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Meet the Didis:
How did you get into designing?
I’ve been designing since high school. It started with a contest called TrashFusion where designers had to create pieces using only recycled materials. Then I started creating costumes for theatre performances I did. For a while I didn’t really think anything of it. When my cousin asked me to MC at his wedding, I remember trying to shop for the perfect outfit and I couldn’t find the right piece. I decided to make my own and when people found out I made it, I started getting requests to make them outfits as well. As a multidisciplinary artist, fashion is an incredible platform because you can bridge everything together. You combine visual arts, music, film and performance all in one place. The best part of it is that your creations become part of peoples’ daily lives.
What inspires you in your designs?
Music and film influence my creative process a lot. I love to capture an emotion and story within my work. I often find myself imagining the story of the person I envision wearing the piece. What emotion would they be feeling, what would they be doing, and then based on that how should the clothing look, feel and move to elevate their experience? Ultimately, I want to ensure that the person wearing the piece feels confident, sexy and free to express themselves.
How are you navigating the space as a South Asian Canadian designer?
I think the creative community as a whole has been very encouraging and supportive of diversity in recent years; so I think this is a great time for emerging designers. Regardless of who you are, if you are dedicated, and curious you’ll be able to find the right resources to help you succeed. From a cultural standpoint there were some challenges. I find that there can be a lot of fear of the unknown and “risk aversion” in the South Asian community. I faced a lot of pushback from others that just didn’t understand why it was important to me. It can get discouraging and there were a lot of moments where I questioned the choices I was making, but it really was something I felt I needed to do so I kept pushing. It’s still a battle, but I feel more confident in my choices now. I’ve learned to make my own voice louder than those around me and trust myself more.
Can you tell us what we can expect from you at Toronto Fashion Week?
Yes! And I’m so thankful to the incredible artists and people I have around me because there is no way this show would be happening without them. I’m so excited to share the experience with everyone. The show is all about freedom of expression. I want to open people’s minds on how they view South Asian fashion and Canadian fashion. The designs bridge the gap between those worlds in a new way. The collection I’m showcasing is all about freedom to express yourself. It’s also got a bit of an edgy vibe which is something I feel is missing in South Asian fashion.
What’s next for you? Any advice for young designers?
I want to help put Toronto on the map as the city for creatives. I try to make each project I work on as collaborative as possible, and I think that’s the best way for us all to grow together. I’m going to be working on developing my design process with a greater focus on sustainability. I want to do right by the planet and bring greater awareness to that. I’ll be looking into sourcing more organic materials and working on the next collection. I really want to make a positive impact and I’m striving to use this platform to have a positive change. I want to use it to tell incredible stories, to bring to light issues we face. This brand will be used to contribute to a cleaner planet and a stronger community. I’ll definitely be bringing my other disciplines like film and music into the upcoming collections at a larger scale. In terms of advice, just start. Start working on your collection, drawing and then saving up to bring your collection to life. Where you can, be kind to the planet. The fashion world is changing and as designers you are at the forefront of leading that positive change.
What we’re watching:
A Little Late with Lilly Singh premieres on September 16.
What we’re reading:
Stratagem 2019 is a 2.5 day summit that takes diversity and inclusion to the next level — infusing timely political discourse with courageous social justice knowledge. Our co-founder Roohi Sahajpal was featured on their blog. Check out her blog post about Didihood here.
Strategem is taking place in Vancouver from September 27 to 29. For 10 per cent off on your tickets, please use the promo code ilovestratagem
We’re super excited to launch our Mentorship program for mentees across Canada! Stay tuned for updates on social media to hear how the first cohort of the program is going for Didis in Toronto and Vancouver!
— Roohi Sahajpal