In the past 2 years, 80s and 90s style has made a resurgence that is impossible to ignore. Right in line with the times, overalls have also made their way back into mainstream America. It’s hard to argue that another individual has had a greater hand in bringing overalls back to the forefront than Chance the Rapper. While promoting his album, he found himself on the Ellen show, MTV VMAs, Festival Stages, Live Shows, etc. So, to say the least, the overalls have been everywhere.
Looklive sat down with the designer of these very same overalls, Sheila Rashid, to catch a glimpse into her design process, education, opinions on influencer culture, upcoming plans, and even some Chicago recommendations.
Could you tell us a little about your personal journey and how you got your start in design?
I really think my design story begins back in junior/senior year of high school on the Southside of Chicago. I was always inspired by t-shirts like Bape and Ice Cream. Graphic tees with characters on t-shirts. Those pieces were like the perfect intersection of my childlike creativity and the growing pains of the teenage years. So, at the time, I latched on to that aesthetic and really created my own lane by selling t-shirts to my friends.
And, it wasn’t just graphic tees. I kept going down that path of self-expression and stepping outside the box by doing things like painting on sleeves, bleaching fabric, etc. And, in hindsight it’s a bit crazy to know that I was doing this stuff years before it became mainstream, today. But, honestly, I don’t like to think like that. I think a mindset where you’re like “I’ve been on this wave, etc.” just brings negativity to the culture. We all experience art at different times and in different ways. For example, The College Dropout only has one release date, but if you ask the hundreds of millions who’ve listened to the songs on there, you’ll probably get a different answer each time about their experience with it. And, as artists, as long as we focus on making that connection with someone through our work, we can make peace with the how and when it blows up. Nonetheless, after graduation, I thought about going to Hampton University for journalism. I really wanted to report on fashion & art at the time. But, at the last minute, I decided to go Columbia College in Chicago where I pretty much formalized my education in design and clothing creation.
So, you’ve been able to see both the formal and informal sides of design education. With those experiences under your belt, how would you define being a designer in an age where everyone seems to have a brand?
When it comes to fashion design, I feel like someone can’t really call themselves a true designer unless they know garment construction. As part of my design process, I make it a point to be hands on in my design and construction process. Nothing is outsourced. Everything is done by me. So, sure, that means long hours at times, but it also means that I am able to control the quality of my product. And, when thinking about the largest fashion houses, it’s difficult to say that someone deserves a role as creative director of a major fashion house if they don’t know the first thing about the actual construction process. Sure, you might not be the best sewer in the world, but you should at least have experience in fabric selection, sizing, fitting, etc. And, I think Columbia College introduced me to that world. On the other hand, I think I’m able to bring my own flair to the equation simply from everything I’ve learned on my own.
What advice would you give to the folks out there who may or may not have the financial access to experience the formal side of the education?
I think my advice is pretty simple when it comes to this. Some things aren’t meant to be more complicated than they should be. And, my advice is — do your research & be resourceful. Youtube. Portable sewing machines. Google. That’s the start. One of the beautiful things about art is the low barrier to entry. And, unfortunately, people hit glass ceilings when thinking about all the credentials they need before they can reach a certain level of success. And, in my opinion, the best art credential you can have is the determination to keep going and creating in spite of the limitations you might find.
You have such a unique message that’s extremely important today, so how did you go about defining the brand?
The major obstacle I had to overcome before I could reach a steady state was time and patience. I have so many ideas and concepts to share that it can come off as a bit scattered at times. But, the beauty in working nonstop is that through creation — you find your sweet spot.
When starting my brand, I knew I wanted to address traditional ideas of gender identity. I just wasn’t quite sure of what that looked like. But, instead of waiting around, I started off making geometric dresses.That was my signature. Hourglass silhouettes. Hard shoulders. Then, I moved into drop crotch pants. And, now, I’m making overalls. In hindsight, I don’t really classify these pieces as being drastically different from one another. Each piece leads me to the next. For instance, if I waited around for years and years until I found some masterful, all-encompassing brand name, image, etc. I’d honestly still be waiting today. As important as a brand can be, it’s equally important simply to get to work!
So, how do you grow without sacrificing your bespoke approach?
I’ve found confidence in knowing that scalability isn’t all about mass production.It can also be about mass adoption. Mass admiration. Mass desire. There are many, many ways to scale in this day and age. And, for me, I’ve decided to take a more selective approach with my clientele by simply working hard to find the right market and making sure I deliver on my promise of quality.
Of course, we have to ask about working with Chance. Your overalls have kind of taken the culture by storm as of late. In general what’s your opinion on this influencer-based culture today? Do you think it’s a bit in genuine?
I think influencer culture is essential to our connection as creatives. While on the surface, it might just seem like celebrities are being used as mannequins these days to showcase new products. But, I think it goes a level deeper than that. Before any “influencers” wear our work, there’s a lot of conversation, sometimes questions around the brand and what we stand for as designers. So, most times, when celebrities step out and try a newer brand, they are doing so because they agree with the deeper meaning behind the clothing and the movement of the creators. So, if anything, I think it actually leads to people making more genuine and informed decisions to go with brands they care about.
You’ve mentioned the importance of not resting on your laurels and staying hungry. So, what are some collaborations, releases, etc. we can look forward to in the future?
I’m looking forward to seeing my work on Law Roach, Deray, Lena Waithe and 21 Savage very soon. But, that’s pretty much my approach. Yes, the direct to consumer relationship is extremely important. But, for me, the designer and stylist relationship is equally (if not more) important. So, for me, my growth strategy is less about “influencer/affiliate” marketing — and, instead is centered around relationship building on a genuine level.