Yara Shahidi is the definition of a multi-hyphenate creative. The 21-year-old has proven herself to be a mogul-in-the-making in recent years by starring in and executive producing her Black-ish spinoff, Grown-ish; being a vocal advocate for women of color in America and beyond; running her own production company, 7th Sun, with her mother; attending Harvard University; and now, adding designer to her ever-growing résumé. The actress has teamed with Adidas for her very own five-piece collection that celebrates—and reimagines—her Black and Iranian roots. Along with a pair of classic Superstar sneakers, the line offers two jackets and coordinating track pants. Paying homage to the activists and artists who have shaped Shahidi’s own worldview, the styles feature intricate detailing such as embroidered Farsi script, global colorways, and 1960s-inspired silhouettes.
“My first instinct was how do we honor the past in a way that also pays homage to the future,” Shahidi tells BAZAAR.com. “The one thing that I wanted people to take away was even though a lot of these details are specific to my own growing up and the things that impacted me, the entire campaign is about how we re-create our heritage. I’m constantly figuring out what it means to me to be Black and Iranian—it’s ever changing.”
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The details were important to Shahidi, “whether it be the old-school varsity track jacket that has some Farsi on it or even my Superstar sneaker, which has the writing that goes right to left, even though it’s in English, which is the way [a lot] of the world reads,” she says. “I had a lot of fun putting it together, because it represents where I’m at and the process that I think we all go through in figuring out how we mix two things that are of extreme importance to us.”
When it came time to plan the overall aesthetic of the collection, Shahidi looked to the rest of the world, and the past, to create dozens of mood boards featuring the likes of earthy yellows and legendary influences like Prince and Bob Marley. “I’m a big mood boarder,” she explains. “During that process, I really identified what were the colors that kind of were resonant—there was something about that particular mustard that felt globally resonant. And I found it in almost every one of my images that I pulled.
“There’s also pictures of musicians, I love moments in history and iconic imagery from around the world. Prince, of course [was on a board]. I think being lucky enough to grow up in his presence, even peripherally with my father as his photographer for some years, I always grew up just aware of his impact,” she says.
Further sharing her inspiration, she tells us that she also looked to good, old-fashioned print material. “I also had old magazines, and what I love about so many of our cultures, especially prior to the invention of social media and it’s immediate ethos, as we know now is that there was such a global sensibility to ads. I loved looking back at different, older ads. A lot of old Adidas ads are incredible as well, so I pulled a ton of those.”
For Shahidi, repping an iconic ensemble such as the Adidas tracksuit is about so much more than making a style statement. Sportswear staples, such as track jackets, jogger pants, and even the brand’s classic leather lace-up Superstar sneakers, have helped her feel centered amid a career that can often deliver the unexpected.
I’m constantly figuring out what it means to me to be Black and Iranian—it’s ever changing.
“I’m a young person that’s constantly in new spaces, and it may sound esoteric, but I feel like I’m constantly approaching things that are brand new, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes exciting, sometimes just I need to find my bearings. There’s an importance of wearing loud colors to me, an importance of being comfortable,” Shahidi says. “A lot of my daily uniforms are monochrome tracksuits precisely for that reason. Because it really helps me take up space even in times in which I didn’t know if I deserved the space. And so many times, my clothes either matched where I was [in my life] or helped me get to where I wanted it to be.
“Versatility [within my Adidas collection] was important, because I want it to be a tool like [the brand] has been for me. And I know just whether it be from red carpets to going to school or going to set my clothes that I travel with has been of the utmost importance.”
Shahidi recognizes that she’s not alone when it comes to exploring multiple career realms and avenues of creativity. “When I look at my generation in particular, I feel like many people are just naturally multi-hyphenates. But the one thing that I had to lean in to [in my career] was not feeling any shame around having multiple interests,” she says. “Especially in a world in which we all try and be experts. Of course, practice makes perfect, and it’s important to practice whatever your craft is. But oftentimes, I’ve found that drifting into other spaces is also what helped inform other parts of my life.”
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Shahidi also credits her mother, Keri Shahidi, for encouraging her to be unapologetic when it comes to going after her goals—personal, professional, or otherwise. “One thing that I’ve personally had to unpack is something that goes back to what my mother has always told me, which is there’s nothing more interesting than an interested human,” she says. “[It’s about] allowing ourselves to be interested and to not feel shame around not specifically pursuing one path, but knowing that ultimately they all inform each other—it only helps each area that we wish to flourish, to grow.”
She adds, “Whether it be family or chosen family and friends or mentors, I’ve really found that my confidence in a certain space comes from the fact that I have people around me to help guide me or remind me of what I have to contribute. I think oftentimes, we downplay our own contributions, and it takes the people around us to really put into perspective all that we bring.”
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.