Sahar Dada: American-Pakistani Womenswear
When we first came up with the concept of HYFN, Sahar Dada popped into my head. She is the founder and designer of her womenswear label consisting of elegantly hand-embellished silk and chiffon pieces that blend Pakistani and Western concepts.
She’s based in Chicago but her production house is in Pakistan. She’s currently in Karachi wrapping up her Fall/Winter 2016 collection, finishing up custom orders for private clients and working on some fun collaborations that will be launching later this year. So while we wait to get our hands on some sneak peaks and behind-the-scenes content, we wanted to share how Sahar came to do what she does.
She says she never would have thought that her summer vacations where her parents grew up would turn into business trips and be such an integral part of what she does. Her aesthetic really embraces this multi-cultural upbringing.
What’s your HYFN?
“First generation American-Pakistani. I think life is all about balance and finding that balance can be really challenging at times. I'm really looking forward to seeing how HYFN provides a platform to highlight those identities.”
What’s a challenge you’ve had with your culture growing up and how did you navigate it?
“I went to an Islamic College prep school and during college application time everyone around me was applying to med school or law school or engineering programs. Then there was me. I was applying to various art schools. I ended up attending the Institute of Art based in Chicago, but tried to be convinced otherwise. I was always told to do it on the side, that it wasn’t a big deal and I didn’t have to do it full time. I didn’t listen. I didn’t want to listen. I wanted it to be my sole focus. Looking back I wouldn’t change anything. Explaining that desire in high school, at such a young age, probably didn’t translate well but I’m glad I took the steps I did and that I was able to break the norm of what was expected of me being of Pakistani background.”
Tell us a bit about how culture played a positive role in your life?
“The positive influence of my culture comes in many different forms. I’m surrounded by it constantly and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes me feel like I belong to something special. It’s everything from my morning chai, to my work, to constantly listening to Coke Studio. It’s really who I am, it’s where I’m from and it’s why I’m here. It really helps me appreciate and respect other people’s backgrounds and cultures as well. Designing both Pakistani and Western and merging the techniques is how my culture has influenced my work. Both going hand in hand helps me create what I create.”
What’s your vision for the future of this emerging culture?
“To break stereotypes. I think our generation of American-Pakistanis will be able to break down barriers. There are so many people with Pakistani roots that are embracing their creative sides whether that’s in America or abroad and it’s really time to bridge the gap between here and there.”
How has social media influenced your work?
“Social media, especially Instagram, has played a huge role. It's provided me with a creative way to share my work, my production and behind the scenes, and my personal story. I really hope it inspires other people as well. I’ve built some really great professional and personal relationships and come across some amazing clients from across the world. It's a great platform to connect with so many different people in so many different places.”
Who has been the most influential person in your life?
“I know it’s cliché but most influential are my parents. I know so many people will be able to relate to this: Our parents literally sacrifice everything. From what they knew to where they lived. They adapted to a whole new culture to give us a better life so that we can be whoever we want to be. They gave us the ability to balance both their culture and embrace ours and they did it so effortlessly. I hope that in the future I’m able to do that for my own children the way my parents did for me.”
So far with all you've done what are you proudest of?
“I’m proud and humbled that I play a small role in highlighting my Pakistani roots in a positive way. I hope that it has some sort of relevance and that I can continue doing what I’m doing. I think that you should never be ashamed of who you are and that you should only embrace it.”
Okay, lets wrap with up with something fun - is there a favorite childhood dish your family used to eat?
“Khausa! It’s a Burmese dish - my ancestors are from Burma. It was my favorite food, I loved eating it. It's like the Desi version of ramen essentially. Downright comfort food that I still love to this day."
Sahar is working on a special project called Ari and Oak that she says is very close to her heart. And appropriately so. It's a collaboration with her mother, who has been designing traditional women's Pakistani-wear since the 90s. Ari is a technique used to sew wire onto the fabric before any embellishment is applied. Oak is an acronym for ‘one of a kind’. It seems that Sahar has learned a lot from observing her mother's work and has really made it her own through her own experiences. Looking forward to seeing what comes of their work together.
She's working on a few other smaller capsule collections in hopes of showing her versatility as a designer, and is working to expand to both coasts. More to come!