Nida Mahmood is one of the big names of the industry. A graduate from NIFT Hyderabad, Nida Mahmood has designed apparel for Hollywood movie. She has also designed costume for Lady Gaga. She has designed apparel for Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin and various other celebrities. In this interview we have discussed about her experiences and her views on the success of women in this industry.
What sparked your interest in fashion?
I was always a very creative person and I always wanted to be in a space which had to do with colour, form, design, and art. Even though I was studying to be a doctor but well in time I realized that I was more excited about colour and art than the white labcoat or the stethoscope.
Tell us about your educational background.
I was a science student and I was studying to be a doctor, but well in time while still in class 12 I decided I needed to pursue a career in an art-oriented creative field. I applied for NIFT and got through, and the rest is history.
What is the inspiration behind your every design?
I am inspired by India, its people, its language, its culture. So different aspects of India excite me to create design. Everything I do is inspired by India and her myriad aspects.
Do you research before designing your new collections? What is the process of research?
Of Course, everything has to be researched, without research there can be no design. There is no fixed process to it because the creative process is always different every time, but its like you see sometime interesting and you make a mental note of it in your mind and think that you can work on it in next season, then you start thinking about it, you see other things around you and draw inspiration from those ideas and you connect all those little ideas and come up with the grand design. So there is one way of drawing inspiration, but the starting point is the moment you find something exciting.
You have designed costume for the a Hollywood movie. How was experience there?
It was very exciting because at that time I was a newcomer. The director of the movie saw my previous works and connected with me to create the main looks for his sci-fi film. It was super exciting because I was not worked on anything sci-fi before and I was free to interpret it from my perspective as opposed to following any set rules.
I wanted to do something interesting, the film was based around a human android. A human android is a human and a robotic together. I tried to put both aspects together and created an inspired garment for the lead character. This was a really challenging project and I quiet enjoyed the process.
Your work was one of the three that was studied by the experts in London Victoria and Albert Museum. So what according to you was the compelling factor in your design that led them to consider it for study?
V&A was doing an exhibit around India and what India stands for in terms of design and art. The exhibition was based on fine nuances of India, her culture and India as a country. My design became part of this because as a brand I represent the essence of India in a very stylized context while keeping the roots intact. My work connects and is relatable on an international level.
Ma`am, you have designed costume for Lady Gaga, so how did that happen?
Red Chillies entertainment was representing Lady Gaga during her visit to India for the F1 races. Someone called me on her stylist’s behalf as they wanted me to create an outfit for Lady Gaga. They had seen my then current collection in which I had made two outfits with digital print and over 2000LED lights. They had loved it and thought it was perfect for Lady Gaga.
What kind of difficulties did you face when you were starting up?
Yes I did face lot of difficulties, I didn’t know how to do this business, I was very young and there was nobody to guide me, I had a limited amount of money. I absolutely had no idea how a brand is created. I learnt everything on the job.
How do you balance creativity and commerce?
If somebody decides to have their own brand it is very important to balance both creativity and commerce. One needs to know how to balance both. I leant everything along the way. One needs to be able to be multi faceted in order to create a brand which has a unique identity and also be able to sell. The only way to do so is a lot of commitment and hard work.
What are the keys to professional and business success of women in India?
First thing is you need to forget that you are a woman or a man because thats not important. The most important thing to remember is focus on your strengths as an entrepreneur. I never think of myself to be weak just because I am a woman. It is absolutely inconsequential. Ones hard work and talent takes one places in life not the fact that one is a man versus a woman. There are enough super successful woman and men to prove this is true. Looking for excuses for not succeeding is a very weak thing to do.
What is your advice to the students of fashion designing?
The most important thing for a fashion student is you dont have to force yourself to have a label just because many people started their own label. You should sit and identify your strengths. There are some people who are very good at managerial work, there are some who are great with production, then there are some people who are brilliant with design . Every student must identify where their strengths lie. If they push themselves into the area where their strength lies they are definitely going to succeed.
One could start ones own export house or a buying house or become an integral part of established design houses. The key lies in identifying ones strengths and enhancing them for a successful professional career in their chosen field. Yearn to be the best at what you can do best.