Sitting down with designer and stylist Waltters Siddiqui is like sitting down with a cherished, long-time friend: Upon the very first meeting, he’s kind, warm, open, fun, and best of all, makes you feel good about yourself with no strings attached. His kindness comes at a surprise, then, when I finally get him to open up about his impressive list of clientele, including Aretha Franklin, Pamela Anderson, and even Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.
“I started in fashion at the age of 10, when I made a garment for my grandmother. She was a great inspiration to me. She was half Turkish and half Indian, so she came from two cultures who have a deep love for embroidery and beautiful fabrics. That love was passed onto me and I eventually went to fashion school. It was a great experience and taught me the technicalities of designing and the world of fashion. After school, I started an internship with the Canadian designer David Dixon. From him, I learned a good attitude and creativity. He was such a big designer in those days and yet he was so polite. To me, that is the sign of a truly creative person; when you can be at the top of your game and still be kind. In addition to his attitude, working with him, I learned design concepts, like matching lace with silk and how to prepare and construct garments and how to present the final product. I then went on to work for Linda Lundstrom, who started the ‘La Parka’. She did mostly outerwear, and from that experience I learned how to do pattern drafting by a computer instead of by hand. From there I went to work for Chanel in Manhattan, then Escada, and then I decided to open up my own studio. I decided to make one-of-a-kind couture for women who didn’t want anyone else to have the same dress as them. From there, my name got out in Hollywood and here I am today, designing and styling for films.”
After much movement in the fashion world, currently living in Toronto, Walt, the name he insists on, which appropriately displays his friendly Disney-like nature, just wrapped a project for the film #EnvyEnvy, set to be released in late 2017, as the chief wardrobe stylist and costume designer.
“We started discussing the movie, scene by scene, then character by character. I got a sense of what the scenes were like and who the characters were, so, I made a lookbook for each character, and for what I didn’t design myself, I chose from high quality retailers like Ted Baker; something edgy but also somewhat high end…In [film styling], everything has to be done according to the taste, mood and environment of the movie. I chose colours for this specific film by looking at the background of the scene. If the scene is green and orange, for instance, I would choose a white dress because it works with the elements. One scene that was shot in this film was on location at Blue Mountain; the background was lush and everything was so colourful. By looking at the surrounding, I wanted to put the actress in the scene into white so she would fit in with the background, but stand out at the same time. In another scene, I put her in a white silk bolero jacket and a sky blue dress, because I wanted to present her as a woman who had just come home from work but was sitting fabulously over a laptop by the pool in her upscale backyard. In another scene, I put her in a black leather jacket and purple dress and black stockings. We filmed that scene right in Dundas Square in Toronto. It’s a busy environment and I wanted her to fit in as a working woman, but also be stylish, so I chose purple instead of a black or grey dress. In that particular scene, she’s meeting her boyfriend, who is a high powered executive, so of course I put him in Armani.”
As Walt notes, the materials used in film translate onto the screen, so the higher the quality, the more it visually denotes power: “While the boyfriend is in designer clothes, I wanted to show a contrast for the character of his younger brother in the film, who is supposed to be a fresh out of college playboy. I needed to portray that; someone who doesn’t care as much about how he looks, but is interested in getting girls instead of settling down and getting a job. I put him in tight pants, ripped jeans, colourful shirts because I needed to convey who he was, an outgoing, laidback guy, so I put him in outgoing clothes from fast-fashion houses, like H&M and Zara.”
When the film industry isn’t keeping him busy, Walt designates a few spare moments of his time to meet with select clients, for which he usually designs one-of-a-kind clothing: “I was in Neiman Marcus’ flagship store, sitting with Giorgio Armani and Tom Ford at a party, when one woman entered and gasped “oh God, no!” We all turned around and there was another woman wearing the exact same dress as her; she looked mortified. That’s the difference between ready to wear and custom couture. The advantage of custom-designed clothing is that no one else in the world will wear it.”
The importance he holds for one of a kind clothing comes from a desire to be distinct – a philosophy he imbeds onto his clients:
“I don’t impose designs on people. Some stylists will say you can only wear a certain type of neckline if you have a certain sized chest, or you can only wear a certain colour if you have a certain tone, but the most important thing for me is how my client feels in it. If I put a client in a yellow dress which looks amazing on her because of her colouring, but she says she feels lousy in that colour, why would I insist she wear a yellow dress? Just because yellow is ‘in’? No. I would rather my client tell me what she likes, what her favorite colour is, and I’ll make that colour a base but work with lace, or add buttons and accessories that are on trend, so she feels beautiful but is also fashionable. I don’t want my clients to have their friends or co-workers say, “you look pretty today”. No, my concept is to bring the lady out of the woman, so that she looks and feels pretty every day as long as it fits into her life and who she is. For instance, I have a client who just graduated from law school. She had a closet full of ripped jeans, funky dresses, sneakers, platform heels you would see on a pole dancer. She worked hard to finish school and became a lawyer, but she needed help because how she was being perceived by others was not how she wanted to be perceived professionally, but she didn’t know how to dress like a professional without losing who she was. I pulled a few pieces for her and created a look-book, and we went shopping. I kept her funky personality by adding plaid and hounds-tooth patterns into her wardrobe, and keeping pointed heels, but we updated her wardrobe with more professional attire like tapered suits and structured work dresses. The handbags I chose for her were black, red, and turquoise. I kept her sense of who she was through patterns and accessories, but helped her be the professional woman she was. The main thing is that the client has to feel good in it. If she doesn’t feel that way, then I haven’t done my job.”
For those of us who don’t have the luxury of wearing one of a kind fashions or having a stylist, Walt recommends mixing and matching, and going vintage: “Don’t go to one place and do your shopping in one store. For example, buying an entire outfit from Zara makes it much more likely to be copied by someone else. Shop around and find pieces in different stores that match, but not perfectly; it will make you look more unique… I also recommend places like Value Village because there are some pieces that are designer, like YSL, Chanel, Armani, Versace that I’ve found. And buying vintage pieces from a second hand store means they will be cheap, high quality, and unique.”
Walt’s final piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to go totally against the grain. Be dressed to kill, not needy. Neediness is being dressed to get attention from others. It’s different than being confident. Create your own style, be unique, be different, and look different. Don’t copy others; if something looks good on a Kardashian, it doesn’t mean it will look good on you. You have to be open to yourself and think outside the box. You can take inspiration, but add a twist that’s your own.”
Written By: Mariana Bockarova | Sketches Courtesy of: Waltters Siddiqui