ZEHRA NAQVI: CEO OF SHOPGLO, CREATIVE INFLUENCE FOR FASHION & CULTURE

Zehra Naqvi is the CEO of ShopGLO.com and is a pioneer in bringing empowering, ethics-based fashion to South Asian communities. She sat down with our editor-in-chief and fellow Columbia girl to discuss her creative outlets and her intentions for the development of ShopGLO as a fashion and lifestyle influence. 

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What inspired you to start ShopGLO?

The list of inspiration to start shopGLO begins at my own fascination in fashion.  Pakistani fashion to be specific. My maternal grandmother used to design all of the clothes I wore whether it was just to walk around a busy Karachi Market or to get fully dressed up in elaborate shaadi attire.  She’d spend time choosing fabric, color palettes and designing the pieces from scratch based on what she felt was fashionable at the time; she’s still one of the best fashion designers in my eyes.  Naturally she inspired me. I used to fill notebooks page to page with drawings of elaborate clothing be it Pakistani or Western. Designing seemed to come naturally to me whenever I was in her presence.  When my grandmother passed away, I lost my grandmother and a woman who constantly taught me so much about fashion, grace, and elegance. It was at this time when my determination to be a fashion designer wouldn’t be left behind as a hobby in my life but something I actively pursued.  Throughout Middle School I actively journaled trends and noted down what was circulating through my Middle School: silly bands, “genie” pants, feather extensions. Suddenly the demand for graphic t-shirts in Hong Kong was something I’d observed but there were no large selling these shirts.  Shipping from America was unreasonably expensive and then I saw an opportunity. My desire and interest in fashion combined with a potential business opportunity. And so, GLO was born.

Although you are studying economics, a lot of your experience is related to fashion and the arts. Could you tell me more about your involvement in fashion and why it is such a big part of your life?

Fashion and art began as a hobby when I was six.  I used to cut small square pieces of fabric from my grandmother’s collection of South Asian textiles and seal them in a ziploc bag.  As I grew older, I moved from free-drawing designs to using fabric and paper to create small pieces of work. This evolved to an appreciation of ancient South Asian textiles and ultimately led to my extensive research project on ancient South Asian textiles and their modern South Asian fashion counterparts which I researched for over four years.  

Fashion was (and has always been) a big part of my life because it is how I choose to express myself.  Everyone, to a certain degree, is invested in fashion and their style. It’s how you present yourself to the world.  An active decision is made in how much effort you choose to put into your clothing.

How do you integrate creativity into your daily life?

I feel like it’s never a conscious decision to integrate creativity into my daily life and it’s something that comes naturally to me.  During an apprenticeship I had with artist Aisha Khalid, I was taught how creative individuals observe life and that we should never feel like we’re forced to be creative in a single moment.  She started a practice with me to observe my drive to her office each day. Notice what happens on the street that may otherwise go unnoticed. Observe the changes in your typical drive to work.  I think the way that she taught me to go about approaching what creativity meant to me in life is something that impacted me from a young age.

How do you integrate feminism into your work?

When we began The Empowerment Campaign, GLO was at a turning point (and so was I).  I think one of the most fortunate things about pursuing GLO at such a young age meant that the brand would grow with me along with my audience.  Feminism is something that I’ve always lived and breathed. There was a moment when a lot of different incidences in my life had accumulated to one point and I realized that GLO was my voice and my platform.  What had started out as fulfilling a childhood dream and a demand for clothing became a popular platform in Hong Kong to address issues that were rampant in Asia: colorism, sexism, racism are all topics so taboo that there was no conversation.  I think integrating feminism into my work at Columbia, GLO, or my day to day life means addressing the problems when women are placed in a position equated lesser than men. Columbia is such an uplifting and encouraging environment with lots of like minded people so having conversations about these issues becomes part of my day to day life.

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What do you want our readers to take away from your work

I think the largest thing to take away from my work is to realize that we’re all fighting for the same cause here.  Different races, religions, ethnicities and all we’re all ultimately people of color and women who are fighting for equality.  We face and see the issues that plague our world today, and us, and create conversation to work towards eliminating discrimination to any and all people.  

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Emily Blake