Sheila Atim is an Ugandan-British actress, singer, composer and playwright. She is known for her roles in films such as ‘Doctor Strange’, ‘The Woman King’ and series such as ‘The Underground Railroad’. She is also an activist for women’s rights and is actively involved with ‘Women for Refugee Women’.
SHEILA ATIM on fashion, being part of the new COS Spring/Summer 2023 campaign and personal expression through style
How would you describe the identity of COS and to what extent do you recognize yourself in its components?
I see COS as a brand dedicated to wearable elegance. There’s something both candid and intentional in its essence. I try to aspire to something similar – to be easy going and comfortable in myself with a touch of elevation.
What does it mean to you being part of this campaign?
I’m grateful for the collaboration, as I’ve loved and worn Cos for years, so the campaign feels like a natural extension of myself. I’m also thankful to be standing alongside other artists whose work I admire, whom I’ve watched, listened to and enjoyed.
What would you say you represent as an artist in general?
I think that’s hard to quantify about yourself. It’s easier to comment on what you hope to represent or, more simply, what you’re aiming to do through your work and life. I suppose I want to share ideas, feelings, moods – all the inexplicable stuff that makes us complex – in the hope that the recipient is changed in some way. Sometimes it’s a simple as just wanting to interface with the world at large.
What role does fashion play for you in self-expression and how did you personally get to a point where you knew how to express yourself through fashion?
Style can help a person sit inside themselves or expand beyond themselves, which isn’t always easy. I’ve always loved fashion, as it gives me another medium through which to create. And for me, it’s a very exposing and ever-changing expression – I can experiment but I can’t wear something that doesn’t truly reflect a part of me in some way.
As a musician, what connection do you see between fashion and music?
In their best form, music and fashion capture the zeitgeist – both more broadly and on a personal level. I love to chart musicians’ albums through their career and see the changes in their inspiration, where they were at. It’s the same with fashion collections, seasons, and the incoming influence of new directors. They’re both in constant dynamic flux and responding to something bigger.
For COS, a primary point of the campaign is a tribute to open thinking and inspiring new ways of seeing. What new ways of seeing do you personally find particularly important? What should we be rethinking more and more in 2023?
Two main things – the larger climate threat. We need to see that as here and now, not tomorrow. And secondly, the way we treat each other. Our discourse is so jagged right now. We should listen and respond with more compassion, even if it’s hard to understand at times. And I think these two issues are intrinsically linked. Our difficulty connecting to and empathising with each other is impacting our wider natural world.
To what extent can fashion be or become a thought-provoker?
Whether it’s the cut or the colours, who is wearing what style and why, or what the ethos and mission is behind a brand, fashion can say a great deal. And it doesn’t have to be bold and brash to do so. Subtlety can be just as powerful.
Why do you think it is even more important to make good quality in combination with design accessible to a broad mass? Where can brands start to make something accessible?
For some, clothes shopping can be a demoralising experience. Who wants to feel dejected just from trying to find something to wear?? Madness. We should and can all have a stake in looking and feeling good, in whatever form that takes for us. So, having designs with wide appeal, fluid cuts across gender and body type, broad sizing – these things have to exist for real inclusivity.
What should not be missing in your closet?
Something black. I may be guilty of wearing too much black. But if you’re ever stuck, it’s good to have an old-faithful.
What do you wish for the future of fashion?
That people go for quality and not quantity. And that everyone steps out of the house in whatever they want.