I present you with the second installment to the #ShesGotSoleXO campaign: Sarah Dharshi aka Sawrasaurusrex aka the the founder of Bad Bitch Mentality aka an advocate for all things mental health and feminism. She’s a bad b, and she also happens to be one of my good friends! She’s loyal, energetic, empowering and is a great role model for both women and women of color. You might of come across her Facebook posts about feminism, women empowerment, and her love for Chance the Rapper. What makes Sarah so likeable is her ability to use her voice to shut down remarks that are misogynistic, racist, homophobic, and just plain ignant! Her sole is fiery and totally matches her tomboy-chic style. I couldn’t do this campaign and not feature her in it, what kind of friend would I be? I had the pleasure of capturing Sarah in her most natural element: hi-waisted shorts, holding a can of Coke while a pair of crisp Jordan Gym 12’s bless her feet. Check out what she had to say about both the sneaker and streetwear culture in Edmonton, her personal style, plus her views about how women are represented in sneaker culture. Got me yellin “Jumpman, Jumpman, Jumpan, Sarah’s always up to somethin!”
Where were you born?
I was born in North York, Ontario. Although my mother immigrated to Edmonton from India at the age of 5 and my father from Kenya at 17, they have lived most of their life in Edmonton. Shortly after their marriage, they moved to various places including a brief stint in Detroit and Atlanta, where I lived during my early years. My parents made the decision to come to Canada a month before my due date to ensure I was granted with Canadian citizenship rather than American, then moved back to Atlanta with me and after five years, we found our way back to good old Edmonton.
It seems like Edmonton is in a good place right now in terms of streetwear and sneaker culture, what are your thoughts on this?
I think that Edmonton is mad underrated on the streetwear front currently, people from out of Edmonton are definitely sleeping on our style and appreciation for streetwear and sneaker culture. I definitely think that Foosh played an absolutely integral part in introducing our city to streetwear, sneaker culture and everything hip-hop related. Although streetwear shops in the city have come and gone, Foosh has been a staple in the Edmonton fashion scene for 18 years now and we’re still rocking with them. Edmontonian streetwear is in a good place because of Foosh, the stores they’ve since paved the way for (Haven, NowhereFast, ANNMS, etc) and because of the city’s local hip-hop talent; be it rappers, dancers, graffiti artists, Djs, designers and everything that falls in between. These streets are BEYOND rich with culture if you know where to look.
What is Bad Bitch Mentality?
Bad Bitch Mentality is everything to me. It’s my dance crew, my best friends, my sisters, my mantra, my brand and my mission. More specifically, Bad Bitch Mentality is an all-femme hip-hop dance collective that I founded in 2011 with the help of my best friends (who all happen to be extremely talented, bright, beautiful and diverse women). We had grown up dancing together competitively for many years and I felt that it was time to utilize our shared talent and passion as a platform for something bigger than just dance. Our mission is both simple and clear – we aim to inspire creativity, smash glass ceilings, promote independence, challenge gender stereotypes, empower women, f*ck the patriarchy and promote feminism through the diversity of movement and performance art. We started out competing locally and have since had the opportunities to choreograph for various teams, public speak about feminism at events such as PowerInMe, DisruptHR, we aid local charities such as Momentum Walk-In Counselling, Wings of Providence, Too School for Cool, etc, perform on Carnival Cruiselines and have even opened for international recording artists such as Mia Martina, Jadakiss, Kirko Bangz, Yung MA and KYLE. We are a multidisciplinary collective of strong young women who work every day to redefine and claim to word “bitch” to make it positive – we are bad bitches and we are not afraid to own it! Could there BE anything more empowering?!
Everything will ALWAYS come down to feminism and until we have allies willing to fight for gender equality in all aspects of life, how can we expect to see that in streetwear and fashion?
What is your day to day regime and how do sneakers play a role in that?
Each day is completely different for me, I’m a Jill of All Trades, if you will. A day in the life of Sarah could include social media management and event-planning for the Edmonton-based anti-bigotry initiative #MakeItAwkward, there’s likely a BBM rehearsal in the mix, maybe a couple of MacEwan Journalism classes, a serving shift (and a cocktail) at North53, a spin class at YEGCycle, quality time with my boyfriend and friends and A LOT of hip-hop music and coffee to fill in the gaps. Sneakers are my footwear of choice not only in terms of fashion, but in function as well. If you see me making a commute from school to work to rehearsal to anywhere in between, you’re likely to see me walking and there is NOTHING like that good dependable pair of kicks to keep that cozy level up and to be honest, I feel sexiest and most confident rocking a fly tomboy/sexy/street look anyways! Sneakers both literally and figuratively keep me grounded in my little world of chaos and when I lace up in the morning, I always feel ready to take on the world.
Do you feel that women are misrepresented in sneaker culture?
I definitely feel that way! I could bet MONEY on the fact that most of the girls you’ve selected as #ShesGotSoleXO features will agree with me when I say that sneaker brands often make sweeping judgements about what femininity should look like. To me, that SCREAMS marketplace misogyny but that’s a conversation for a different time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my florals, bows, pastels and rose golds too but when those are the ONLY options available for women because of societal norms, it becomes INCREASINGLY frustrating for female sneakerheads to REALLY do their damn thing. I like classic colorways best – gym reds, concrete greys, royals, blacked out, all white. These options are not always available for women and I am definitely of the mindset that less is [not always but usually] more when it comes to sneakers. Kicks bring an outfit together – they bring balance and gravity to any look and stocking up on classic colorways and silhouettes is key. Although I am truly relieved that women are slowly gaining more visibility on the streetwear front thanks to Instagram, Hypebae, Tumblr etc, I still think that this culture needs to make a LOT more space for women. We’re here, our contribution to the culture valid and we’re the future of this movement.
What can the sneaker community do to ensure that women are included in the culture?
Honestly, the sneaker community needs to get out there and talk to some damn women. Get some diversity in your life. Get you some WOC up in the mix and allow their verses to be heard. What do WE need? Equal selection in colourways? The abolishment of gender stereotyping in design? More women invited to meet-ups, trades and conventions? More visibility for female social influencers and designers? Equal respect for female designers? In my opinion, it all comes down to feminism. Everything will ALWAYS come down to feminism and until we have allies willing to fight for gender equality in all aspects of life, how can we expect to see that in streetwear and fashion? It has to start somewhere and if you’re asking me, it starts with us talking about this in the first place which is why I’m so in love with the #ShesGotSoleXO campaign and mission. Props to you [Camille] for conceptualizing this and creating this community within our city – I f*ck with the vision.
What’s it like to walk in your shoes?
As I said earlier, I walk everywhere, I serve for 8 hour shifts plus I dance or spin almost every day so walking in my shoes means your feet are sore AF, fam. In reality though, walking in my shoes means shoulders back, head up, power walk. Walking in my shoes means taking on the day with the intention to be a catalyst for positive change, no matter which Sarah I’m playing that day – be it Sarah the Dancer, Sarah the Activist, Sarah the Fitness Enthusiast, Sarah the Student, etc. Walking in my shoes means exuding your brand of femininity and sexuality by being unapologetically yourself. Walking in my shoes means being the baddest by empowering yourself every damn day. Trust me, a walk in these shoes ain’t so bad!
How would you describe your style?
My personal style is heavily influenced by hip-hop culture. I like to tie in my East Indian roots in any way I can as well, be it rocking Indian jewelry with a streetwear look, incorporating traditional prints into my wardrobe, whatever works. I combine tomboy with a little bit of sexy and a whole lot of gold- I feel more confident and sexy dressed that way than I ever do wearing a pretty dress and high heels. Don’t get me wrong, I DO love getting dolled up for special occasions and being Brown Barbie but anyone who knows me could recognize my preferred style/aesthetic instantly. Your girl’s been rocking this newfound “athleisure” trend since 2009, don’t get it twisted! I love combining athletica with fashion and wearing anything that displays the curves I will forever be so proud of. If you want be to label my look, I’d say “Aaliyah meets Kehlani meets MIA”. And oh why not, throw some Kim K in there too. Don’t @ me for that one, scrubs. Queens always empower each other.
Any projects coming up?
#MakeItAwkward has our first annual summit coming up in February featuring some incredible speakers, performers and interactions – the entire Edmonton community is really coming together to shed light on racism, sexism, homophobia and all other forms of bigotry in the city and although the planning process is scary, I couldn’t be more excited for the event. Keep up with the process at http://miasummit.com/. BBM will be hosting auditions for new members and our varsity team come September and in the meantime, we have a collaborative project with Cut:Thru Media in the works, stay tuned for that one! I have recently been named a G Class Lash Affiliate and will be promoting the dreamy-as-hell local beauty company as their latest brand ambassador. I have also currently been recruited to work with the Don Iveson re-election campaign for the remainder of the summer and I am so ready to throw a diverse, millennial, enthusiastic feminist voice into the mix and work alongside some of the most revered people in local leadership. Lastly, I am working alongside an incredible team of photographers, makeup artists, Indian designers and stylists (you may know one of them, I think her name’s Camille or something?) on a high conceptualized magazine style project with the mission of empowering some of our city’s most notable South Asian women – stay tuned for that project to drop soon. As for anything else, I’ll just be doing what I love – teaching dance workshops when I can, freelance modelling and taking every opportunity to make the most out of Edmonton and its burgeoning fashion/arts/event/activism scene as I can. Be sure to follow me on @SawrasaurusRex on Instagram/Twitter to keep up with the adventures of a yung Sarah this summer, I’ll toss you that followback as long as you send me memes on the daily, I swear.