Local sisters create South Asian clothing in hopes of bringing it to the mainstream
After two sisters had a frustrating experience shopping for outfits to wear to an Indian wedding, the duo decided to start their own fashion business.
Also known as the Sani sisters, UNC alumnus Niki and her sister Ritika Shamdasani, an NC State fashion development and product management student, are the co-founders of “Sani,” a South Asian inspired fashion.
When conceptualizing their brand, the duo from Fayetteville, North Carolina recognized the need for increased accessibility for traditional South Asian clothing.
“We ended up scrambling, getting our outfits together for this wedding, but then we started talking to our family and friends,” Niki Shamdasani said. “We thought, what did we miss? Why was it so difficult? What is this store that we don’t know?”
The sisters started making clothes for their friends and family for fun. Eventually, their project turned into a start-up in 2020, with the launch of Sani via Rent the Runway – an online clothing rental service.
However, two weeks after launch, the pandemic began.
“As a company that focused on (pandemic) formal wear, you can imagine this is not a product that people cared about during the pandemic,” Niki Shamdasani said.
Shortly after, she said the company created a TikTok account and started growing its following by posting her clothes.
It was then that the sisters realized the full potential of their business. They started to see their business as a way to promote cultural appreciation and bringing South Asian fashion into the mainstream.
“It broadened our vision of what the brand could be,” said Niki Shamdasani.
Sani now offers a variety of apparel, from loungewear to custom formal outfits – with more styles to come.
However, the company’s biggest mission is to create an inclusive environment to celebrate South Asian culture, said Ritika Shamdasani.
Today, Sani offers online shopping, as well as pop-up events throughout the year. The company hosted pop-ups all over the East Coast, including Washington, DC, Georgia and North Carolina.
“I think what’s really great about (pop-ups) is that you never know who you’re going to meet and the chance relationships that can come from that stuff,” Ritika Shamdasani said.
From ideas on creating pop-ups that mimic an Indian wedding to expanding their selection to more informal everyday wear, the sisters are constantly working to grow their business.
Tanya Slehria, a friend of the sisters and a former social media intern for the company, said the duo’s sense of creativity and passion is an inspiration to those around them.
“The biggest inspiration was how big of an entrepreneur they are,” Slehria said. “To see two such young women able to chart their own paths like that and really imagine, and just come up with such unique business practices and really put themselves forward, I think that was the biggest inspiration.”
The sisters have an optimistic outlook and hope for Sani’s future. Whether it’s TikTok videos, red carpet events, TV shows or in-person pop-ups, the duo want to continue creating colorful fashion and promoting South Asian culture for all. possible ways, said Ritika Shamdasani.
“We are, again, meeting customers where they are,” said Niki Shamdasani. “Lots of ways online and offline to build the world and create experiences around our culture that bring people to it.”
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