B.an entrepreneur for most of her professional career, Sadia Siddiqui grew up in Pakistan but moved to London after some time. He received his MBA in Business Marketing from Royal Holloway, University of London and lived there for nearly two decades before moving to New York. According to Sadia, her fashion journey began after the birth of her son Jansher. Although she did not study fashion design as much as she would have liked, Sadia’s entrepreneurial streak and her drive for a more diverse fashion landscape encouraged her to venture into the fashion industry and launch the first authentic Asian modeling agency, Caramel, in London. “Caramel was my first step towards building a career in fashion. I felt that Asians did not have adequate representation in the modeling field at that time in London, “she says Instep in an exclusive interview
“There was no agency specializing in brown faces. South Asians are the largest ethnic minority in the UK, however, we were extremely underrepresented in fashion. Caramel gave Asian youth the opportunity to enter the modeling field, with proper care and guidance. I managed the agency for seven years, then I decided to expand and evolve in a different creative direction, “he says, adding that he also set up the Fashion Parade to celebrate South Asian designers in an unprecedented way.
Sadia, a creative director, brand strategist turned stylist, shares that she is the difficult middle child (one of five girls) who simply loved fashion from childhood. She recently launched her own luxury clothing brand, NACS, Not A Clothing Store, inspired by Brooklyn street style.
We got in touch with the very dynamic Sadia Siddiqui in an attempt to learn more about Fashion Parade and her design adventure, among other things.
Instep: what prompted you to enter this field?
Sadia Siddiqui: I remember endlessly drawing look books for Betty and Veronica from the Archie comics. I think fashion is such a fun way to express yourself, it’s constantly evolving. You can really experiment and try new and different things. I wasn’t particularly inspired by anything, it just came naturally to me, as a natural extension of myself. I was always creative as a kid and I feel that creativity doesn’t need formal training, you either have a creative eye or you don’t.
Instep: what was the idea behind the creation of Fashion Parade and how was the evolution?
SS: Fashion Parade was established to celebrate South Asian designers and to show the world the vibrant, colorful and unique creations of South Asia. The success of Fashion Parade, the first-of-its-kind celebration of South Asian fashion and art, caused a sensation across borders. Fashion Parade has worked to highlight the potential of South Asia through its fashion shows. Not only has it helped change the narrative about Pakistan, but also the negative perceptions of our region that have been wired into the minds of the international community through the Western media. This was a new gateway to Pakistan and India, where the international press was invited to sit in the front row and see the potential of South Asia in the arena of fashion, design, crafts and art. . The press wrote rave reviews about the parade, appreciating the “wonderful interpretation of beautiful costumes and crafts” (WWD, 2019); and the South Asian Times describing it as “A mega hit at Christie’s”. My role as a champion of diversity has also been praised CNBC stating that “in New York, India and Pakistan achieve relaxation through fashion”.
Instep: You have been associated with PFDC for some time. When did you take charge of directing the PFDC shows and what’s next?
SS: Sehyr Saigol came to one of my Fashion Parade shows which was held at the Mandarin Oriental in London. She loved the show and contacted me, inviting me to come to Pakistan and attend a fashion week. We started talking and in the meantime he asked me if I would like to work with PFDC.
I felt this was a great opportunity because I have always admired her work and her contribution to the fashion industry. Initially, I knew it was going to be a challenging task, as I was an expat and it’s not easy to be a newcomer to an existing industry, especially if you want to introduce new ideas and concepts. I feel it has been a great experience overall and I really appreciate my time with this platform. For now, I’m working on PFDC 2022 Fashion Week. This year the council plans to create some great digital content – the whole show will be a visually engaging experience. Stay tuned, the show will be very exciting!
Instep: How was the experience of working at Fashion Weeks in Pakistan?
SS: Overall, doing fashion shows in Pakistan had its challenges, but it was also hugely rewarding. While I was in London, I was promoting Pakistan in the fields of art, crafts and culture. So returning to Pakistan and creating shows with some of the best designers in the country was a wonderful experience. Also, working with Sehyr Saigol, who I believe is an icon and a creative genius, was one of the highlights of working with the board and directing the shows – it was a joy to work with her.
Instep: From directing shows to doing your own fashion show and now after launching your clothing line, how was the transition?
SS: The transition was not easy. Retail is a very difficult market, it’s a beast in its own right. I’m a creative person, so if creativity comes through producing a show, running the catwalk or creating designs for a clothing line, somehow creativity finds a way to channel itself. The transition was a learning transition and there is still so much to learn.
Instep: What’s the concept behind your luxury apparel brand, NACS?
SS: NACS, Not a Clothing store, is a streetwear brand for young people in Pakistan. I moved to Brooklyn three years ago from London and loved street style in America. In fact, my sense of style has changed and has become trendy but relaxed. During my travels in Pakistan, I felt there was a gap in the retail market for a unisex streetwear brand. My brand brings a very Brooklyn, New York aesthetic to streetwear. Brick and mortar retail was badly hit by the pandemic, so I thought it would be a great time to launch an e-commerce streetwear brand for Pakistan. Social media has made Pakistani youth aware of what the global trends are. My idea for creating NACS was to bring luxury, limited edition, high quality streetwear to young people. All of our MOQs are very small, the material is export quality, we have done a lot of our design in Brooklyn, and all of our specifications are US size.
Our design philosophy for NACS is to encourage individuality and make a statement. It is a luxury streetwear brand designed for today’s young people, who are nonconformists, have their own identity, are comfortable in their own skin and do not want to follow stereotypes.
Instep: What sets your brand apart from other streetwear brands?
SS: NACS is based in Brooklyn and is influenced by local street style. I was inspired by my surroundings, took elements of New York and introduced them to our brand. Our brand is also strictly online and unisex. I believe that people, especially young people, have the freedom to express themselves and not conform to perceived social norms.
Instep: one thing you would like to change about Pakistani fashion …
SS: For me, the fit of an outfit is everything, so this is the change I would like. I feel like we’re very focused on crafting outfits, but sometimes the most important thing is the fit and how the silhouette fits you.
Instep: here fashion is becoming more and more polarized; your thoughts?
SS: I think it’s not limited to the fashion industry, everyone is polarizing and everyone has an opinion. We live in the age of social media where everyone has access to news, information and technology. Young people are very vocal, have an opinion and express themselves openly. I am an advocate of expressing your opinion and taking a stand for what you believe in; however, I’m not a fan of the cancellation culture. I think social media can sometimes amplify our mistakes and create disproportionate views. Also, I don’t like the online trolling culture where everyone wants to be on the bullying bandwagon, belittle someone, or just eliminate them because they made a mistake. I think we all make mistakes, but the key is to learn from them, get up and start over.
Instep: what are your future projects?
SS: Future plans are NACS. This is my latest project and it is a new beginning. We all know how challenging and volatile startups are, so being very honest, my whole focus is on NACS and nurturing it and giving it a chance so it can do well. I am looking forward to directing PFDC and also want to do Fashion Parade again as it was on hiatus due to Covid. Life is unpredictable, especially these days, so for now I’m just focusing on my clothing line. The future is what you want it to be, so I take each day as a new day and an opportunity to learn, evolve and strategize.