ELLE’s series Clothes of Our Lives decodes the sartorial decisions made by powerful women, exploring how fashion will be used as a tool for communication. Below, in her own words, Olympic boxer and fashion model Ramla Ali shares the story behind her custom Off-White boxing robe—which she says gives her a confidence boost before an enormous fight. “After I first began in the game, I wasn’t sure I deserved a robe,” Ali tells ELLE. “But after some time, I became more confident in myself and my abilities. I used to be like, ‘I’ve earned the precise to wear this’”
Walking right into a boxing arena is slightly like walking in a fashion show. You make a grand entrance. You don’t lock eyes with anyone. All you see is the ring, but everyone seems to be taking a look at you. What you’re wearing sets the tone for your entire match. While you finally make it to the ring, the gloves go on.
“Ding, ding, ding.”
It’s time to de-robe and showcase your entire labor.
It’s game time.
Female boxing is getting televised loads greater than it used to, and there’s no less than one female fight on every undercard—which is large. However the sport remains to be on the rise. What a boxer wears helps her get noticed. You would like people to know you to your boxing, after all, but you do have to set yourself apart outside of the ring.
Last month at Latest York City’s Madison Square Garden, I needed to make a sartorial statement during my fight for my first skilled title. With a venue that iconic, I desired to collaborate with an equally iconic fashion brand. Working with Off-White felt like making history.
I at all times say, “Wear something good makes you are feeling good, because once you feel good, you perform good.”
I never felt higher than I did wearing my custom blue and yellow robe from Off-White. The moment I put it on, the whole lot modified. The whole lot became real. It was like: “Now it’s time for me to point out everyone who I’m, and what I’m fighting for.”
Ali squaring off against Avril Mathie on the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in Latest York City.
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The design process with Off-White was very collaborative. They sent options. I’d say, “I actually like this, but can we alter this?” Or “Can we add this color?” I knew from the beginning that I wanted to include a panther motif, whether it was on the robe, the shorts, the under-layer, wherever. A panther was a must. The animal has been synonymous with me ever because the start of my profession. I’m Somali, and on my country’s coat of arms there are two big cats. It was a strategy to mix my culture and my sport.
Off-White sent just a few color ideas, but a mixture of yellow and blue stood out to me essentially the most. It represents joy and happiness and power. We decided to include the Spanish word “chingona,” which translates to “badass.” Within the gym, all my coaches have began calling me chingona. It got here out of nowhere, like, “Let’s go chingona!” Ever since then, they’ve called me that, due to how much I put into my training. The countless sparrings, the private bests, and the infinite training. I attempt to never complain.
When Off-White asked in the event that they could add Virgil’s name to my robe, it was a no brainer. I never had the chance to fulfill him, but I’ve at all times been an enormous fan of his work. It was much more special considering the fight fell during Black History Month. I used to be honored to wear his name.
“I felt like I used to be in a position to channel my inner chingona,” Ali says.
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4 weeks out from the large fight, I began to feel really sick. And it didn’t go away. One week out, I used to be placed on antibiotics. I used to be given one other course of antibiotics the week of the fight, since the illness still wouldn’t let up. Loads of people would’ve complained and been like, “I’m going to take the time without work.” But I used to be bringing myself to the gym, and ensuring I got a superb workout in.
I still wasn’t feeling 100% the morning of the fight. I remember warming up within the changing room, considering, “I’m really f-d immediately, but I’m going to attempt to hide it.” Boxing is mental, so for those who tell yourself you might be good, you begin to feel good. I kept telling myself, “This sense will pass. It doesn’t matter. Put the robe on. Make your strategy to the ring.”
After round two, I got here back to the corner and told my coach, “My chest hurts.” He was attempting to stay positive. “Don’t worry about it,” he told me. “We’ve got this within the bag, you’re doing amazing.”
I remember considering to myself: Just survive this round, just survive this round, just survive this round.”
Then, in a blur, 10 rounds were done. I had won nine of them. Even on my worst day, I dominated a fight. I feel it was partly because I used to be so positive moving into, telling myself: “You may do that.”
The subsequent day I used to be rushed to hospital, because I used to be in pretty bad shape. They did an EKG, some x-rays, and a nasal swab. I had a respiratory viral infection, and a partly collapsed right lung caused from pneumonia. The doctor was like, “I don’t know the way you probably did it.” It gives me comfort knowing that I used to be in a position to channel my inner chingona.
Ali with Off-White Art & Image Director IB Kamara on the Fall-Winter 2023 show in Paris.
Loads of young women look as much as boxers like me, since it’s something they aspire to be. I do know they’re continually watching me, so I even have to act a certain way. Girls are quite impressionable, and I would like them to see any person who has no quit in them—any person who goes on the market and hustles for what they need and what they deserve. I would like to point out that you would be able to be anything you set your mind to. You could achieve anything you need to be. I especially wish to encourage women who come from similar backgrounds. I would like to point out them that you would be able to struggle and still rise above. If I can do it, you’ll be able to do it, too.
I fled to the U.K. as a war refugee within the early ’90s after my eldest brother died within the Somali Civil War. He was struck by a stray grenade. My mom didn’t want the identical fate for her other kids. Because I used to be born in the course of the chaos of war, there was never any documentation of me being born. So I do not know of my age, date of birth, and even the 12 months I used to be born. Fast-forward to my teenage years, I used to be bullied at school for being severely obese. I took up the game of boxing to realize a little bit of self-confidence. My family wasn’t necessarily overjoyed. I hid it from them for a variety of years, because I felt like ignorance was bliss. Once they came upon, they asked me to stop. So I did, for some time. Now they’re my biggest fans.
Boxing has helped me learn to like myself again. That’s what the game is all about. Loving yourself, loving who you might be, loving your body, loving your skin. I’d like to fight for a world title this 12 months. That’s one among my biggest goals immediately. I competed on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and I haven’t decided if I would like to go to the Paris 2024 Olympics. Going to the Olympics was one among my major goals after I began boxing, and I’ve done that. My next goal is to be a world champion. There’s little doubt in my mind that I can do it.
This interview has been frivolously edited and condensed for clarity.
Rose is a Senior Editor at ELLE overseeing features and projects about women’s issues. She is an completed and compassionate storyteller and editor who excels in obtaining exclusive interviews and unearthing compelling features.