Wilder Friends - Zakee Shariff

Wilder Friends - Zakee Shariff

Posted by Charlie Landon on

Introducing a unique lady.. an artist, designer, and life coach. I've had the privilege of knowing Zakee since my early adulthood and have always felt a quiet strength that has kept growing throughout these decades. I have her art on my walls bringing in the love and her designs in my wardrobe which are treasured pieces. I loved learning more about her though here when I asked her these questions for out Wilder Journal.

Please share a little about you, your background, where you grew up, and where you live now?

I am a 1st generation born Asian British Londoner, raised by parents & grandparents from Indian, African, Iranian and American backgrounds. I was born in London, we moved to Karachi, Pakistan when i was 2/3 years old for about 4 years and then back to North London. I now live and work in North West London.

• Your creative life that you’re expressing through your paintings, and screen prints have to me always held the power of the natural world, and the spiritual magic within it, do you find your work is a healing journey for you and for your audience?

I love that you feel that. I believe my work is a combination of a somatic personal experience of my own life, how I see the world and these within it and my won life as well as being a channel for the divine to flow through me.

I have always felt very connected to nature, since i was very young. My childhood days in Pakistan, growing up by the ocean connected me to the elements deeply. I always felt a sense of love and connection to the ocean to nature, the land and the sky/cosmos. Healing through the act of drawing for me was an unconscious act since i was very young. I always want to create an emotional response from my artwork, its always a subconscious act of processing my feelings, connecting to peoples emotions and heart through my own.

• Your designs are timeless, I have pieces that are more like artworks that should be on the wall rather than in my wardrobe, are you able to share with us why you stopped your label? I know you also started your ‘made to order’ model after, a brilliant idea.

I have a lot of people who say the same thing. I stopped my label in 2005 as it was growing quickly and i wasn’t sure if i wanted to make the next step of getting backers and a shop etc....... I was concerned that my art would suffer and thus the design work. As my work has always been about making my art and abstracting from it into design.

I had many people get i touch to tell me they wanted my clothes. So after exploring many wonderful collaborations and when my daughter turned 3, I started my Made To Order collection in 2014. I stopped it in 2019 as I was concerned about making small runs sustainably. From 2019 to this year, I explored various ways of making my work, collaborations and deepening my coaching. I worked with the sustainability specialists The Right Project, on some sessions where we explored 1 to 1 how I could still make my clothes and other product as sustainable as possible.

I finally decided in May 2024 to come back again with Made to Order and Pre order clothing and other product and artwork via my studio and Zakee Shariff web shop. I am super happy and excited about doing so. The time feels really right to come back to the world with my art and products and there is a lot i want to say through the work.

• You’ve also started a mentoring and coaching program called ‘Dream Forward’. I feel we all need a mentor or ‘elder’ in our lives, what prompted you to start on this journey was this through your own experience with a coach?

Yes I have always been interested in healing, I trained in Massage and Reki in my 20’s. I also have done a lot of personal work over the last 25+ years be it therapy or other healing modalities. I’d never heard of coaching and after I stopped my label, i was guided to work with a coach. It was such a different way of working than  therapy I felt, and a wonderful way to gain self empowerment, mastery and growth. It resonated with me.

In 2008 I trained as a Spiritual Life Coach and then as a CTI (Coaches Training Institute) Life Coach in 2009 that training was life changing for me, and to see how the coaches could support people and help them to move through issues and or problems in their life so far . I had a strong calling that i wanted to help people to do that for themselves, and to help people find their own mastery and higher calling/passion. As of 2009, alongside my creative practice, I worked 1 to 1 with clients, supporting them to make changes in their lives. People came to me through word of mouth.
In 2023 i was guided internally that it was time to get myself out there more, into the world and show myself more as a coach and mentor. To use the coaching training and wisdom I'd gained, together with the learnings from having my own business, alongside my fascination with entrepreneurship, and to support people with this. I love working with my clients. It’s a deeply rewarding way to be of service to others and I have a strong capacity to hold and support people through personal transformation and self empowerment. My aim always is to empower my clients to find the answers themselves. I am a mirror for them to speak out and explore their thoughts and ideas, and in turn help them work through things and problem solve.

How does coaching differ from therapy?

I believe it’s more of a being present experience, rather than analysis. Sometimes we do have to look back, however most of the time i support my clients to be present and when they are ready, to look forward and move towards their vision. Each client is different and i work with each one according to their unique needs. I will however always work on supporting my clients to understand their values with work, personally and in relationships.

We get clear of the vision the client has ahead of them, and find clarity towards what their goals are and what are the actions they need to make to get to these? This happens through creating accountable actions that the client sets with me as their accountability partner. We also look at their saboteurs, ie what stops us moving forward, what gets in the way, imposter syndrome etc. I help my clients connect to their most empowered selves. So they have an awareness of all that they can make happen and be in their lives. We also look at boundary making. I like to give my clients tools, so they have them after they have stopped working with me to support them to feel empowered to maintain finding their own way towards their goals as they change and evolve.

I’m sure each person has different needs but are you able to share with us how you would generally work with someone and how long for?

Each client is different, however I ask any new client to commit to six to eights sessions, fortnightly, to really have the pace, and time to do the work and get to where they want to get to. Most of the time, people are complete after that. I do also have clients who once they have reached and started on the path of their vision that like to stay working with me once a month for a further 6-12 months, as they move through their vision so they have someone else to check in with , have accountability with, problem solve, and organise themselves, especially with my solopreneurs. They always know when they are ready to stop.

How do you keep you’re work / life balance strong, I know you have good boundaries but what other tools can you share with us?

My live / work balance is really a practice I've been working with for about 16 years. When I trained as a spiritual life coach in 2008, i was introduced to the concept of running a business from a spiritual and intuition led mindset. My teacher Elyse Hope Kiloran also taught us about creating healthy boundaries to support a live work balance. Prior to this and when i had my clothing label i was working all the time, and super stressed out. I didn’t like that about me, i wasn’t sleeping well, and I was completely burnt out when i stopped my label in 2005.

Nowdays, I’m good at not looking at emails outside of working hours and on the weekends. I dont go on many whats app groups as they can overwhelm me. I try to stick to not doing any work in the studio on the weekends unless I have to.
I co-parent my 13 year old daughter, so every other weekend she isn’t with me I may do a couple of work things from my coaching room at home.

Having my daughter in 2011 was a great help to support me to have clear work life boundaries too, despite the exhausting juggle solo parenting and work can bring. I have also lost a lot of people in my life in the last 8 years so I have a very different approach to life, a real one life live it attitude. I'd rather have less income, and live a balanced life than commit most of my time to working.

Do you have any favourite herbs and how do you use them, in cooking or teas maybe?

TBH the herbs i use and love are all the ones you have mixed up for me over the years . I grew up with a lot of tinctures as my family (on my Indian/African side), made all sorts of potions and lotions. My grandmother had all these incredible recipes that she would cook up for us to drink if we were sick. I'm really sad I haven't got all those recipes now. I wish I had recorded them all, as they really worked. My mum told me my ancestors always made natural healing tinctures, and were healers , mystics, psychics and so on.

  • Is there anything you would say to your 17 year old self that you’re willing to share with us? 

  • What would I say to my 17 year old self? Hmmmmm. Many people didn’t know this at the time, however I was pretty inwardly not outwardly, traumatised by the time I was 17 years old. I had some very challenging, traumatic experiences, and allot of racism, throughout my childhood. So my words would be: I am so very proud of you, I love you, stay strong, stay soft you knew then you were resilient and you would get through many things and really how deeply proud I am of her and how much I love her. I’ve done a lot of inner child work so my inner 17 year old self is in a great place these days and feels very seen and heard by my adult self.

Your favourite book and song? I know a hard one!

Favourite book “Women who run with the wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, I first read that in my 20’s and it blew my mind, i have a rule to read it every decade as I believe there is something new to gain each read.

And song hmmm, as someone who's like a huge music lover. I really don't know if I could pick 1 song. In this moment and If I have to I would probably say Joni Mitchell's “Woodstock” it pretty much sums up me, and my love of nature, the cosmos, the divine and music, and how much i want to support healing to the world and humans.

• And finally one that I love to ask everyone - do you have a 5 year plan?

I think its super hard in this day and age to have a clear 5 year plan. As things are in constant flux with our world, however as I am also a coach, and I work with a coach. I do create a written vision every Jan and Sept for the year ahead. I also do create vision boards every January, that I keep a page of images for my the current year ahead, for work, personal, relationships.

I also currently have visions boards each for my home now, later and in 5 years time as I have always wanted to build my own home when I leave the UK one day and get back to the ocean.

When it comes to work, I am for sure super organised however my planning at this stage is for the year ahead only, I prefer to stay quite present and allow my work to flow as it needs to.

Thank you so much for sharing these words with us Zakee. Please follow @zakeeshariff and contact via zakeeshariff.com 

← Older Post