Sheena Sood is paying homage to her Indian heritage through her fashion label, abacaxi

South Asian American textile designer and artist Sheena Sood is sharing her Indian heritage through her fashion label, abacaxi (@abacaxinyc) — which is the Portuguese word for pineapple. The name and what it symbolizes reflect Sood’s design tendencies toward the bright, the bold and the playful. “Pineapples are a beautiful symbol across several different cultures,” explains Sood. “It symbolizes joy and happiness. I hope that when people wear my clothes, they do feel that sense of contentment and joy and happiness.”

Sood’s parents were born in India, but they moved to the US, where Sood was raised. Growing up, Sood would travel to India to visit family, and it was on these trips that she discovered her desire to become a designer. “I remember just experiencing this stark difference in the way that people dress [in India] versus where I grew up in the US,” says Sood. “The use of color, the sense of design. I got to kind of see the custom garment-making process from a young age. It informed a lot about my life and also my work as a designer.”

Now, Sood reflects on her time in India as a source of inspiration for her collections. “My sense of color comes back to being exposed to traveling in India and the use of color in our culture,” explains the designer. “I love Indian maximalism and all of that saturation. It’s so different, and that’s really what inspires me.”

Sood also incorporates traditional Indian techniques into her garments, like shisha work. “Shisha means mirror in Hindi,” explains the artist. “It’s these little mirrors that are hand-embroidered into the textile. What if we do it on a knit fabric and then I added this little beaded fringe to it to make it different? To me it’s very meaningful to give more life to those ancestral techniques.”

Sood is generally inspired by particular features that are unique to a culture, whether it’s Indian or otherwise. For example, abacaxi’s latest collection, Wise Words, was inspired by the fact that “there are certain words that exist in different languages that are not translatable,” shares Sood. “There’s this word in Swedish called ‘smultronställe.’ It means a place of wild strawberries. Strawberries kind of became a little motif.”

While honoring her heritage is a huge part of abacaxi, sustainability is just as much a part of Sood’s label. “We work with a regenerative cotton farm in India,” notes Sood. “Regenerative organic cotton, it’s simply just the way that cotton was farmed in the ancient times. It really restores the land, but also yields a better crop at the same time.”

Whether it’s the sustainable organic cotton farm in India, or integrating traditional practices, aesthetics and techniques into her collections, it’s important to Sood that she work with other people from her culture and honor that culture. “It’s important for me to work with other people from my culture — other South Asians — in my work because you really don’t see us that much,” says the designer. “I’m really happy to be a part of that change.”

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