The Ones: Sheila Rashid
The Chicago-based designer explains how she got into fashion and making gender neutral clothing.
Words: Tara Aquino
“The Ones” celebrates a new generation of defiant, talented individuals. Click here for more stories.
The teenage years are often when we define our values and identities. For Sheila Rashid, style was the key to unlocking her “who” and “why.” Like most LGBTQ youth, Sheila grew up adhering to gender norms for the comfort of others. As a kid, she was scared of what her mother would think of her baggy clothes, so she’d leave the house with a duffel bag to change once she got to school.
There, Sheila could be her truest self — a talented tomboy with an incredible knack for identifying trends and expressing her unique style. The now 30-year-old Chicago native spent her youth painting graphic T-shirts that she’d sell to friends. Those days were the catalyst for the creation of her gender-fluid clothing line, aptly named after herself.
On a sunny day in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, the soft-spoken and thoughtful Sheila reminisced on her design journey, how self-expression became her compass and the heart-swelling reasons why she continues to push her career forward.
How did you get into design?
I got into designing in high school, as a hobby. I saw one of my peers painting a T-shirt, and it inspired me to do the same. I would draw and paint on basic T-shirts and hoodies and sell them to friends at school.
When did you realize it could be a career?
Right after high school, when I went to college in Chicago for fashion design. That’s when I knew I wanted to make clothes from scratch. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could.
What would say is the central intention behind all of your work?
My only intention for my designs is to inspire people to express themselves and do what they love.
What inspired you to take a gender neutral approach?
I was predestined to design unisex, gender-fluid clothing because I, myself, am androgynous. It mirrors who I am. I believe in oneness, which is a fact or state of being unified or whole, and I try to reflect that in what I make.
At the shoot, Sheila perches against a yellow background with a shy smile on her face, as the music of a band she requested plays over the speakers. That sense of oneness she talks about? She poses effortlessly for the camera like she’s already achieved it.
Defiance is inherent in your work. What does it mean to you?
To me, defiance means unapologetic rebellion. I never liked being told what to do or told that being gay was bad. Thankfully, it didn’t faze me, because I have my own beliefs. I have confidence in myself and know that I have an undeniable product. The graphic tees I make now tell stories and encourage defiance in different ways, whether through actual text or the people I feature on them.
Knowing your mother’s stance on your baggy clothing, what kind of shoes were your favorite when you were a kid?
I didn’t really have too many pairs back then, maybe one or two. White Air Force 1s were the shoe to have in high school, so it meant something when I got those, in particular. Of course, growing up in Chicago, Air Jordan Is were a big deal.
What does wearing this pair of Chicago-inspired Air Jordan Is mean to you now?
It means I’m doing something right. I played basketball growing up, and it means a lot for me to represent the brand of someone I really look up to.
What has it meant for you to be cosigned by influential people?
It’s definitely surreal. Now it’s funny, because not only are they my clients, they’re my friends, as well. It’s cool that my work has become more than me making clothes for them.
One look at Sheila’s designs, and it’s clear that she’s creating her own progressive lane in fashion. Her unisex pieces, from tees to baggy jeans, are the perfect uniform for her message of championing style and inclusivity.
What was your day-to-day like when you were first started making clothes?
It was basically teaching myself how to use a sewing machine. I started out doing dresses, actually — a bunch of geometric-inspired dresses.
That’s so wild. What inspired you to go from doing dresses to making gender neutral pieces?
I’m so inspired by women. My motivation was making stuff that women would love. I’d make simple dresses with a lot of detail, like hard shoulders, so that it’d look powerful. It turned into me making overalls, denim and gender-fluid clothes. I wanna go back to making dresses. I’m pretty sure I will.
What does your mom think now?
My mom is super proud of me now. She got over that quick back in the day. Overall, she just accepted me, and she’s very proud. She wants everything that I make, androgynous or not.
Do you feel like a role model?
Yeah, I do. I know I’m doing something to inspire thousands of people. I don’t really feel anti about it. I embrace it. I am doing what I love, and I think that’s what everybody should do.
The Air Jordan I Low Slip ‘Chicago’ is available starting March 1 from SNKRS and select retailers.