Sheila Rashid On Making Clothing For Everyone
The designer has made Chicago a core part of her brand, including her new collaboration with Jordan Brand.
Words: Darren Griffin
Standing seven feet tall isn’t the only characteristic of a giant. Sheila Rashid’s shorter stature betrays the Chicago native’s outsized superpowers as both a clothing designer and champion of the LGBTQ community. Her way of speaking truth to power is impactful, expressed through the creation of gender-neutral clothing for her eponymous clothing line. For Sheila, it’s not enough to simply talk the talk; her greatest strength lies in the way she fearlessly walks the walk.
As a teenager, however, Sheila would change into baggier clothes once she got to school each day. She’d paint graphic T-shirts that friends would purchase. As the years went on, and as national conversations began to change, Sheila started to feel more comfortable with opening up. She regularly expresses gratitude for Chicago’s close-knit creative community and how it helped her grow and embrace her talent.
Sheila is not only connected to her peers through a love of basketball, art and design, but also by Chicago’s transit system. Her preference for riding the train, as opposed to driving, helped her forge a heartfelt union with Chicago and its eight, color-coded transit lines. The Purple Line, in particular, became the aesthetic vessel for her Air Jordan 1 Mid SE, hoodie and long-sleeve T-shirt pieces for the Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection — all of which reference her adolescence in the Windy City.
Sheila’s deep love for Chicago shines in this new collaboration, which includes printed photos taken by her. Here, she talks about collaborating with Jordan Brand after appearing in “The Ones” campaign last year.
Let’s start with your pieces in the Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection. What about the Purple Line and Chicago inspired you?
Well, my color was purple, so I had to figure out how was I going to make it work for a shoe. I wanted people to be able to style it in various ways. That led me to something more monochrome. In Chicago, we love monochrome, and I felt like gray would be a great color to make the shoe more stylish. So I went with that.
For the hoodie, I started by taking some photos around the city, capturing anything that felt “Chicago.” I took the photo for the hoodie with my iPhone. I was in an Uber on the way home when I spotted a purple ice cream truck. It was cool to look at, and it just reminded me of small business. It motivated and inspired me. I actually got out of the car to take the photo, not knowing if I was going to use it or not. But it all worked out.
The photos I took for the long sleeve were just a couple of photos from the neighborhood. I was walking down the street, maybe a block away from my home, and saw kids playing basketball. It was just one of those little things. I thought, “Oh, let me take a photo of that.” The team helped me put the design together. All of it reminds me of Chicago and unity.
Speaking of graphics, you’ve built a reputation for cut and sew dresses and overalls, though you got your start doing T-shirts and hoodies while you were in high school. How does it feel to come full circle, back to where you started with the graphics?
It feels really good. It feels like it was destiny for this to happen. Back then, I was buying hoodies and cutting them up and distressing them, though the very first thing I did was paint on T-shirts. It’s where I started, and to come full circle just makes sense. I have always looked up to MJ, so it’s pretty cool that this happened the way it did.
How would you describe the Chicago transit system to someone that isn’t from the city? What’s that experience like?
I mean, it’s a part of me. It’s a part of our life. I’ve taken every line somewhere. It gets you where you need to go, and I’ve seen everything on them. Whatever line you take, you’re going to see something different. I love it. I actually prefer taking public transportation to having a car.
When it comes to fashion, cities like L.A, and New York get a lot of shine. You lived in New York for a little bit, but then you chose to come back to Chicago. Why was it important for you to come back home?
It was important for me to come back, because it’s where I’m from and where I’m comfortable, but it’s also just a great medium. Chicago is that in-between of L.A. and New York, and it just so happens to be where I was born.
I also feel like, if you’re from here, and you make it, it’s a big deal, because you’re still a small fish in a big pond. There’s that hustle vibe from New York. You also get that relaxed vibe from L.A. But it was just important to come back, because this is where I knew I could connect with my roots and all the people who helped support me.
It’s been a long journey. I’ve done a lot, so it’s dope to still get support from clientele and be recognized for my art. It’s all been great. It’s still going, and I really love where it’s headed.
One of the parallels among the Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection is how much pride everyone takes in other creatives in the community. When someone does something big, they’re excited to see another Chicagoan win. How would you describe that aspect of Chicago’s creative community?
That support is definitely here. When you’re out in the city, going to different events and being around these same people for so long, it’s really cool to see those people still spreading the word. It all just comes full circle. The creatives around Chicago are definitely supportive.
If you could thank the city of Chicago, what would you say to it?
Hello, Chicago. I love you.
Another theme for the NBA All-Star Game and Jordan Brand right now is “UNITE,” in terms of the power of basketball to bring people together. How have you seen the city unite around basketball and culture?
Sports plays a huge part in how we come together in Chicago. I love to see the unity that it comes with. It’s interesting, I’ve been on the train after a team wins, and everyone’s just happily talking, even though no one really knows each other. We’re all talking about the win, because it just really, really unites people.
I love basketball, it’s my favorite sport. I grew up playing, and I love what the sport has become. I also love that MJ, after bringing us six championships, is still doing so much for the community. And not just for big names. He’s really paying attention and doing his part to unite local creatives.
The full Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection releases globally starting February 15.