The Moms

Sobia A. Shaikh

Handbag DesignerStory by: Lauri Levenfeld, Photography Lauri Levenfeld

In light of an amazing past week in fashion and the launch this week of my second business Style Army, I wanted to take the time to focus on a dear client and friend, Sobia Shaikh. Sobia is not only a hard working mom, she is a fashionista, an entrepreneur, a jet-setter, and a designer. Sobia launched her handbag company, Isly Handbags (yes, Style Army did the S/S 13 campaign!) in 2011.

Since her launch, she has turned out two amazing collections, traveled the world creating and promoting her business, all the while keeping her two kids happy and flourishing. I don’t know how she does it, but if you are interested in some keys tips on the juggle including some incredible product recommendations, ways to keep yourself lovely and your kids happy on the road, and some inspiring words on the balance of work, play and mommy-hood…stay tuned.

I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan and my sisters and I were very close to our maternal grandmother and our khala, which is maternal aunt in Urdu. My mother is still very close to her sister and as a result we had great role models in the two of them. My mother, my sisters and I visited my grandparents and my aunt’s homes every Saturday while I was growing up.

My grandmother had the most beautiful, long dark hair that she used to oil every week. Fortunately the luck continued through to my generation! We have all followed the same tradition of oiling our hair and tying braids. Unfortunately, our practice is a little impractical here so I oil Lyali’s hair once every few months. I used to make two braids for her until a few months ago when she told me she felt a little “babyish”, and so, at the end of second grade we changed up for one ponytail.

I feel blessed that I have been able to follow this 4-generation tradition with Lyali. Women have always played an integral role in my life – be it my grandmother, my mother, my sisters, my best friends here and in Pakistan and now my daughter. I feel inspired by so many of my girlfriends and feel blessed to have them all in my life.

My dearest friend here in SF is Safia and I seriously think I would have a nervous breakdown if I didn’t have her so close to me. My husband Nadir cannot understand how Safia and I can talk to each other 2-3 times a day. Personally, I think that’s not enough times! My life as a child was lovely – simple and pure. I grew up in Pakistan with my 2 sisters, who still live there. The three of us are very close in age and as a result have always been the best of friends. I remember spending all my time with my parents, sisters and cousins. There were no computers or Ipods or cell phones at the time so we spent most of our free time creating games. My favorite memory is of playing in the rain in the summer with my sisters! As a mom I strive to provide this type of childhood for my two children, son Isaad (age 11) and daughter Lyali (age 8). And despite my crazy work schedule, I feel I am the one who always wants to be present for them.

I get a lot of help from my husband of 15 years, Nadir. Nadir is 2.5 years younger than me and the most exciting thing that happened this year was that my darling husband finally turned 40. He is a true romantic and to this day pampers and spoils me a lot (and with jewels!! Sign me up. Sobia’s favorite jewelry designers are amazing, including – Lorenz Baumer and Siva Inc.) He is an absolutely incredible father.

The thing I love most about him is how unselfish he is. He realizes how busy I am with work and the kids during the week so he literally takes over on the weekends. He drives them to all their games, hangs out with them if I’m catching up on errands and grills for us every Sunday. I am a VERY lucky woman! We divide and conquer. Now that I’ve started traveling a bit for work, Nadir works his schedule around mine during those days and I am so appreciative of him for doing so. He is my biggest cheer leader and he always reposts all my exciting press and business milestones on his FB, which I find very sweet.


My life on the road…

1. Have a glass of merlot (my fave- Kistler) as soon as I get on the plane.


2. I always load up my Ipod with new songs before hand.


3. I bring my Eminence Lip Balm and Force De Vie Oxygen Cream to keep using it on the flight. Plus a bottle of advils.


4. Normally I’m not a big water drinker but I hydrate a lot on flights.


5. Don’t particularly care for airline food but always eat ice-cream with hot fudge on planes.


6. Bring my khaki green Pashmina and a cozy shawl to cover me up with during the flight.


7. Depending on the length of the flight I’ll work on my laptop half the duration of the flight.


8. And during the other half I try and watch a movie – last week I watched Drive. Ryan Gosling is my other celebrity crush!!

 My passions outside of work…


I love collecting clutches. Love everything Bollywood. And I would bake everyday if I had the time. Oh and skin care products! I love Spa Radiance in San Francisco. And for the products, my absolute favorites are Biologique Recherche, Luzern and SkinCeuticals. So far I’m botox free at 42, but I am sure this is around the corner for me. As for my style, I describe it as Cl-edgy – a combo of classic and edgy. I live for color but love incorporating black in my look as well. These days I am obsessed with Charlotte Olympia shoes, ISLY’s Fall 12 Chaandi Bellflower and Aqua clutch, tuxedo jackets, anything and everything Prabal Gurung and my Jbrand black leather shorts.

The kids and I love baking together. We love to lounge in our pj’s on Saturday mornings when we don’t have any soccer or basketball games. We hang out mostly in our kitchen/family room reading and playing Monopoly, rummy, and other board games. We got really into watching America’s Got Talent over the summer. I make a hot breakfast for the kids every morning and drop them to school by 8ish. I go to the gym and then start working in my home office from 9-3. I get the kids around 3.15 and then my time till about 9 is spent with them – driving them to their after school activities, dinner etc. Then I get back to work around 9 as Nadir and I kind of relax while we both work. I respond to all the emails that have compiled in the last several hours and communicate with Pakistan which is 12 hours ahead of us – my fabric vendors and graphic designer are there.

Isaad’s favorite books are the Percy Jackson series, the Hunger Games series, and he loves the video game, Mario Cart Wii. Isaad also loves his sports, mostly tennis and soccer. His fashion, Nike and Volcom.

Lyali enjoys making presents for people, drawing with oil pastels, and her fave book is The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. Lyali loves wearing skirts and skinny jeans together. She also loves to wear a long sleeved shirt with a t-shirt on top. Fave colors are lavender and sparkly turquoise.

My life outside of work…


I am a board member of the San Francisco Opera Guild. I really enjoy event planning and recently chaired my son’s school annual fund-raiser and decided to introduce Bollywood to the school. I made everybody dress up Bollywood style. During the event the head of the school,  some faculty members, some parents and Nadir and I performed a choreographed Bollywood number! Incidentally, the day of the fundraiser and the launch of my business fell on the same day, Nov 12 2011. Needless to say, it was a very busy day for me but intermixed with a whole lot of fun for us!

What I have learned from my kids is that you can never ever love anyone or anything the way you love your child. It is so pure and unconditional that I get chills when I think about it. I love the feeling of loving my babies. My most humbling moment as a mom…When all of our friends and parents, and even, the kids school tell us that our kids are very polite and well behaved. That to me is the best thing on earth. While they do act up at home like all other kids I feel very proud to hear that they are polite, kind and well behaved. My most exciting moment were the sweet little speeches both kids wrote for Nadir and said out loud in front of 150 people at his 40th. I could never have had the confidence at their ages but they proudly and confidently spoke about their father in front of all our guests and of course I wept like a baby!

Last minute advice…Trust your instincts! And cherish every single moment with your kids as they will be 12 in a blink of an eye.


We will, and we know that you do Sobia. You are inspiring. xox! Lauri

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