Omar Munie : International Fashion Designer, Humanitarian and Somali-Dutch Refugee

Mohamed Malim Refugee Stories

My name is Omar Munie, I was born in Somalia. I fled from the civil war at the age of 9 from Somalia. It was very difficult to leave a country where there were so much wars. When I was a little boy the circumstances in Somalia were bad. My mother decided to put my sister, my brothers and me on a plane to Europe. She wanted us to have a better future. We first fled to Tanzania by a boat and we finally ended up in the Netherlands. I didn’t speak the Dutch language, but I realized that I had to develop myself quickly. I learned the language fast. I had to adapt to the new situation. I became quite independent at a very young age. During that time, I missed my mother a lot, because it took some time until she arrived in the Netherlands too. Some of the challenges I had to face was learning the new language, adapting the new country as a refugee and finding myself. Nowadays. At that time it wasn’t that much of an issue here, it’s a feeling of the last years about refugees Some of the stereotypes about refugees are, they don’t work hard, they can become successful a new country and they cant perform very well. My mom worked hard, I know a lot of refugees who have contributed the Dutch economy by bringing their talents to the Netherlands. Hearing those stereotypes make me sad, but I’m always optimistic. I discovered making clothes. A friend of mine went to fashion school. Since I was really handy, I went there too. At school, I first learned how to make clothes. I also created some bags. One day in 2003 I wanted to surprise a few of my classmates and I took one of my own bags to school. Three girls were immediately very impressed with my bag. The next day I took three bags to school and sold them for € 35,00 a piece. That was the start of my business in bags. So I was creating my own income by doing something I really liked. 

I felt very thankful and I still do. I had couple of recognition for my work In that same year I flew to New York to sell my bags to a large department store. I sold many bags and it encouraged me to keep making bags. I received the Best Student of the Year award. In the years that followed I won several awards like: Best Marketer, Best Entrepreneur Under 25 Years of Age, Most Innovative Entrepreneur 2011 and I even received a Royal Award. I even made bags for couple of celebrity customers. Currently I create my bags in a workshop in The Hague. Networking is an important part of my business. It is good to meet new people and to help people. At one of the meetings of Charles Ruffolo I met Stedman Graham, partner of Oprah Winfrey. I really wanted to create a bag for him, so I did. Another time I heard Hillary Clinton was coming to The Hague. I knew someone at the local government, so I created a bag for her too. Many other Dutch and International celebrities like Jane Fonda, Quinty Trustfull, Jeroen Pauw and Oprah Winfrey own at least one of my bags too. In the beginning, I gave my bags away, because that was part of my business marketing strategy.Eventually they became fans of my bags, which is great. It is wonderful that celebrities are loving my bags, but my goal is honestly to make a great product regardless of who is buying it.

I founded The Dream Factory, a workplace for people who have been unemployed for a longtime. Instead of wasting their talents by sitting at home they can be trained to create durable bags. If they are willing to learn and work hard, if they are enthusiastic and if they have a dream, they can work at the dream factory. I have gotten many chances when I got to the Netherlands as a refugee and I’d like to do the same for others by giving them a chance. My advice to refugees are to keep working hard no matter what. If you work hard and follow your dreams, anything is possible in this world. Always follow your dreams. Sometimes it might be hard, but if you believe who you are and never forget where you came from.

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