After two sisters had a frustrating experience while shopping for outfits to wear to an Indian wedding, the duo decided to create their own fashion company.
Also known as the Sani sisters, UNC alumna Niki and her sister Ritika Shamdasani, N.C. State fashion development and product management student, are the co-founders of “Sani,” a South Asian-inspired fashion company.
In conceptualizing their brand, the duo from Fayetteville, N.C., recognized the need for increased accessibility for traditional South Asian clothing.
“We ended up scrambling, getting our outfits together for this wedding, but then afterwards started to talk to our family and friends,” Niki Shamdasani said. “We were like, what did we miss? Why was this so hard? What is this store we don’t know about?”
The sisters began making clothing for their friends and family for fun. Eventually, their project turned into a start-up business in 2020, with Sani’s launch through Rent the Runway — an online clothing rental service.
However, two weeks after the launch, the pandemic began.
“As a company that went into (the pandemic) formal-wear focused, you can imagine that’s not a product people cared about during the pandemic," Niki Shamdasani said.
Shortly after, she said the company created a TikTok account and began to grow its following by posting their clothes.
That was the moment when the sisters realized the full potential of their business. They began to see their company as a way to promote cultural appreciation and bring South Asian fashion into the mainstream.
“It expanded our vision for what the brand could be,” Niki Shamdasani said.
Sani now offers a variety of clothing, from loungewear to customized formal outfits — with more styles to come.
However, the bigger mission of the company is to create an inclusive environment to celebrate South Asian culture, Ritika Shamdasani said.
Today, Sani offers online shopping, as well as pop-up events throughout the year. The business has held pop-ups all over the East Coast, including Washington, D.C., 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 serendipitous relationships that can come from these kinds of things,” Ritika Shamdasani said.
From ideas about creating pop-ups that mimic an Indian wedding to expanding their selection to more informal, everyday clothing — the sisters are constantly working to expand their business.
Tanya Slehria, friend of the sisters and former social media intern for the business, said that the duo's sense of creativity and passion is an inspiration to those around them.
“The biggest inspiration was just how big of entrepreneurs they are,” Slehria said. “Seeing two such young women being able to pave their own way like that and really ideate, and just come up with such unique business practices and really just putting themselves out there, I think that was the biggest inspiration."
The sisters have an optimistic vision and hope for the future of Sani. Whether it’s TikTok videos, red carpet events, TV shows or in-person pop-ups, the duo wants to continue to create colorful fashion and promote South Asian culture in every way possible, Ritika Shamdasani said.
“We are, again, meeting customers where they are,” Niki Shamdasani said. “Lots of online and offline ways of world-building and creating experiences around our culture that bring people into it.”
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