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Midwest Roots, Made in NYC

by Sheila Patel |



I am a first generation Indian American.  Born in 1977 (cringe)...before cell phones, internet, and definitely before social media.  They say my generation is the one that grew up disconnected and experienced the technology boom in our 20’s.  What that meant is people like me grew up in Middle America, going to Friday night football games and Baker’s Square after for pie.  I honestly feel so lucky that I had a time in my life where everyone I was connected to was basically within a 5 mile radius...that - and so many things about growing up in Arlington Heights, IL - has kept me grounded over the years.  



I eventually I moved to Evanston, IL for school at Northwestern University (go Cats!) and Chicago right after graduation. I really had no idea about the world outside of Illinois. Since I barely visited Chicago as a kid, my early 20’s was when I first got a taste of city life.  I always escaped to the Chicago Art Museum, saw Rent for the first time at the Chicago theater, and discovered the glory of Sunday brunch that starts at 1pm.




Then, in 2005, I left Illinois and dropped my bags in the West Village, NY. That was one of the most important decisions in my adult life.  It was this move that introduced me to my husband, established my next professional chapter in beauty, and deepened my love for art and music.  I know this NYC story isn’t unique by any means, but for me it’s still special. Funny enough, the energy of this city gave me peace. I loved walking down the streets and rarely hearing English, I loved that I could stop and admire a wall covered in art basically everywhere I turned, and I am forever grateful to those early friends that introduced me to the underground music scene.  


I entered the beauty industry the year I moved and stayed in corporate beauty at Bath & Body Works until 2016.  What a training ground that was for this midwest girl. I got to create the fragrances that I wore growing up and make decisions on products from skincare to fine fragrance.  It was real-life business school, and I soaked it all in. When I left, my husband who always believed in my creative talent, nudged me to go for it. “It’s time” he said.



Then in 2017, I met @bytegirl by chance on a random Monday Graff Tour I decided to take for fun.  Completely captivated by the stories behind the walls I had passed for so many years, I took her to coffee and got my first introduction to the behind the scenes of the urban art world. 



From there I met some unbelievable teachers and inspiring artists like Lexi Bella, Resa Piece and Anjl and curators like Connie Byun, creator of 3rd Ethos Gallery. These women openly brought me into their world and took me in as their student.  They introduced me to street artists like DidiRok in Miami, discussed ways to collaborate with artists and shows in the future, and more importantly continued to expand my knowledge of this non-stop art scene.



So I decided to take the leap which started with countless nights in my attic listening to Tribe Called Quest and Common, creating a brand that would hopefully change the way we think about skincare.  I ignored the traditional norms of skincare that equated quality and efficacy with demoralizing white creams. I wanted to give back to the community that had inspired me for years and now brought me in as their student.  I wondered what an authentically urban inspired, art inspired skincare line would look and feel like.  



Would it start to make consumers reach for power over perfection in their beauty products?  Would people be interested in knowing how I make each product and the artists that inspire me to innovate.


I launched Graffiti Collective in 2018 and it’s been a great ride so far.  My roots keep me humble and NYC keeps me hustling. Lucky to be the product of those two worlds. Now it comes full circle when we throw it back out to you in this super connected way.



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