Artist and textile designer, Zakee Shariff began her studio in 1997, having graduated, designing her popular streetwear/womenswear brand. Acquiring a large fan base in the UK and Japan, she created made-to-order embroidered jackets, denim clothing, and digitally printed silk dresses, tops, skirts, and scarves.
Since 2020, Zakee has shifted her focus to working in collaboration with clients, creating artwork and textiles with her 20 plus years of experience in the industry. Her fine and commercial art can be commissioned or viewed in gallery’s and exhibitions in the UK and globally. She has worked with a variety of high profile names including Sadie Frost, Selfridges, Nike, and Channel 4.
Her aim and artistic ethos is centered around the desire to attract people to feeling empowered, personally and collectively; to be open and share mutual values of peace, love, and connection. Her work is filled with diversity, especially the empowerment of women, evidenced with her bright, beautiful, and bold work on the ‘Women’s March 2017’ and ‘Love your Mother’ pieces.
It is therefore inspiring news to hear Zakee mention she is looking into creating more public forms of art. The world needs a little injection of her kind of expressive colour, energy and enthusiasm.
Zakee has extensive experience of being copied during her career. So she knows how important it is to protect her intellectual property. That is why she regularly uploads her designs to the ACID IP Databank, for that all important 3rd party dated evidence. She has also used the ACID Legal Affiliates for expert IP support and advice, which has meant her infringement issues have been resolved peacefully. Due to her working with many clients, she understands that she needs to have contracts in place so everyone involved is safe and on the right side of design law.
When and why did you first start creating your products/designs?
I started in 1997. I was introduced by a friend to some stores here and in Japan. I had originally planned when graduating that working in fashion, was a way to earn a living while I built my art practice. Zakee Shariff Clothing took off, and in the end I was creating collections seasonally and selling them across the globe. I stopped it in 2005.
I came back to it intentionally much smaller & intimately, in 2014. The ideas was to create it as a “made to order” collection to reduce waste. I stopped that in 2019, as I was finding it harder and harder to make digitally printed silk sustainable and ethical.
Your ethos of using art to help empower and inspire values of love and peace are thought-provoking. Is this your main aim when creating art? Can you give us a little more information?
My aim has always been to connect with an audience on the individual level, to create an emotional response. To further connect & support someone or a group, I wanted them to feel empowered by wearing my work or looking at my work. I am also interested in bringing people into a state of connection, and an energy of love and peace by being around the work without realizing it. That’s why I’m moving some of my artwork to more public art pieces.
There are so many lonely people in the world especially during these times. If I can bring some sort of connection to people’s hearts and emotions, then I feel I’ve helped support them to feel loved and seen on their path. I’ve always had a passion for the values of Peace and Love at my core.
It’s really interesting that you also carry out Life Coaching. Do you find inspiration for your art from the life coaching in any way?
I don’t notice myself feeling inspired in my art from my coaching. The coaching/mentoring is something that I just feel I was destined to do. Something I can’t not do. People find it very natural to talk to me. And I’ve always been drawn to understanding what makes people tick. So to learn how to support people professionally through coaching and mentoring felt so right for me. I love to coach/mentor people. I find it easy to intuitively see peoples highest self, and help that person by supporting them finding that self in themselves. Ultimately we all want to be seen.
You have worked with some really big names and organisations. Do you have to ensure your IP rights are protected in any specialised way?
I’ve had quite a few people copy me, and I’ve always let them know. However big they were/are. And they have always been positive in their response. In reference to commissioned work. I have always had written and signed contracts with the clients that state ownership of the work within them.
Your artwork for the Women’s March and the LOVE collection are really inspiring and attention grabbing! Do you feel your artwork can or has affected social change/mobility?
Thank you. That’s so kind of you to say. I don’t feel it has in a big way. However, I know in a small way people have commented on how my work has effected them and empowered them. The most repeated comment from people who have worn my clothes over the years including “ZS LOVE”, Is that “Whenever I wear your clothes Someone asks me where it’s from and because of that I feel special/empowered.”
With my “Women’s March” artwork, I have had many people buy it for their daughters to empower them. I want to create more public art, which can inspire people, as I know my artwork has the ability to connect with people. So let’s see how the “effecting change” evolves.
Did you have any knowledge of intellectual property when you started your business?
A little, as my folks were in garment manufacturing. So I had heard about IP to an extent, and from a business of course I did, after starting my line the first time.
Which ACID Membership services have you used and how have you benefited from being a Member?
I have been with ACID throughout my career. I have used the reduced fee Legal Affiliate support, and that was invaluable. As each case I had, I had great IP legal advice and support. Each time I reached a peaceful resolution for all parties. Having a more affordable rate really helped as it’s always a struggle financially in both design and art.
Have you brought anything new to the marketplace recently that you would like to share with us?
I’ve just released a set of artwork that was commissioned for garments for Sadie Frost’s Yoga collection “FROST BODY” And I’ve got some lovely other things coming. However, I’ve signed non-disclosure agreements on those until they birth, so I can’t speak any more about them.
Otherwise, for Zakee Shariff Studio, I have an exciting art direction project on with a client that is very dear to my heart. I’m working on some new public art applications/concepts. And I hope to re-open my silk screen printing studio, (after packing it away into storage during covid) very soon.
What is the best aspect of ACID Membership for your business?
For me, the reduced legal fees and also the ability to upload designs so they are lodged and have dated evidence for their copyright.
What advice would you offer to a new designer?
Do what makes your heart sing and make sure you aim for a live/work balance. Always stand up to the big people if you feel they are copying you. Don’t ever think you cant. Learn to take time to dream a bit and get into nature more than you do. It has wisdom for your creativity.
ACID values the support of its members to enable it to campaign for design law reform. Do you have any messages for Government/Policy Makers on IP issues? Do you think that copying of designs is deliberate and blatant?
For me it hasn’t been blatant, however, whenever I have let companies know that I’m aware there may be a Copyright issue, they have always been super forthcoming. It’s ultimately been a genuine mistake, not a blatant copy. Things get brought to head creatively through many avenues.
Zakee Shariff Art & Design Limited