Zeina Esmail is an award-winning freelance fashion stylist and a fashion editor-at-large of Fashion Magazine. She has worked with A-Listers like Miley Cyrus, Gigi Hadid and Gwen Stefani and collaborated with top Canadian designers such as Lucian Matis and Pink Tartan‘s Kim Newport Mimran. Here, she gets frank about the ups and downs of having a baby in a business that she thought wouldn’t be understanding. Turns out she was wrong. (Phew).
I was scared to have my son Qais. Not because I was scared to be a mom though. I was worried about how people would react in my industry. I was afraid people would think I wouldn’t work as hard once I became a mom. Many of my colleagues don’t have a children and I thought there would be a lack of understanding. I even hid my pregnancy and didn’t let anybody know until I was six months along. When I did start telling everyone—my clients, my agents—I told them nothing would change and things would go on as they always have. I even worked and travelled to New York on December 15th (against my doctor’s orders) and my son arrived two weeks later.
All along I was stressed out for no reason. Since Qais was born, everyone has been so wonderful and accommodating. A lot of the pressure came from no one else but me. I’m a natural born worrier and I know I get anxious when I don’t need to. I even won a Canadian Arts & Fashion Award for Stylist of the Year when he was only two weeks old. I grabbed my clothes in the dark while he was sleeping, did my makeup, received my award and then came home. I was there for less than an hour.
The year after I had Qais turned out to be my busiest year ever. I love my job and have a hard time saying no to any opportunity. I only took two weeks off after he was born. I would take breaks to pump milk in the bathroom and then have it couriered to my house. Looking back, I took on more than I should have but once I’ve agreed to a job, it’s hard for me to bow out because I take my commitment very seriously. I just dealt with every one of my decisions, even though my agency said I could’ve taken more time to myself.
“I only took two weeks off after he was born. I would take breaks to pump milk in the bathroom and then have it couriered to my house. Looking back, I took on more than I should have…”
Thankfully it was easy for me to keep working. My husband is a physiotherapist and owns his own clinic so his schedule is flexible. My mother-in-law helps a lot and our aunt is our nanny and she’s always available whenever we need her. He’s 18 months now and admittedly I have slowed down.
I really don’t have a nagging feeling to ‘have-it-all’ because I don’t want to be that person who never sees my kid. I don’t feel like I need to say yes to every job and go to every industry party anymore and freelancing gives me the freedom to be with him often. Sure there are weeks when I’m working every day, then there are weeks when I’m not on set at all and he can come when I return samples or even to a laid-back meeting with me.
As soon as I’m done work, I come home to my child and I want to be with my family; my time at home is so valuable. That’s something I mistakenly thought I would be judged for. I spoke to a lot of women in my business before having Qais. They all said don’t feel guilty and don’t be scared. That people will respond better than you think they will and sure enough, I haven’t felt any negativity.
I’ve learned to relax and enjoy being a mom while working, so much that baby number two is due in January. I am not as freaked out because now I know how to deal with the challenges. However, I can’t lie that the idea of having two children is terrifying to some degree which means I’ll have to just trust and rely on everyone around me—my family, my agents, my clients, my assistants—even more. I’m finally ready to do that.
HER PERSONAL STYLE
Zeina isn’t afraid to make a statement when she gets dressed, even after having Qais. “I feel like I have two different people living inside of me. For work and home I try to be comfortable, whereas when I go out, I’ll wear a dress with grommets, sequins or fringe embellishments, furs and the highest heels. I’m the person who buys the over-the-top things on the sale rack that no one else wants.” Her tip for wearing fur off the runway: “Take baby steps and start with a vest or scarf then move onto a capelet or a short sleeve jacket. When you graduate to a coat, belt it so it doesn’t feel or look as overwhelming on you.” By the way, she’s also a whiz at wearing layered neutrals with an in-your-face impact too.
This is only a very small selection of an impressive shoe collection. These are the high heels…
…and these are the casual collection.
Zeina’s envious warddrobe is currently organized on rolling racks.
MY FAVOURITE THINGS
THE WEDDING CRASHER
Zeina didn’t plan to wear a wedding gown beyond her traditional Indian wedding dress, but friend and designer Lucian Matis stepped in. He gifted her one and literally whipped it up the week before her wedding.
HER BEAUTY WARDROBE
Her beauty routine stays in neutral to backdrop her standout style. She even lightens her eyebrows to soften her look, bleaching them with Jolen Cream Bleach for only two minutes. Left to right: Dior Skin Nude Air Tan Powder; Kèrastase Bain Therapiste Shampoo; Jax Coco Coconut Oil to remove makeup, rub into her hair or as an on-the-spot moisturizer; Dolce and Gabanna Nail Lacquer in Perfection; Schwarzkopf Osis Dust It Mattifying Powder (“I love my hair to look dirty even when it’s clean. I actually only wash it once every few weeks. If I wash it too often, it falls flat and luckily my hair doesn’t get oily that quickly.”); go-to hair elastics in black: Essence Gel Eye Pencil Waterproof in Black Blaze; M.A.C. Instacurl Lash in Instablack; Tweezerman Slant Tweezer and Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder in No. 40.
On a trip to Morocco before she had Qais, she found this gorgeous artisanal bowl. Avid travellers, the couple hasn’t slowed down since having Qais and have brought him to Italy, Croatia and across Canada and the U.S.
This mom has an impressive collection of new and vintage Chanel bags, however the one with the best memory is a keepsake from her husband Sameer who gifted one to her in exchange for finding out the sex of their baby while she was pregnant. “I didn’t want to know but how could I turn that offer down?”. Indeed.
THE SMART SPLURGE
Zeina is an eBay and an online shopping expert and her savvy helped her score this Louis Vuitton baby bag that’s no longer in production. One of her favourite online shops: whatgoesaroundnyc.com.
She also finds designer must-haves for her little one online but she had to special order these kicks because retro-styled Adidas are so coveted this year. Jacket, Junior Gaultier.
A portrait of her mom and dad take the spotlight on her family photo wall and well, we couldn’t help but show it. Don’t they look amazing?