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Women Leaders in Fashion Retail: Shirin Mann, Founder, NEEDLEDUST & SAND by Shirin

In the ever-evolving landscape of the fashion industry, women today are not just contributors, instead, they are innovators and trendsetters. These women are rethinking and re-imagining what most individuals perceive as normal. From entrepreneurs to designers, women are taking the lead in dismantling traditional concepts and ideas and revolutionizing how we engage with fashion. 

The transformative influence of these trailblazing women spans diverse domains, from advocating sustainability and shattering gender norms to reviving age-old textiles, designs, and techniques for the modern world; they are re-writing the narrative of fashion and are leaving an indelible mark in its world.

This week, IMAGES Business of Fashion looks deeper at the life and achievements of Shirin Mann, founder of NEEDLEDUST & SAND by Shirin.

About Shirin Mann
Shirin Mann, who originally came from Chandigarh, was a boarding school student. She later obtained her Master’s Degree in International Journalism from Cardiff University in Wales, United Kingdom. After returning to India, she embarked on her career as a crime journalist for an investigative newspaper based in Delhi NCR. Nevertheless, her profound interest in design ultimately inspired her to establish Needledust in 2014.

Career History and Experience
NEEDLEDUST originated from Shirin’s own wedding experience, as she wanted to break away from the conventional choice of pairing her wedding lehenga with stilettos. Dissatisfied with the available footwear options on the market, she embarked on the journey of designing her own juttis, sparking her passion for craftsmanship.

Her second venture, SAND, encapsulates the notion of honoring the uniqueness of women, where every silhouette is beautiful, every physique is noteworthy, and every woman is exceptional. SAND presents exquisitely crafted, opulent attire that challenges conventional limitations and embraces the individual beauty, physique, and size of each person. Despite its introduction during the challenging times of a pandemic, it has garnered a substantial outpouring of affection and backing.

Current Roles and Responsibilities
Shirin is responsible for guiding the company’s strategic course, establishing goals and objectives, and making pivotal business determinations. She is actively involved in product development, as well as in shaping the brand positioning and marketing strategies for both of her brands.

Strength:

  • Innovation: Shirin displays a creative flair, consistently bringing imaginative concepts to life. She has a knack for crafting unique and aesthetically pleasing juttis, showcasing her creativity.
  • Resilience: Shirin’s unyielding determination has been evident in her journey. Despite challenges and obstacles, she has remained resolute in achieving her vision, exemplifying a strong sense of determination.
  • Guidance: As a leader, Shirin has effectively steered her brand to success. Her leadership skills are demonstrated through her ability to set a vision, lead her team, and make strategic decisions that have elevated NEEDLEDUST to prominence.

Weakness:

  • Excessive Work Priority: She tends to place an overly high emphasis on work to the detriment of other aspects of life, occasionally neglecting a healthier work-life balance.
  • Difficulty in Assertiveness: Shirin sometimes struggles to decline or set boundaries when necessary, which can lead to over-commitment or taking on more than she should.
  • Wellness Neglect: She occasionally fails to devote as much attention to her well-being as she ideally should, potentially impacting her health and overall quality of life.

Aspirations
Her foremost goal is to nurture and advance the global presence of Needledust and SAND, with a particular focus on the expansion of their retail stores as these brands continue to flourish. After the recent inauguration of their store in Select City Walk, Saket, New Delhi, she is actively exploring opportunities for the next strategic location to establish a new Needledust store.

Game-Changing Retail Technologies

  • Contactless Payments: These methods revolutionize retail with secure and swift transactions, prioritizing convenience and safety.
  • Augmented Reality (AR): AR technology enriches the shopping experience by offering virtual previews of products, reducing returns and boosting online shopping confidence.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI-driven tools enhance customer service, optimize inventory management, and fine-tune marketing, increasing sales and satisfaction.

Skills That Helped Her Succeed

  • A keen eye for aesthetics.
  • Proficient trend forecasting capabilities.
  • Effective communication skills.
  • The capacity to adeptly navigate shifting market dynamics.

Lessons Learned Over the Years
Shirin Mann’s journey in the industry has imparted crucial lessons. She has come to appreciate the value of tenacity and viewing failures as opportunities for personal and professional growth. Moreover, Shirin has recognized the paramount importance of customer feedback, using it as a compass for innovation and continuous improvement to maintain a leading position in the market.

Role Models in the Industry
Shirin looks up to her mother as her life’s role model because she successfully managed the dual responsibilities of raising her and fulfilling her other life commitments.

Future of Fashion Retail
Shirin Mann’s perspective on the industry’s future is that it’s undergoing a substantial shift, primarily driven by changing customer preferences. The industry will place a strong emphasis on sustainability and delivering tailored experiences to customers. Those brands capable of adapting to these shifts will thrive in the market and secure a competitive advantage.

Changes Brought in the Industry
Shirin has instigated alterations by directing efforts towards broadening her brand’s range of products, entering fresh markets, and amplifying its online visibility through its website and social media platforms.

Life mantra
Shirin’s life motto is to “Believe in yourself and then go for it!”

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