What did you think about Rihanna before STR and did your opinion changed over the time? How?
I was always a massive fan of Rihanna, her music and her fashion style. This was part of the reason why Styled To Rock really appealed to me, its very rare to find an opportunity like this that catered towards a very specific style. It almost felt like it was made for me!
What’s your favorite Rihanna song?
That’s a difficult one! It depends how i’m feeling, but I suppose “What’s My Name” is probably my most played closely followed by We Found Love. I love what I’ve heard of Unapologetic so far though I’m sure I’ll find a new favourite there!
Why do you think they chose Rihanna to produce the show? What makes her unique in the industry?
Because she loves to experiment with her creativity, she’s constantly updating her style and you can tell that she has a personal interest in the art of fashion. She’s unique because a lot of artists her age are often moulded into marketable characters that are created by them where as Rihanna is genuine, what you see is what you get. Her clear evolution and development as a music and fashion icon can be seen quite evidently throughout her body of work.
Are you still in touch with her? As a kind of “mentor”?
I haven’t spoken to her recently but the advice she gave me during the competition is something that I will carry with me throughout my career.
How did you become a part of “Styled To Rock”?
Someone had posted a link to the advert on Facebook. I filled out the application and ended up getting invited to audition for the producers with some pieces that I’d made. After a few more auditions including one with Rihanna herself I found out i didn’t make it on the show and was put on on hold as a stand by just incase. On the first day of filming i got a call saying that I was in and my car was arriving in an hour!…not bad for a stand by ay!
Do you think your designing style changed over the time of the show?
Contrary to what others may have thought on the show, I do have a signature style and that never changed throughout the process. I used every challenge each week to exercise and develop my skills further, I think if you look back on the outfits i made throughout they’re tailor made to each client yet they’re still me. To me there was always only ever one challenge and i kind of saw the rest as a warm up for it.
How did you feel when you won the very first challenge for Kanye West and compare the feeling to the final winning challenge.
Totally gobsmacked! I was not expecting it at all. At the begnning there was 12 of us and everyone was literally fighting to be noticed at every opportunity. Since I was not one of larger characters it was important for me to make sure that I stood out for my design capabilities in order to not sink into the background. The first and last challenges were even more special to me because both were the only ones chosen by Rihanna herself, and out of everyone involved she’s the one who’s attention you really want to get!
Would you recommend the show for other yet unknown designers to breakthrough?
Its been a great learning curve and for me personally I feel that I’ve gained a lot from the experience. It may not be for everyone but I think as a designer its up to you to consider what are the best routes to take in your career.
When did you start designing and when did you start to make your hobby professional?
I always used to draw with my brothers, we used to make comic books and invent characters so I got used to drawing human figures and clothes on them. I guess I subconsciously started designing clothes then. I wasn’t really into the whole fashion thing, I didn’t read fashion magazines until I started studying it and needed to learn and research. I always loved clothes and putting looks together but I was more inspired by music artists and their style rather than what was going on on the catwalk. I think in many ways that’s still true, and that is why STR was such a great project for me. The decision to make fashion my career really just came from the fact that I loved drawing, and music it was one or the other so now I kind of get to combine the two.
How would you describe your designing style?
Eclectic. Thats the only way I can describe it really, I think it was Lysa who described my style as kind of just thrown together. Which is true! Maybe because I’m so indecisive I have to mix as many elements as possible, so I have to incorporate a lot of texture or irregular silhouettes. My designs are usually very worked into.
Is there anything the STR directors cut’s didn’t reveal about yourself that you feel like the world out there has to know?
I did listen to the judges!…although I’m very stubborn
Anything you want to tell your former “rivals” at STR? Your fans? The Rihanna Navy?
Thanks to EVERYONE that supported me and the entire show and all my Team Zain members! I want to especially thank the Rihanna Navy who embraced us all from the very beginning, Rihanna really has some of the most dedicated fans in the world and I’m grateful to have been able to be a part of it all in some way. I’ve had the time of my life and now I’m working only quest for world domination…very far to go but I’ve made a start haha.
Why do you think you won?
Because Rihanna loved my outfit! I don’t want to blow my own trumpet but it was perfect for her and one of the best things I’ve ever made, I think being a fan of the artist you are designing for can really help sometimes because you understand them on a deeper level. In my case it was a success but its not every time.
If it wasn’t you who would you see winning the show? Why?
To be honest I always had my money on Steve from day one, I think we all did! It was such a massive deal when it was both of us together in the elimination room during the semi finals I was convinced it was me going home being up against him. He was extremely consistent from the beginning so at the time I definitely saw him going all the way.
What in your private life changed after your win?
I have a hell of a lot more twitter followers and a minuscule amount of free time! The best part has definitely been the amazing response from fans of the show whether its online or people that come up to you on the street, its so surreal that people you’ve never met know so much about you!
Where in life would you stand now if there weren’t an opportunity like STR?
I’d still be working my usual job, sewing in my spare time and trying to figure out how to get my designs seen by people of iportance in the industry. When you’re a new or aspring fashion designer the main kind of issues that you have to deal with on a day to day basis are financial so its necessary to have a day job to fund your other work. Its kind of like having a double life, its extremely difficult but that’s what it takes unfortunatley.
Would you like to work as a stylist for artists like Rihanna as well or do you want to focus on your designing career?
Both ideally, I’m a designer first and a stylist second. I’d like to style artists whilst having my own line to encorporate into this kind of similar to what we did on Styled To Rock.
Are you in touch with any other known designers already? Did anyone ever influence you and who do you admire?
I speak to Henry and the other contestants of course, but in the grand scheme of things I’m pretty new in the game so I haven’t met many of the massive designers personally.
What are you currently working on? Anything to reveal yet?
I’m working on PR and getting my name out there at the moment, I’m going to be appearing at the Clothes Show Live alongside Henry in December. I’m been working on a few commissions and hopefully towards a collection that I’m aiming to be available on a large scale. I’m gonna be coy about it at the moment but I want to create a peacock army haha
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Queen Zainab?..World domination?… Who knows, I have such huge dreams that I’m not even close to achieving yet, I’d really like to take over the universe but I’d settle for my own international label. I wanna be as big as The Boss herself
And a question I want to know like bad: What happened to all the winning outfits?
The one for Kanye West? Since he never took it home. The one for Rihanna? Since it was a one-time-only-wearing? The one’s for any other celebrity? Do you got them back? Trash? Or don’t you even know?
Rih took hers back to LA with her, I think its in her archive now. I re-made the one for Ana (Scissor Sisters) so she has that now. Nicola took my Rizzle Kicks shirt lol and I’ve got most of the rest like Little Mix, Kanye, Katy B, Cheryl Cole, Katy Perry and the semi final outfits.
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