’s Day is a time for us to join together and embrace the message that women’s rights are human rights. It’s a time to celebrate all women – those who came before us and made everything possible, the strong women among us today, and the female leaders of the future.

This March 8, the theme for IWD is Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World. The global pandemic has significantly impacted women and girls, often amplifying the disadvantages they face in day-to-day life. To raise women up and strengthen their voices, it’s essential we support those in leadership positions while also empowering tomorrow’s leaders.

After the year that’s been, it seems more important than ever to celebrate the strength and endurance of the women among us. This year we’re honouring the achievements of women in the Hype DC community, especially those who are forging a path in positions of leadership.

First up is Nawal Sari, a digital creative and modest fashion influencer from Sydney who leads by uplifting and empowering underrepresented voices. We caught up with Nawal to chat about her female mentors, how she’s adapted to a COVID world and her advice for tomorrow’s trailblazers.

Hey Nawal, we spoke to you on IWD last year. What have you been up to since we last time we caught up?
Hi! The past year has been so chaotic for all of us – where do I even start?! To summarise, I've been working, growing, and learning.

First up is Nawal Sari, a digital creative and modest fashion influencer from Sydney who leads by uplifting and empowering underrepresented voices. We caught up with Nawal to chat about her female mentors, how she’s adapted to a COVID world and her advice for tomorrow’s trailblazers.

Hey Nawal, we spoke to you on IWD last year. What have you been up to since we last time we caught up?
Hi! The past year has been so chaotic for all of us – where do I even start?! To summarise, I've been working, growing, and learning.



How have you adapted to a new way of working and living?
I was super grateful to still have work during such a tough time, but things definitely changed. It was a lot of chaos working from my bedroom doing emails, filming, shooting pieces, and studying from the same space. It put a toll on my mental health, and I had to learn how to adapt to a new working environment. I had to find new ways to stimulate my creativity and feel content with the work I was putting out on my platform.

What challenges have you faced over the last year?
The biggest challenge would have been juggling everything. Within that, I also felt I wasn't taking care of myself mentally and physically, which sucked. Although, I think I needed to experience that to learn how to take care of myself better. Last year taught me so much about myself.

What’s been your most significant achievement over the past year?
I finished my last year of university, got engaged, hit 200k followers on Instagram (so crazy), and worked with some long-loved brands.

What are you looking forward to in 2021?
To work harder without having uni assessments LOL, and starting adventures I've always wanted to dive into.

What do you think are the biggest issues facing women in 2021?
There are so many without a doubt, but one I would highlight would be the crazy pressure social media puts on young women. I myself, and so many girls I know, really absorbed ourselves into social media due to COVID isolation. The online world is crazy, and I hope we can collectively work harder to connect more authentically online. I would love for our younger sisters to know their bodies are beautiful, mental health is important, and even that being fun, expressive and creative shouldn't break the bank.

Have you seen any changes in the modest fashion industry over the last year? Or the fashion industry in general?
Most definitely. I've seen that businesses are investing and realising the potential of women from diverse backgrounds. It's amazing and a great step in truly diversifying the fashion industry. The modest fashion industry is also forever growing – I'd hope in the future it reflects more women of colour and body types also!

Have you seen any changes in the modest fashion industry over the last year? Or the fashion industry in general?
Most definitely. I've seen that businesses are investing and realising the potential of women from diverse backgrounds. It's amazing and a great step in truly diversifying the fashion industry. The modest fashion industry is also forever growing – I'd hope in the future it reflects more women of colour and body types also!



Has your style evolved at all over the last year?
Due to the large amount of online shopping I’ve done, I can say I now feel I love wearing styles from all 'aesthetics.’ I love ’70s pieces, some streetwear, and high-fashion. I really do just wear what I love.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to all young women?
That their feelings and insecurities are very valid and that they're never alone.

What do you wish your 15-year-old self knew?
That she didn't have to conform to anything. I felt so much pressure to dress and adapt to the way people thought I should. I wish I knew what people thought didn't matter.

What does being a leader mean to you?
For me, it's to be authentic. I hope to truly represent as best I can, and create a little sisterhood of powerful women.

Any advice to women on being a leader and standing out in the online space?
It's so commonly said but being yourself is important. The online world is competitive, but there's always room for more amazing women. Be you, and you'll see how many like-minded women needed a connection like that.

Who are some women that inspire you?
So, so many! Women in my family, immigrant women, single mums, entrepreneurs, other female creatives – and the list goes on.

What women in leadership positions do you look up to?
Ibtihaj Muhammad has always been so inspiring to me, she was the first Muslim hijab-wearing American Olympic athlete who is iconic. Halima is also so incredibly kind and paved the way for Muslim women in the fashion industry. She's unapologetic and has always looked out for other women – we love her.

And who are some of your own female mentors?
I guess I could say not only my friends and family are my mentors, but my whole Instagram following. They’ve supported me since forever and uplift me. I love them too much!

Have you experienced a key moment in your life where you’ve had to push harder for yourself because of your gender? And how did you overcome this?
Most definitely a few times, I once worked at a store that had the association men knew more about what was in and could sell. Being a Muslim woman made it that bit harder to gain respect. I was talked down to and belittled when I knew so much about my job as I was clearly qualified enough. If I’m honest, I tackled it by contacting HR as I have no time to prove myself to insecure people. I also left the job a while after and started my online presence, so everything worked out okay.

If you could change one thing for women worldwide, what would it be?
Education is really important to me. I hope women worldwide could be independent and have access to education.

Follow Nawal’s journey here.