Sheena Sood, the queer designer breaking industry stereotypes

Published: September 16, 2020
Author: SaachiBhatia

Sheena Sood grew up without having many women in the fashion industry to look up to, much less those of Indian descent. So she made her brand Abacaxi and is all set to break stereotypes in the fashion industry.

Abacaxi, which is the Portuguese word for pineapple, features an array of environmentally-friendly colourful pieces (think: tunics, oversize outerwear pieces, and whimsical, flowy dresses), all handmade by artisans in Delhi. Despite being an American, she is incredibly proud of her Indian roots and all her garments are made sustainably and responsibly by artisans in India.

Here’s her interview with Popsugar:

Where She Looks For Inspiration

“I look at traditional South Asian garments and silhouettes, old Bollywood films and images, and fashion memories from my childhood, ’90s nostalgia. I also look at my closet and see what are the pieces that I gravitate towards and brainstorm ways to expand on a similar idea. With Abacaxi, I feel like I’m building a fashion language, and now a few seasons in, you can really begin to see the shapes that form the sounds of that language. When it comes to textile design inspiration, abacaxi prints, custom embroideries, and woven fabrics are all designed in-house by me — I look to mother nature, and I like to hide personal stories into the motifs. There is a lot of storytelling behind each collection, and each print or piece.”

On Breaking Stereotypes in Fashion

“I’m really excited to be recognized as one of the designers reshaping the fashion industry by Teen Vogue, as part of the Generation Next 2020 program. It’s a huge honor to be seen as a brand that is pushing diversity and sustainability forward. I grew up in an era and a place where I never saw South Asians in fashion, magazines, beauty, or media. Because of that, it took me a long time to be able to envision myself doing what I really wanted to do.

Now, the fashion world is realizing there is plenty of space for diverse voices and aesthetics. There still are very few recognized South Asian designers in the US, and I hope to keep breaking down those barriers so more perspectives can be seen. Even though things are changing, it isn’t very often I see someone who looks like me, doing what I do. I know firsthand how life-changing representation is for young people.”

Her New Collection

“This fall, ‘The Butterfly Effect’ collection encompasses this idea of the interconnectedness of all living beings on the planet, which is what the scientific theory it’s named after is all about. The idea is when a butterfly in South America flutters its wings, it affects the clouds hovering over China (implying a deep level of inter-connectedness.) In this way, the earth is one living organism, and the whole world is one. I did some research on ‘turing’ patterns, which is the science behind how patterns such as zebra stripes and geometric designs on orchid petals come to form. Then, I sought to translate those naturally-occurring patterns via a kaleidoscopic array of tie-dyes and an embroidered quilting design.”

If Trends Are Still Relevant

“It’s natural for fashion trends to keep happening. Trends are interesting because often they reflect something larger about society. What interests me so much more about fashion, rather than the latest item trending on Instagram, are the pieces we keep with us for decades and generations; the looks that make a really lasting impression on us.”

Dream Clients

“I’ve always been in love with Tracee Ellis Ross. Her style is impeccable and her spirit inspirational; she totally embodies the type of style I just mentioned above. Also, Jameela Jamil because not only does she have style, but I admire the way she shares her journey, smashes beauty stereotypes, and advocates for young women of color to be celebrated for who they are. I realize every young designer says Beyoncé and Rihanna are their dream clients, but Beyoncé and Rihanna!”

Peacock turtleneck dress which is Sheena’s favourite piece

Favorite Piece From the Collection

“I’m feeling the ‘Peacock Turtleneck Dress’ for this fall. It’s essentially a long T-shirt dress with a ruffled hem so it’s comfy enough to wear around the house but really elegant at the same time. The tie-dye design is [created] by artisans in New Delhi and was inspired by the geometry of peacock feathers.”


SOURCE: Popsugar

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