Former Columbia student designs overalls for Chance the Rapper

By Connor Carynski, Campus Reporter

For independent designer Sheila Rashid, what started out as painting designs on t-shirts to sell to her high school classmates, flourished and led into her own brand, which now makes overalls for Chicago artist and Grammy winner Chance The Rapper. Chance has worn Rashid’s overalls to high profile events including the MTV Video Music Awards and even an episode of Saturday Night Live.

The 28-year-old Chicago native attended Columbia on and off for about two years’ worth of credits but never received her degree. After leaving Columbia, she interned with a local designer and worked on building a collection of dresses that would later appear in her first fashion show.

She moved to New York where she lived for a year and a half before returning to Chicago. In addition to her work for Chance, she has designed for celebrities like actress Zendaya and musician Mick Jenkins.

The Chronicle spoke with Rashid about her time at Columbia, her high-profile clients and her hopes for the future of the Sheila Rashid brand.

THE CHRONICLE: How did your time at Columbia help you with the rest of your fashion career?

SHEILA RASHID: Garment construction [courses] helped me learn the basics; I learned all the machines, applied that information and learned in my own way how to do certain things. I remember that the teachers there were great. It was just a great experience; I definitely learned a lot, and Columbia was the best starting point. It is definitely the reason  I was able to learn so much on my own.

How did you begin designing for Chance the Rapper?

We’re friends. Every time we see each other he always looks out. He wanted the overalls from me before, but I never had the chance to make them for him because I was always doing something else. The connection happened when another local stylist reached out to me and mentioned the VMAs and asked if we had some overalls for him, and that it was a possibility he would wear them for that.

That just motivated me. She got me his measurements, and I made those pants in a day because it was a week before the VMAs. I got them to him, and I didn’t get my hopes up too high, but on the day of the VMAs, she texted me and said he was wearing them. I went to my friend’s house who was having a party and she had cable, so I could see it on TV myself. He rocked them and then it became an iconic moment for him.

What has the recent attention done to your brand?

I definitely will say that Chance wearing [the overalls] has brought me international clientele for sure. People in London [and] Japan have ordered off the site. People want what he has and not only that, but the way the overalls are built, the aesthetic of them are is different than other overalls so I think people like that. Not only is Chance wearing them but they are different. It looks like more of a fashion statement.

Is it important to you that your brand stays local?

Fashion in Chicago is not that huge so when you can spotlight people like that, it definitely brings light to your brand and also to fashion in general. It’s definitely important to keep it local. This is where I’m from, this is where I want to build and to make people pay attention to fashion going on here. That’s why it’s important.

Why does your brand focus on androgynous clothing?

I’m designing stuff that I would wear. I’m just reflecting my personality; I’m a tomboy. Because the overalls and denim have just become a necessity for people and people have been wanting them, that’s all I’ve been making lately. It’s become a unisex thing because guys and girls can wear the overalls. That’s how the brand has gone,  and I’m happy about that because I don’t really want to put a label on my brand as far as women’s or men’s.

What does the future of your brand look like?

These years are now just developing, getting ready to mass produce and getting ready to take the next step. It’ll take a day at a time to get there. I know I want different stores to carry my brand. I want to eventually open up my own store and just keep building.

Honestly, I’m really all about the art; I like making pieces. I want to keep making clothes… Even if I do mass produce, I will always still be sewing myself. It’s really about getting the art out there anyway I can.