Abacaxi’: Indian American Designer Sheena Sood’s Clothing Label is Fun, Sustainable and Inclusive
New York-based designer Sheena Sood is behind ‘Abacaxi,’ the sustainable and vibrant clothing brand fast gaining recognition. (LinkedIn photo)
India-West Staff Reporter
If you can’t really go on a tropical holiday, try wearing one of Sheena Sood’s outfits, which will automatically transport you to some place that screams fun.
“Mindfully-made clothing inspired by travel, vibrant hues, and the infinite beauty of nature. Balancing bold color, handcrafted techniques, and an innovative play on traditional silhouettes”: This is how the Brooklyn, New York-based Indian American designer describes her clothing brand that is fast gaining recognition.
Just like her sustainable clothing and tie-dye technique, her brand name is unique, too. Called Abacaxi (pronounced as “uh-bah-ka-shee”), the brand is named after the Portuguese word for pineapple, since it “hybridizes a tropical spirit with a New York City lifestyle.”
Her heritage, Sood explains on her website, played a big role in the origins of her brand as did her vast experience working with high-profile brands such as Tracy Reese, Cole Haan, and Anthropologie. But the well-travelled designer also picked up inspiration from her many travels.
“While I grew up in Minnesota, we travelled back to India every few years to see family. There I first experienced daily life in saturated color. Those childhood visits sparked an ongoing obsession with travel, textiles, color, and pattern,” Sood explains on her website, adding that her love for adventure has taken her places such as Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Peru and Mexico.
“I explored, studied what I’m most passionate about, and amassed an array of knowledge on indigenous textiles. That knowledge of technique is embedded into my design ethos,” she writes.
Sood, who studied visual art at Brown University, created Abacaxi a couple of years ago with silk garments that showcased vintage embroideries collected in Rajasthan while working as a freelance textile design consultant in Brooklyn. She launched her first full collection in March 2020, just before the pandemic hit, according to The Cut.
“I panicked briefly, but then I started making masks in my apartment,” she recalled to the publication. “They were something people needed urgently, and they were the only thing I could think of to contribute.” The masks, said the publication, turned out to be Abacaxi’s saving grace, and the brand saw its first wave of growth.
Today, her collections consist of joggers, flowy dresses, turtleneck, crochet dresses, hoodies, pants and tops.
Using mostly natural fibers – think cotton khadi, linen, silk, and alpaca – her clothes are produced in small batches in New Delhi and Peru but also made-to-order in New York City. And whenever possible, she upcycles sari material, repurpose tees, and uses wastage fabric.
Along with sustainability, Sood also focuses on inclusivity, which reflects in the models who represent her clothing. In June, in collaboration with Brooklyn-based plus-size vintage shop Berriez, Sood released a plus-size collection. Sood also launched “Fight the System,” a limited-edition capsule collection, June 1. Ten percent of proceeds from this capsule will go to OutRight Action International, a New York City-based organization fighting for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world.
“2020 was a wild ride, but looking back on it, it was also the first year that Abacaxi really felt successful. Vogue featured a preview of my first full collection, ‘Fruit Nostalgia,’ in October 2019, and the mask project led to so much growth by driving customers to our website,” Sood told The Cut. “Eventually, we started selling our collection items as well. Our direct sales and customer base grew, and we were able to give back to several different initiatives such as the New Sanctuary Coalition, the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, G.L.I.T.S., and the Okra Project, to name a few.”