The local high-street is a very, very clustered place and there is nothing particularly exciting about a new contender entering the domain – except that there’s a brand aiming to begin retailing this August, helmed by designer Khadijah Shah.
Now this is certainly intriguing. Fashion aficionados are well-aware that, up till last year, Khadijah had been the Creative Director for high-street brand Sapphire, building the brand from its inception and playing a pivotal role in its growth into a retail heavyweight. Amidst much conjecture, Khadijah had departed from Sapphire last year and now, she’s gearing to apply her high street know-how with a label of her own called ZAHA.
According to the designer, this new project is very close to her heart and even the name has been coined based on some very personal reasons. “It’s a combination of the names of my two sons: Zayd Akbar and Hakkan and my newborn daughter’s name is also Taalia Zaha. The word ‘Zaha’ itself stems from Arabic origins and means ‘to blossom’ and I hope to nurture this brand and make it grow. Also, Zaha Hadid was truly a legendary, inspirational woman and this is my way of paying homage to her strength.”
One remembers a time, not too long ago, when Khadijah was just as enthusiastic about the role she played within Sapphire. Will she be bringing those same aesthetics into play with this new label or will she be diversifying into new directions?
“The label will focus primarily on casuals,” she outlines. “I've been observing the high-street and while some people may be doing good work, I feel that by and large, there is a dearth of design. There is a huge gap between exclusive luxury brands and what’s available in the mass market. Retail brands have become so focused on churning out mass quantities and price wars that design does not get prioritised. The clothes are forgettable and have nothing unique to offer. I am a big fan of print and with Zaha, I have created prints that are quirky, vibrant and fun. It’s everyday clothing, but with a distinctive signature.”
The brand will be making its first outing in the market this August with an unstitched collection consisting of 50 designs, ranging from one-piece shirts to two-pieces and three-pieces. Prices are tentatively slotted to begin at Rs1800 and to remain below the Rs5000 ceiling and the clothes will be available online as well as at major retail stores.
"I have been observing the high-street and while some people may be doing good work, I feel that by and large, there is a dearth of design." — Khadijah Shah
“Even though there are designs which have very fine, well-conceived embroideries, it won’t be very formal,” describes Khadijah. “There are voile and lighter silk dupattas. We’re using 100% pure fabric but keeping the thread count of the fabric lighter because these are casual clothes for daily wear.”
Later, the designer plans to also create prêt. “We’ll be building the brand over time. I have a certain vision for the high street and I want to execute it, uninterrupted, over a span of a year, two years, however long it takes.”
It is no secret, of course, that earlier Khadijah’s vision was ‘interrupted’ when conflicts of opinion lead to her leaving Sapphire. Is it because of past bad experiences that she has now opted to fly solo?
Weighing her words, Khadijah surmises, “I do have a very strong vision and whenever I have worked with someone, I have prioritised that vision. But I realise now that when you work with someone, at some point or the other your ideas may get compromised. Roadblocks may get erected in order to make things difficult for you.”
“It hurts a lot at that point: when you create something, build it from scratch and make it a mammoth and then you get shortchanged and someone takes it away from you. You see your work right there but suddenly it’s alien to you. I don’t want to experience that.”
And less than a year since the news of her leaving Sapphire floated out, Khadijah Shah is ready to try her luck on the high street again, starting small this time but with big plans in the making. Let’s see what Zaha has in store.