Couturier Saisha Shinde on the winning gown worn by Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu and her SS'22 edit

With her first collection since her transition, and now a winning gown worn by Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu to credit — couturier Saisha Shinde talks  fashion and more

Sharmistha Ghosal Published :  17th December 2021 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  17th December 2021 12:00 AM

Saisha Shinde

The year 2021 will remain one of the landmark years in ace fashion designer Saisha Shinde’s life. From owning up to her sexuality to designing the winning gown for Miss Universe 2021 pageant winner Harnaaz Sandhu, it has been a significant year for couturier Saisha Shinde (formerly known as Swapnil Shinde). From her very first meeting with Harnaaz, Saisha was sure that she would bring home the crown. “As cliché as it may sound; this girl had me impressed from day one. She is by far the best-behaved person I have ever met. Her win has been a really surreal moment for me. Since my student days in NIFT, when Lara Dutta won the crown, I secretly wished that someday I would design a winning gown and that day finally arrived 21 years after Lara’s win,” enthuses Saisha.

We had a chat with Saisha about her design philosophy, what went into making the historic gown and her upcoming SS ’22 collection.

What was the design philosophy behind Harnaaz’s gown?

Harnaaz trusted me blindly but I have a design process and I need to have an element of personalisation so, I asked her a few questions and on the basis of that I sketched, re-sketched and created the final design. Since she is from Chandigarh, I incorporated phulkari-inspired geometric motifs in the ensemble. Also, keeping with her belief in sustainability, all the embroidery materials used in the gown were preexisting fabrics from our factory that I had never put to use before.

Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu in the winning gown created by Saisha Shinde

Harnaaz’s walk has lot of movement, there is a sway to her walk, and so, I wanted the gown to have some movement as well, which is why it has a lot of silver chain tassels in the centre which bring that sort of movement when she walks. Also, it had to be a figure-hugging gown because she has got a phenomenal body. But finalising the colour was the toughest part because everyone had an opinion on what the colour should be. Since Natasha Grover, the national director of the contest was sure that a silver champagne combination would work, we went with that.

Harnaaz just had one little wish that there be some touch of orange in the gown since it’s her lucky colour. And so, just before she left for Israel, I told her that I have stitched a little orange patch on the inside of her gown.

Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu in the winning gown created by Saisha Shinde
Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu in the winning gown created by Saisha Shinde

Did you always want to be a designer?

In my 7th or 8th grade, I saw Gianni Versace’s fashion show on television and I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. Gianni and Donatella Versace are my inspirations. My parents were okay with whatever I did as long as I got proper education and that is how NIFT happened and I finally established my label in 2005-2006.

What’s your design philosophy?

I have always wanted to design something for women that gave them confidence and a fearless attitude. The idea is not to make clothes that shout out loud, they should have a muted strength. And post my gender transition, this has got more refined. Previously, it was just this crazy man creating what he thought women should wear but as Saisha, I also think about what I would wear and what women can and want to wear. My idea of sexy and bold became very realistic and well-defined. I never had sleeves in my designs as Swapnil but now, as Saisha, I realised I can’t do without a sleeve. I realised the importance of the bust fit, the fact that everything needn’t be fitting and hugging to the body all the time. And most importantly how useless heels are!

Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu in the winning gown created by Saisha Shinde
Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu in the winning gown created by Saisha Shinde

What will be your SS ’22 collection like?

I am very excited for my first collection as Saisha. It will be a predominantly western ready-to-wear edit that women can wear from day to night. I am very excited because the collection is friendly in terms of size and gender. I’ve used a lot of fluid fabrics like georgette and double georgette, cotton and muslin besides lots of twills, tweed and other fabrics. The only colours I love are yellow, royal blue and pink. So, apart from them, the edit is predominantly in neutral shades with a lot of black, white and grey. There’s a lot of layering and everything is classic and timeless, yet affordable. This edit would be available online from February.

Do you also plan to make gender-fluid clothes?

Inclusivity is making sure that every identity has a place where they can buy clothes from. When a lesbian or a gay or a trans man or woman enters my shop, they should find something they like and can wear, that is the true definition of inclusivity that I want to achieve.

Your upcoming collections?

I just started designing for men three-four months ago and I will be doing a separate launch for my menswear collections.

Bollywood actresses you like for their sense of fashion?

Deepika Padukone and Madhuri Dixit, because they let me do what I do best and don’t suggest changes at all. It is just about comfort for them.

Fashion advice for all seasons?

A denim jacket, a little black dress no matter what size or shape; and a leather biker jacket should be in everyone’s closet!

Miss Universe 2021 is streaming on Voot Select.

DM on Instagram: @saishashinde05

Twitter: @sharmidas