By Lynne Dixon
for the Derby Telegraph
When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry launched their Heads Together campaign recently to raise awareness of mental health issues, Derby fashion designer Saima Majid couldn’t have been more delighted. Mental health is an issue that Harry’s new bride Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, also supports. And for Saima, their cause chimes perfectly with her own personal crusade to take the stigma out of mental health problems.
Although she’s becoming increasingly known for the exquisite designer scarves she sells online, Saima wanted to do something positive to help people who have, like herself, battled with anxiety, depression and self-doubt.
To that end, Saima, 37, is about to launch her own capsule collection of high quality women’s T-shirts to raise money for a mental health organisation she’s supporting called Time to Change.
“I’m doing this from the heart because last year I lost a dear friend, a lady in her 40s who took her own life due to severe depression which she had kept a secret from everyone. It just came completely out of the blue. When you met her she was the life and soul. She was a person you would go to for support, not a person you would have imagined was vulnerable. “Her death came out of nowhere, it was such a shock to me, so tragic and distressing. She was a beacon of light that illuminated my world, which is why I’ve decided to create this new range as her legacy.”
When we chat over a pot of Moroccan coffee in her studio in the centre of Derby, Littleover-born Saima confides that the trauma she suffered over the death of her friend last year brought home to her the fact that she herself had been no stranger to depression and anxiety in the past.
“Looking back to when I worked in fashion design in London, I recall how upset I was, to the point of breakdown, by the huge pressures and negative energy of one workplace. I’m not only an artistic person but also very sensitive and transparent, I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and feel things very deeply. I didn’t know how to deal with a toxic situation, it was only by having cognitive behaviour therapy, reading, talking, meditating and re-evaluating my life that I got through it and learned to have faith in myself, my decisions and my choices.”
Since then, Saima has learned the tools to deal effectively with negative situations. “I now know that it’s possible for someone to be successful but also be nice, honest and have integrity all at the same time,” she smiles.
“I feel more enlightened now, realising the importance of being true to myself and living in the moment rather than the past or the future. You can do that and still have goals and aspirations. I meditate every day and also keep a daily journal recording my feelings and concerns and the things I’m grateful for. I talk positively to myself and generally try to be kinder to myself, which involves surrounding myself with good, positive people. I’ve found it all a very empowering process, I’m much stronger now.”
Not only is Saima a fashion designer, she’s also a freelance personal trainer, taking classes in Normanton and Darley Abbey.
“I regard myself as a holistic personal trainer and encourage my clients to try the tools and coping mechanisms I’ve learned, including eating healthily, exercising regularly and having a positive body image.
In the fitness industry a lot of people aspire to body perfection and I want to send out the message that we should all embrace who we are internally and be comfortable in our own skin.
“It isn’t healthy to be obsessed with physical perfection, a constant quest for this is superficial and quite destructive to your self esteem. It’s true that in today’s fast paced society and the world of social media, we are all pulled in so many directions, with such high expectations of what we should be. But in reality the most important thing is to be healthy in mind and body and to be at peace with yourself.”
Returning to the issue of mental health, Saima believes that most people are likely to face problems at some time in their lives. “I used to think that showing vulnerability was a weakness, but I came to realise that in fact it’s a brave and honest act that’s far from weak. My battle with depression was a painful and dark one, but the support I received, combined with my own resilience and commitment, led me to a world that completely opened up.
” Saima welcomes the fact that the young royals are supporting a range of new mental health programmes to ensure that the right help is available where and when people need it. She is also pleased to see celebrities like Lady Gaga, Ruby Wax and weather forecaster Sian Williams, adding their support. “Mental health is being talked about in a huge way at the moment and I think it’s going to get even bigger this year.”
In addition to her new T-shirt and accessories range, Saima is continuing to design elegant scarves in silk, cashmere and softest cotton which she sells through her website. In addition, her new Mindful collection, inspired by the plants and foliage of nature, will be going into the Derby Museums shop.
A former pupil of Littleover School, Saima studied textile design at Loughborough University, then worked as a designer for top brands in London before returning to her hometown of Derby to set up business here.
“I love printed textiles and wanted to create something that was simple but stunningly beautiful. I’m a romantic at heart and find that scarves are a perfect way of communicating my style. They can be so elegant and chic and look good worn by people of different professions, ethnicities, religions and of all shapes and sizes. They truly have mass appeal.
” She loves the kind of vivid colour combinations that reflect her own warm personality. “I’m very drawn to the romance of the past and have been especially influenced by iconic film stars of the Fifties and Sixties like Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth and Grace Kelly. That era was so super glamorous. Old Bollywood movies are another inspiration; I like their air of grace and charisma. It’s all about demure beauty, that’s a massive inspiration to me.