“A new dress doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s the life you’re living in the dress.” – Diana Vreeland
When I think of fashions from India, my mind fills up with images of traditional sarees to bold luxuriously patterned dresses. Extravagant, fabulous outfits straight out of a Bollywood film, pieces that South Asian celebrities like Aishwariya Rai, Priyanka Chopra and Sonam Kapoor would be happy to wear. As a designer Shahida Clayton follows in the grand tradition of iconic India masters like Sabyasachi and Masaba. Her pieces embody the exotic allure of India, with truly jaw-dropping gorgeous designs.
Shahida Parides, From Delhi With Love
Black Chalk : Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from?
Shahida Clayton : I was born in Old Delhi, a walled city within the city of Delhi, India. Old Delhi is a vibrant, crowded and busy place to live. My family’s home is smack in the center of the city, where people to buy textiles and fabrics. Literally street after street is lined with every textile imaginable. It’s a fashion designer’s dream brought to life.
Black Chalk : What does fashion mean to you?
Shahida Clayton : Fashion is a form of self-expression, meant to express your personality and unique point of view. I have been drawn to fashion, since I was a little girl when my auntie taught me how to sew. Fashion means everything to me.
Black Chalk : When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?
Shahida Clayton : When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by a local TV news anchor named Salma Sultan. I wanted to grow up to be just like her. She was incredibly chic and elegant, and I was captivated by her unique sense of style. I grew up in a conservative Muslim neighborhood within Old Delhi in India. Women worn hijabs in public, so that their heads were always covered in public for modesty.
Salma’s signature look was big rose worn behind her ear, very similar to that of Billie Holiday. That so exotic and beautiful to me. I longed for the freedom to express myself through my style choices, like Salma did. She, in addition to my auntie’s influence, inspired me to pursue a career in fashion designer.
Black Chalk : What was the first article of clothing you ever designed?
Shahida Clayton : When I was 7 or 8 years old, I made a dress for a copper wire doll, which I sold at a fair for charity.
Black Chalk : How long does it usually take you to construct a piece?
Shahida Clayton : Normally a piece takes me three to four hours to create. If it is a piece that requires a lot of beading, or embellishments it will of course take longer.
Black Chalk : Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece of clothing.
Shahida Clayton : I draw my inspiration and color schemes from my travels around the world. Then I translate what I see into my original prints. Once the fabric is produced, I imagine the silhouette that will best complement that particular color. Then I give the concept to my team and voila! It is finished.
Black Chalk : What are some of your accomplishments as a designer?
Shahida Clayton : I honestly have yet to accomplish all that I hope to in my career. But I guess that being recognized as the originator of convertible kaftans and multi-wear skirts is a note-worthy accomplishment. My goal is for the ‘Shahida Parides’ brand to become a household name, a global line reflecting a lifestyle that truly empowers women. We are currently known mostly for our dresses and kaftans. But I am working on evolving the line to include separates and ready-to-wear creations. We have been known as the go-to brand for fabulous resort wear, but now, we’re a lifestyle brand.
Black Chalk : What are some of your favorite clothing brands?
Shahida Clayton : My favorite designers are Alexander McQueen, Roberto Cavalli, Hermes, Naeem Khan and Etro. They are my design gurus.
Black Chalk : What do you believe makes a quality article of clothing?
Shahida Clayton : The quality of the fabric is so important. I primarily use silk in my collections, as I just love how it feels against the skin. It’s just pure luxury. The fit is also incredibly important, as is the perfection of the stitching.
Black Chalk : Do you consider yourself an artist?
Shahida Clayton : Yes I do. I believe that fashion is a great art form, and creating art is my deepest passion.
Black Chalk : What matters to you most as a fashion designer?
Shahida Clayton : My mission has always been to create a brand that speaks equally to all women. That makes them feel beautiful, powerful, sexy and free. Since the majority of my styles are one size fits most, we can fit most sizes and shapes of women. That is very important to me when launching the brand as I wanted our clothes to always feel as unique and special as the women wearing them. When a woman wears one of my garments, I want her to feel empowered. If she does, then absolutely my mission is accomplished.
Black Chalk : What’s your favorite part about conceptualizing a design?
Shahida Clayton : Dreaming about what the end result will be, as the imagination is truly limitless.
Black Chalk : What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers?
Shahida Clayton : Work hard… The road you have chosen is not an easy one.
Black Chalk : How would you define your personal style?
Shahida Clayton : Indian heritage meets western culture. My uniform is a little black ‘Shahida Parides’ jacket, styled with jeans, a brightly colored top from my collection and a pair of stiletto booties.
Black Chalk : How would you define the style your line exemplifies?
Shahida Clayton : Bollywood meets Hollywood.
Black Chalk : Future Plans?
Shahida Clayton : I plan to expand my ready-to-wear collection, and launch a children’s line as well as accessories collection. I plan to do a runway show at New York Fashion Week, next year for sure!