By Sarah Stone
A Wilson College of Textiles student is one of this year’s winners of the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for 2023.
Ritika Shamdasani shares the honor with her older sister, Niki. The two are co-founders of Sani, a South Asian-inspired formal wear and loungewear brand.
“One of our goals for Sani has always been to bring South Asian clothing into mainstream fashion. We want our clothing to be on mainstream platforms and widely recognized by everyone, not just South Asians. -Asians,” Ritika says. “We want people to know that there’s so much more to South Asian clothing than a saree.”
Neither sibling imagined running a fast-growing fashion brand celebrated by Mindy Kaling and other celebrities. In fact, Ritika first enrolled at NC State with the intention of majoring in computer science. Now, she’s a senior in Wilson College’s Fashion and Textile Management program, focusing on fashion development and product management.
Apply Think and Do to the fashion world
It was a problem-solving mindset, not a dream of becoming a fashion designer, that led the Shamdasanis to found Sani. The sisters found it nearly impossible to find clothes to wear to an upcoming Indian wedding in the United States.
The two spent the summer finding a solution. They tested 15 pieces, did some research and found that there was a huge demand for these products.
“What we came to realize was that a lot of first- and second-generation South Asian Americans were settling for below-average experience and designs,” says Ritika. “In fact, 82% of them waited to go abroad to buy their cultural clothes, but they would spend on average, like $315 a year for this type of clothes.”
They took it as a sign and continued to grow. In 2020, they became the first South Asian brand to sell clothing on Rent the Runway. Their products sold out within 48 hours.
Then the pandemic hit, and like the rest of the business world, they were forced to pivot, so they went to Tik Tok. There they found a community of over 100,000 people.
“They really wanted to participate in the culture in a way that no fashion brand had let them because you only wear Indian clothes to an Indian wedding, but there wasn’t a fashion brand that was bringing that South Asian influence in everyday clothing. Ritika says.
Through this social media initiative, they not only established a greater connection with their customers, but also expanded their brand into loungewear.
“This indoor garment was inspired by a Sangeet, which was part of an Indian wedding, and it had embroidered designs on it,” Ritika explains. “Every batch we’ve released is sold out.”
Using NC state resources to grow
Another way Ritika and Niki decided to adapt during the pandemic was to use “downtime” to learn new skills. They enrolled in the Andrews Launch Accelerator, part of Poole College of Management, in 2020.
“Throughout this program, I really appreciated the focus on fundamentals,” says Ritika. “Focus on the core of what makes up your business before thinking too broadly about the future, because the future is always changing.”
Ritika has also been involved with the Centennial Campus Entrepreneurship Garage throughout her time as a student.
“One of the advantages of the department is that it brings together students from all disciplines – textiles, engineering, agriculture, etc. says Ritika. “There are always so many networking and mentorship opportunities that can help you, whether you want to talk about how to execute an idea or find a collaborator or figure out how to improve your business.”
Although Ritika may have chosen to transfer to Wilson College of Textiles for the program, she says her community and educational experience through the college outside of the classroom has proven equally valuable.
“As Sani grew up, Wilson College of Textiles has been nothing but supportive. This includes world-class faculty who have become close mentors to my peers who are truly willing to help with any part of the brand, from packing orders to offering color advice on a new Sani product,” says Ritika. “Being in school while running this brand is definitely not easy. , but I think how difficult it would be to run a business without a caring support system like this. I am constantly in awe of the people who make up this college and they push me to always try to do better.
She has also found lifelong friends through her involvement with Delta Gamma Sorority and Fraternity and Sorority Life at NC State.
“Being part of this sisterhood has already taught me some incredible lessons, and I’m so proud to be part of such an incredible group of female leaders,” says Ritika. “Leading a sorority is like running a business, and our chapter does an amazing job of appreciating everyone’s individual contributions. They appreciate each member’s feedback and know that understanding each other’s strengths makes the Chapter stronger.
The Park Scholar says it was the diversity of her experience at North Carolina State that had the biggest impact on her career.
“My experiences and the people at NC State in and out of the classroom continue to push me to be better and have contributed not only to Sani but to the person I am today.”
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