What’s the one thing that all celebs pray to God for? Privacy! Especially in the time of constant social media glare. Call him godsend or an ambitious man with a mission “to bring privacy back”, Saif Siddiqui has come up with what is being hailed as a modern-day invisibility cloak. Meet the Dutch man of Indian origin, the creator of the ISHU scarf that allows the wearer to disrupt flash photography. Wait, what? Is that possible? Yes, his anti-flash range of scarves and more blackens a photo of the person wearing it, when clicked using flash.
So, it comes as no surprise that his clientele — within six months since launch — includes global names like actors Cameron Diaz, Nina Dobrev, singers Nick and Joe Jonas, socialite Paris Hilton and German footballer Jérôme Boateng.
In his first interview to Indian media, the 28-year-old, who lived in India for five years and studied at GD Goenka school in New Delhi, gets talking about his creation. As for celeb reactions to it, Saif — who aims to bring the concept to India this August — says: “Most people are blown away”. He’s hopeful of Bollywood embracing it with as much love. Here are excerpts:
How did the idea of the ISHU scarf come about?
I came up with the idea six years ago when some friends took a picture of me on a bike in Amsterdam, the reflector on the bike ruined the picture. I thought how cool would it be to be able to wear something that could ruin a picture completely? If you are not in the mood to get clicked, you could wear something that would distort the image. So, I put together a team of experts and all these years later, managed to be able to black out pictures with the ISHU scarf when flash is used on a mobile phone. I launched the product just a few months ago and the press picked up on it and started calling it the ‘invisibility cloak’, which is crazy.
The aim is to bring privacy back, right? Why so?
In a world where everyone is on social media and everyone has an amazing camera on their phone, anyone can take a picture of someone and share it online. Whether you like it or not. Sometimes you might not be in the mood to be seen. Now, you don’t need to worry you are in an unwanted picture on Facebook or Instagram. People tend to forget how important privacy is, I think over time, everyone will understand the importance of digital content. The ISHU is there for those that don’t always wish to be seen, whether you’re a celeb or not.
Why the name, ISHU?
I went through a lot of names along the years, but a few days before I trademarked everything, a friend of mine came up with the name, ‘The ISHU’. I liked how it is a play on words with ‘issue’, and how it has a ‘I’ and ‘U’ in there and a ‘SH’ like a hush, silence.
And how does it work? What’s the science behind it?
In six years, we perfected the tech on fabric so much we can play with different contrast etc., but mainly I enhance materials by adding millions of nano spherical crystals which reflect lights back into the camera. We add layers and layers of different tech to reach the best effect and keeping the quality high. All products are handmade so it is a lot of work that goes into every piece.
But then its use is restricted to only when flash is used?
Flash is mainly used at night, but that is also when most unwanted pictures are taken. The tech has been advanced a lot that sometimes even in daylight when flash is switched on, the picture blacks out.
Tell us more about the different types of scarves
The main goal was to make the scarf attractive. We went ahead with scarves first as it’s for both men and women, it’s easy to carry around and is close to the face. We have scarves in different colours, black, red, grey, green, blue etc (priced between £200 and £700). The product range is really wide, so it speaks to a lot of people. It can be worn by men, women and it doesn’t matter what you combine it with, it’s the perfect accessory.
You also have anti-flash ties and pocket squares. What’s next?
We have a full men’s and women’s collection to appear in Harrods and Selfridges. The tie and pocket squares are available through the website, www.theishu.com . You could also check us out on social media.
Our next product is something which I think everyone will love! we have introduced the first phone cases which black out pictures. Simply keep your phone in front of your face when someone takes a picture.
You’ve got quite a starry clientele. What’s their response been like?
Amazing! They love the product! When they compliment the scarf, and then are told what the product can do, most people are blown away. It’s a really fun time showing people the ISHU. I can’t wait to see what we grow into in the next few months and years.
You’ve also showcased at fashion weeks… how did that go?
Fashion weeks have been amazing. We launched in Toronto, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Los Angeles and Milan in just six months! Everywhere we go, people appreciate what we do, and we get great support from Fashion Councils as well as fashion tech and innovation industry leaders.
When do you plan to get the ISHU collection to India?
This August, our global sales through www.theishu.com start, which is really exciting. I hope to be able to do something big in India really soon. This is actually the first time people will hear about us.
Have you received any requests from any Indian celeb?
Not yet! It’s been very much Hollywood and music industry ever since launching, I only just got started so hopefully the Bollywood industry will be introduced to it. There are a few people in Bollywood I want to work and partner up with, so let’s see what happens in the future.