If you were to ask Muscat-based Indian fashion designer Sherin Mansoor when or how she learnt to design outfits, her answer may amuse you. “I don’t know,” she says, somewhat puzzled herself, “It just happened.”
With absolutely no background in fashion design and zilch past experience to show on her resumé, her answer is understandable.
But Sherin’s recent success on the runway is what one could aptly describe as the stuff dreams are made of. There’s no other way to make sense of the story of a homemaker whose flair for stitching pretty dresses for her daughter catapulted her to fame overnight and landed her a striking debut at last year’s London Fashion Week.
Access to the crème de la crème of the fashion world came quite unexpectedly, Sherin admits, but that doesn’t take away from her body of work. If anything, her flowing gowns - particularly those inspired by Mughal royalty - have made her a selling point internationally.
Her brand ‘Sherin’, supported by London-based fashion enterprise House of iKons, is already making waves in the UK and US where the line is being exhibited at leading boutiques.
At her home in Muscat, two mannequins displaying her new designs comfortably occupy her drawing room with the rest of the furniture.
This space gets converted into a temporary workstation when the homemaker burns the midnight oil for her shows abroad. She’s still catching up on lost sleep after an exhausting outing at the House of ikons fashion show in Hollywood, Los Angeles recently. An invitation to give her designs for celebrities attending the Cannes International Film Festival followed, but she’s not sure about taking it up.
“Back-to-back projects take a toll on me. I wouldn’t be able to creatively give it my best,” she says.
The reason being that Sherin doesn’t only design her creations, but also stitches them on her own – making her task doubly arduous.
This brings us back to our first question, and this time Sherin offers some help recounting how she made her first piece when she was barely 12 years old. “I wanted to stitch myself a top and kept begging my mother for some dress material,” says Sherin, “But she refused because she was confident that I would waste the cloth piece as I had never tried my hands on a sewing machine before.”
Sherin remembers throwing a tantrum before her parents reluctantly agreed. “They gave me the cheapest material that they could find in the market, but when my father saw what I had created, he couldn’t be more proud,” she says, still not knowing how she worked her way on the machine without any help.
Growing up, she was hopeful about securing admission to a fashion school in Delhi, but had to settle for an early marriage instead. “It didn’t demotivate me. I always day-dreamed about showcasing my designs on the runway someday.”
Years of watching fashion television channels and following up on the works of renowned designers helped her find her edge.
That, and designing dresses for her daughter and herself, kept the momentum going.
In 2013, when Sherin opened a Facebook page, uploading photographs of her creations for friends and family, she had little idea that this would be her first baby step into international fashion.
“One night while browsing through my Facebook messages, I found an e-invite from the Arab Group, London. They mentioned that they had seen my designs and wanted me to represent Oman for their annual fashion show and competition. I ignored it for over a month assuming it was a spam mail,” says Sherin.
“But when I got the same invite again, I decided to get my brother in the UK to check whether such a group or show actually existed. After he verified the details, I agreed to participate.”
With this, Sherin’s runway dreams had finally became reality. Her collection was showcased at the Arab Group Fashion Awards held at Mayfair Hotel, London in 2013. The icing on the cake was winning the Best Designer award. It was here that she was approached by founder of House of iKons Savita Kaye aka Lady K, who was also one of the judges at the event.
“She asked me to represent her fashion house for London Fashion Week’s Spring/Summer collection in September the following year,” says Sherin.
Everything else fell into place for this budding designer. For LFW, Sherin designed 15 pieces procuring material from various Indian cities in as well as Muscat. Her favourite material to work with is raw silk, tissue and French lace, which she embellishes with kundan gemstones. “My collection strives to merge the elegance and richness of Indian royalty with western designs,” she says.
The self-taught designer who never really learnt the nitty gritties of fashion, works on her creations unconventionally.
“Material inspires me. I hoard all kinds of material that I come across during my travels. When I have to start working on my designs, I just spread them all out. If a certain colour catches my attention, I display it on my mannequin and start working around it. A lot of trial and error goes into my creations, but ultimately everything comes through.”
Sherin has now been hired as fashion consultant for Salman Stores, and will be redesigning its staff uniforms. Shows abroad will continue, but she’s taking them one at a time.
As a parting thought, she says, “Hold on to your dreams. If you believe in your work, and are very passionate about what you do, you will find success sooner or later...just hold on...”