Getting Personal with Nida Tahir Shaheryar -
Balancing Work, Family and Client Relationships
Anyone can think of an idea, but to put that idea to work and create a brand, that takes time, energy and a lot of grit. Growing up in Abu Dhabi, Nida has had first-hand experience in dealing with exclusive designs that commanded luxury price points. She found herself moving from her home in Dubai to Singapore and founded her own brand NIDA SHAY in 2016.
Tell us more about your brand, NIDA SHAY!
“NIDA SHAY is a luxury womenswear brand focusing on the art of hand embroidery and embellishment with exclusivity, customisation and luxury as key features of the brand. Since my clients are from all over the world, I prioritise personalising certain designs to suit their preferences and requests. Each and every piece from the collection is hand crafted, tailored and embroidered which is a long, beautiful and personal process involving the talents of many people. We celebrate tradition by preserving centuries old craftsmanship of our highly skilled artisans, many who have been with me for nearly a decade. I have spent years learning the craft as well as training them in the importance of quality in every aspect of our design process, personally working on every piece that is first introduced in the new collection and visit my atelier 2-3 times a year.”
“It’s a brand that is continuously working towards a sustainable business model and ethically made designs, produce two collections every year and only produce what is pre ordered rather than adding to the waste in the fashion world. In 2017 , after winning the Fashion Futures 1.0 Award , I was invited to New York to receive mentorship by Carolina Herrera.”
In a world full of mass produced pieces, “one of a kind pieces” are often a rarity and the brand takes pride in being exclusive yet inclusive at the same time. The dedication to the craft here is indeed commendable.
Having said that you specialise in creating specialty pieces, how do you cope with the frustration of a creative block?
“The best way for me to deal with a creative block is to travel with my family, it always gives me so much inspiration and helps clears my mind. I frequently visit London as it’s home away from home for me and I always come back feeling instantly more refreshed and energised. Another way I deal with it is through yoga and exercise. Yoga helps me to refocus attention within myself and gives me a sense of calm.”
The mental and physical demands of being in any form of creative field can take its toll sometimes. As much as it is tempting to keep pushing during a creative streak, taking breaks to recharge are crucial in maintaining balance.
Being in the fashion industry, where it is clearly volatile, do you ever feel like your work is not appreciated enough?
“I believe I’ve been very lucky with the response I’ve received in such a short time in Singapore. I have always believed that word of mouth is of utmost importance and it really has been the case for me. I came here nearly a decade ago without knowing a single soul in Singapore. I just immediately threw myself into doing what I love and now I have created a niche for myself. I have had the honour of dressing so many incredible women over the years who have sought me out , including royalty and dignitaries. I am confident about what I design and the quality I provide to my clients, I believe they appreciate the quality and authenticity of my designs as does the industry.”
The world of fashion can be as volatile and as complicated as one makes it to be, but by sticking it out and not getting overly affected by what others are accomplishing can help drive focus. There are a lot of pressures out there, but they can only impact you negatively if you allow them to get to you. Self motivation is key when it comes to building something from nothing.
Having said that, what is your immediate personal goal?
“My immediate personal goal is to host an exclusive private fashion show for my clients. I have had so many requests this year that I really feel the need to do so. I would also love to get back into yoga and meditation more regularly.”
Setting actionable goals for yourself can give you better direction and mental clarity as to what you need to do to get to where you want to be. One way to actualize goals is to look for inspiration, so who do you look up to in the fashion world?
“Elie Saab. I have immense respect for him and what he has managed to achieve through his work. I admire the fact that he was one of the first Arabs to be accepted in to the fashion industry’s governing body, Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture giving me hope that maybe someday they will also recognise such talent also exists here in our little red dot that I am so proud to represent.”
We are excited to see what independent designers like Nida can bring to Singapore’s fashion scene in the near future. However, in order for them to be successful and deliver on their creative direction, they need front and backend support. Having said that, has there ever been a time where you felt a strong connection to a particular piece, but felt like it would not be as popular and decided not to go ahead with production?
“No, I feel if I did that , I’d lose the joy in what I do, in fact I have done the opposite where I just create based on what I feel. There are some pieces I have designed where I haven’t given a single thought to whether they will be popular or not. Following my instincts, have helped me create pieces that have garnered much attention and praise. At the end of the day this is my art, I will never be bound by what is expected to be popular but what will give me the most joy in creating it.”
Most artists start out with creating pieces that they feel and immense connection with, but as they get increasingly popular, their designs tend to go more mainstream to cater to a mass audience. We appreciate that designers like Nida are able to stay true to her roots and stay authentic to her creations.
Would you be able to share what really goes on behind-the-scenes?
“There's a lot going on! I am a hands-on mother as well as a full time creative head and I love every minute of it. My schedule is tough as my day doesn’t end according to Singapore time. My team is 4 hours behind so that means work can keep me up late into the evening. I also don’t have any off days as such. I make time for my clients even on weekends. I also work while I’m traveling and I’m always on call should a client or my team member need me.
I try and manage my time as best as I can as there are a lot of people counting on me, whether it's the team or my family.
In my day to day life, I always do the drop-offs and pick-ups from school because I love the drive and time with two sons. We have some of the most amazing conversations and I love hearing about their day, they are growing up so fast and I don’t want to miss a second of it. These are the foundation years and I think it is so important for me , as a mother to be present. I may be pursuing my dreams but having children was also always my dream and I manage it as best as I can so there are no regrets on either side. Putting aside time for family is essential to helping one recharge and focus on the little joys of life.
As for work, I have managed to establish a strong structure for processing orders whether online or in person. Clients are able to contact us via email, chat or call in and discuss options for a particular piece. All our clients are provided one-on-one service and once it is confirmed, the team gets to work back at the atelier. For bridals or clients who like to come in personally to place orders with me, I am there for a private appointment.
When you design something exclusive you want to give exclusive time to your clients. It should be a memory that you savour and that is precisely why I love to meet and get to know my clients individually and customise it accordingly to reflect their confidence and beauty.
I have taken some very important client meetings that even run as late into the night as midnight and some meetings that I have been flown half way across the world for , but they have been exceptional. This is a mere reflection of how passionate I am about what I do so the long hours and often 7 day work weeks feel worth it.”
Clients come in to get a customised piece and leave making a new friend. In the world of fashion where things can get cold and even distant, having a personal connection to the designer can really make the client feel special.
When you love connecting with people on a deeper level, this becomes the best part of the job. Speaking of fostering better relationships, what would your advice be for parents who struggle between being there for their children and being at work?
“I would say, don’t be so hard on yourselves . We are all trying to do the best we can . Try not to take out your stress or frustration on the children but instead think of them as inspiration. I still remember when I held my son in my arms for the first time, told him I would make him so proud and lead by example by doing what I love and believe in. Today, he is my biggest cheerleader and I love that both my sons have seen me hard at work and follow my dreams. I also believe it is vital to take a break without feeling guilty, so many of us suffer from ‘mum guilt’ and it is completely natural. You should surround yourself with women in the same sort of circumstances that can help and support you and remind you why you decided to start and why you keep going.”
Remember there are so many out there that will understand and there is no shame in asking for help. Women especially, have so many hats to wear and it can get overwhelming at times but the best thing to do is ask for help when you need it and take a break when you need to.
Being in the position that you are in, many people have expressed their desires to you, looking to you to create something they want, but what about you? If you could, what changes would you make to the fashion industry?
“I would love to see more support for emerging designers, I feel the industry has a lot to learn from the fashion councils in New York and London. They have built a strong community there and actively hold competitions and events to push their local brands and also create an environment of inclusivity that helps propel them on a global scale. The entire industry works together to support one another and that is imperative for brands to succeed. I would also love to see a mentorship program created for young designers who can experience what really goes on behind the scenes. The world of fashion can look glamorous and exciting but there is a lot of hard work that goes on that you have to be prepared for and learn how to survive.
We are very fortunate to belong to a very multicultural society and among the cultures there is a lot that can be celebrated and highlighted. I believe there is a lack of exposure and opportunity in Singapore, and we desperately need a platform to showcase and present our creativity in the right way with the right people involved who truly understand the industry to create the right noise and impact.“
Looks like we still have a long way to go in the world of fashion. Hard as it is to be involved in this line, what advice would you give someone who has trouble bouncing back from a failed attempt at something they were passionate about?
“‘Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”
This was repetitively told to me by my father as I was growing up, so I feel it is engraved in my head. I have made it my life’s motto. Nothing ever comes easy and failures are a huge and significant part of the journey. Instead of letting it consume you or break you down, have faith in yourself , learn from it and try again. If you find that tough, surround yourself with people who lift you up and believe in you and get rid of toxic people who drain you. Whatever you do, believe in yourself and don’t give up.”
The great Robert Frost once said, “The best way out is always through." Always remember that persistence is key.
UNDERCOVER is a social series brought to you by VF+c and STATE Creative. Through the series, we seek to impact the lives of our community through authentic stories of inspiring individuals. Each edition, we partner with a social enterprise to shed light on the issues that matter.
For the first edition of UNDERCOVER, we partnered with The Lion Mind, a non-profit organisation (NPO) whose mission is to promote mental wellness and positive psychology through education and partnership with the community. Due to the rise of mental health cases around the world, we endeavour to do our part to normalise conversations around mental health issues through the subjects featured in our campaign.