As the persistent clicks of the sewing machine bounce off the blush-colored walls of her study, Coppell High School sophomore Mehak Lohiya settles into an easy rhythm.
Just minutes before, Lohiya was welcoming me into her home, scooping her Maltichon puppy, Snowy, into her arms as he nipped at my shins. Now, however, her sheepish grin is replaced by lips pursed in concentration. Her steady hands push the folds of a metallic blue fabric under the needle of the machine as she works on a dress for her best friend, CHS sophomore Mihira Kada.
Lohiya designs dresses and costumes for sale and for theatre, but this one is a special gift for Kada’s birthday party on May 2. While she started selling clothes last fall, she has designed garments since the age of 5 - although her earlier creations were for Barbie dolls rather than humans.
“With normal dresses, there's a societal standard,” Lohiya said. “You have to know what's in style, whereas for theater, you can go all out. It really depends on the character you're designing for. Whenever you're making something for theater, you can go all in, you can do whatever you want, whereas for normal dresses you have to hold back and keep in mind what is marketable and what other people would wear.”
Since seventh grade at Coppell Middle School West, Lohiya has constructed costumes for the Texas Thespian Festival. Her first effort was a Cinderella dress. Most recently she designed a costume based on The Little Mermaid villain Ursula, for which she received a perfect score from five judges, qualifying her for the larger International Thespian Festival where she will compete for a Thespy award.
In addition to teaching Lohiya in class every day, CHS theater director Karen Ruth directed her performance in the Coppell theater department’s UIL production “You on the Moors Now,” in which Lohiya played four different roles.
“As a student, Mehak is really focused,” Ruth said. “As a designer, Mehak is so unbelievably creative. On top of that, she is hardworking, and she gives so much of herself and her own artistry in her work. As an actor, Mahek has done a really great job - especially for a young actor - of finding little nuances and little differences with her character and taking the direction we give her and trying new things. She’s also amazing in hair and makeup for [Cowboy Theatre Company’s spring production “Once on This Island”]. She's a quadruple threat in every sense of the word.”
“When she gets into this zone of creating, she gets really excited,” Priest said. “It's nice to be able to talk about a niche thing with someone and have them match you intellectually and creatively. She's so gung ho and down for anything, and she has a really good eye for fashion. When there was a problem with a piece or something that I was making, and I didn't know what to do, I literally would ask her what she thinks looks best because I trust her so much.”
After sharing her sketches with me, Lohiya rises from her seat and adjusts the dress adorning the mannequin on the other side of the room. I take advantage of the break in sewing to get to know her beyond her experiences as a designer. When I ask Lohiya about her Hogwarts house, a bright smile blooms on her face. She stumbles over her words and tells me about her self-proclaimed identity as a “Slytherclaw,” a combination of her Ravenclaw-esque creativity and Slytherin-like ambition. Her answers, once measured and careful, now burst out of her like a secret.