'Wanted a Punjab Element': Trans Designer Behind Harnaaz Sandhu's Winning Gown

Designer Saisha Shinde said that she wanted to design a dress that was an ode to Harnaaz Sandhu's hometown.

4 min read
Edited By :Padmashree Pande

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas

Senior Editor: Shelly Walia

As Harnaaz Sandhu was named the Miss Universe in Israel, all eyes fell on trans fashion designer Saisha Shinde—who designed the silver-champagne crown-winning gown.

Mumbai-based Shinde is one of the few trans fashion designers in India, and has worked with several Bollywood A-listers in her 15-year-old career.

In an interview with The Quint, Shinde said that she wanted to design a dress that was an ode to Sandhu's hometown – but not a literal interpretation of it.

"Harnaaz comes from Punjab and I wanted to have an element of Punjab in the outfit. But at the same time, I did not want the interpretation to be very literal. Phulkari is, of course, synonymous to Chandigarh, Punjab. I wanted to get that symmetric, geometric pattern motif and sort of deconstruct it in a way and make it my own. That is essentially where it all started with."
Designer Saisha Shinde said that she wanted to design a dress that was an ode to Harnaaz Sandhu's hometown.

However, Shinde said that the experts – including Times Group's Natasha Grover and the stylist Bharat – had a disagreement about which colour to finally choose.

"Eventually, we went with what Natasha Grover said because she is the boss lady and she knows it well. We went with Silver, but I suggested that we do a champagne, so it was a combination of silver and champagne. So, it doesn't wash her out completely but at the same time it looks like a winner on stage."

Designer Saisha Shinde said that she wanted to design a dress that was an ode to Harnaaz Sandhu's hometown.

On Working With Harnaaz Sandhu

Saisha told The Quint that Sandhu's biggest strength was she let the "experts do their job."

"The plus point and one of her biggest strengths is that she trusted the experts. She let us do our job. She didn't interfere once. Every time we had to do a fitting, she wore it and what we kept on telling her was – "The gown is there, but it is you. You must make everything work. As an expert, we know this is what will work on you. Now you have to make this work." And she did exactly that."
Saisha Shinde to The Quint

However, she made one request to the designer – to have 'something orange.'

"Her only request was she wanted something orange. Because that's her lucky colour. It is her favourite colour. So we put a little orange patch on the inside of the gown. If you see the dress today, you can see a small orange patch inside."
Saisha Shinde to The Quint

'Stop Putting Notions on Women': Shinde Speaks on Beauty Pageants

Elaborating on the criticism that beauty pageants celebrates and normalises 'unrealistic' beauty standards, Shinde told The Quint that one must look at it from a "unbiased point of view."

"If you look at it from a different perspective, with a completely unbiased point of view, you'll see a different opinion. When an athlete is going for the Olympics, they don't eat. They eat proteins all the time, they work out all the time, they have to have a specific kind of body. But they are never questioned. Their bodies are never questioned. Their standards are never questioned. They go through rigorous trainings but no one questions them. But if a Miss India prepares for it the same way where she takes care of her body, she works out, she trains hard, she eats healthy, she is instantly questioned," she said.

"One has to stop putting notions on women. It is her choice, right? Harnaaz chose to be Miss India and then chose to go ahead with becoming Miss Universe. And that is more important. That's the point of feminism, right? We need to be given the freedom to choose what we want to choose."

'Thanks to the Women Of the Industry'

An alumnus of NIFT, Shinde worked in the industry for 14 years, before she came out as trans woman in January 2021. However, she says that the support of women in the industry, made her transition easier.

"Everyone has been absolutely phenomenal. Women, specifically. Like female actors have been so supportive from day one. The ones I have worked with, the ones I haven't worked with. All of them have been constantly DM-ing, messaging. I feel since I have come out, the respect that I have gotten is much higher. I didn't know what I am going to be doing was so revolutionary. I just wanted to lead a life of pure honesty and that's why I came out."

Shinde's designs have been worn by Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor, and many others. But to her, Madhuri Dixit will remain her forever favourite.

"When I was in my teens, I used to lock my door and dance on Madhuri's songs. Little did I know, in the future, I would be working with her day in and day out. So you know, I work with all of them but working with Madhuri Ma'am is and will always be special," she said.

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Topics:  Harnaaz Sandhu 

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