MADE BY MEMBERS • February 2023
Artist, admirer of silk and former British Airways design manager, Jag Sihra has taken the fashion industry by storm with the release of a timeless collection of bold-printed scarves, eye masks and twillies. To celebrate London Fashion Week, we chat with the creative director about how her talents, travels and heritage have seamlessly tied together to inspire Studio Jag Sihra
Jag Sihra loves a mood board
What sparked your passion for design?
Art has always been an overwhelming part of who I am. It was my favourite subject in school – I’d even skive off other lessons to draw and have a chat with the art teachers. At college, I did a foundation art course where I tried every type of medium. I knew that I would pursue a career in textiles, as it allowed me to draw on fine art elements and use my other skills.
Describe your relationship between fashion and travel.
They’re completely intertwined. Fashion is differentiated by the fabrics that are used and the materiality of textiles is at the beginning of every design. Travel is where I get my inspiration – from cultural colour palettes to rare plants only found in particular parts of the world.
What does a day in the life of a studio artist look like?
All I want to do is draw, but often there’s admin to take care of first. If there’s a project running, I’ll come up with designs and mood boards for the client to approve. Then I get to do lots of drawing. Everything depends on where we are in a project – the development process, chasing up suppliers, sharing designs with printmakers and so on. Eventually, I get to see the final product that started as just the seed of an idea.
Candy square silk scarf from Jag Sihra’s Garland Collection
Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
I’m trying to disrupt the gifting market. The premise is that I delve into the DNA of a brand and develop bespoke silk gifts that can be cherished forever. I recently designed voyage presents for everyone on board a cruise ship, which were inspired by the jewels of the ocean.
How does your Kenyan and Indian heritage influence your work?
At a young age, my mother would return from India with suitcases bursting open with richly embroidered silks. This was when I fell in love with the way silk absorbs colour and refracts it back like no other fibre. Something else from my Indian heritage is my use of boldness and delicately balanced tensions of colour. The Kenyan influence comes through in my colour choices, from the tropical vibe and lightness you don’t get anywhere else – like the red of the earth and the blue of the sky.
How do you create a piece from start to finish?
Inspiration strikes if I see something beautiful – then I paint, draw and sketch to loosen my hand. There’s something about drawing that imbues the piece with a uniqueness that you won’t get from a graphic, shape or colour. If I’m creating something for a client, I love looking through archives and delving into the DNA of the brand before putting pencil to paper. The design evolves and a palette forms. Then it’s printed in small-batch production, and I add as much hand-finishing as possible.
Raspberry silk eye mask and other pieces from the Blossom Collection
Tell us about your previous role as design manager at British Airways.
It was a sweetie-box of projects leading the way in design for aviation. I was part of a five-person design management team for 15 years. Together we thought about everything – the styling of the seats, lounges and even the in-flight wash bags. Each of us looked after different projects and managed the end-to-end design.
Greatest thing about working with British Airways?
One big bonus was all the fabulous places I got to see. The buzz of New York and the colours of the buildings in Nice have really stuck with me. I also visited Shanghai, Malaysia, parts of America and lots of countries in Europe such as Belgium, Germany, France and Italy. Nothing compares to travel when it comes to fulfilling an ambition, especially for creative people.
Colourful houses in Nice
Best way to celebrate London Fashion Week?
There’s a desire to move away from greenwashing, and fashion will be taken to task for how it’s impacting the planet. So, to celebrate London Fashion Week, buy less and buy well – stick to raw materials that won’t sit at the bottom of the ocean. Choose garments made from natural fabrics that will live forever.
What destination would you recommend for some creative inspiration?
Horizons broaden when you travel, and you’ll always come away feeling creatively energised. There’s nothing like the light blue of the Mediterranean Sea and the free time of leisure like in the south of France. In Florence, everywhere you look there’s art – churches, buildings, the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Or you can surround yourself with the languid ease and botanicals of Mauritius.
The Ponte Vecchio, Florence
What are your three in-flight essentials?
Definitely a nice soft wrap that you can fold away neatly, plus an audiobook and a tiny sketch pad and pencil.
Aisle or window seat?
Window – there’s something about being above those clouds. It’s a moving picture, isn’t it? It’s a great time to do some deep thinking. It’s also a pleasure to see somewhere before you land. On my honeymoon in Hong Kong (before the new airport), the plane had to fly between two buildings. You could see people cooking breakfast through their windows!
Where’s next on your bucket list?
Singapore. It’s one of the few places I didn’t visit while working for British Airways. It fascinates me. I’d love to see the fusion of cultures that everybody talks about.
Little India, Singapore
What makes the perfect travel outfit?
It has to be cool, stretchy and soft – made out of lovely natural fibre. Perhaps some linen trousers, a cashmere sweater and some nice Superga sneakers.
Favourite fashion designer?
Oscar de la Renta. The sheer femininity and unadulterated beauty in every single garment have transcended decades and still do. But then there’s Dior for a similar reason, and Vivienne Westwood was way ahead of her time. Also Coco Chanel – that jacket. It’s just a classic and you can do whatever you want with it.