Student Ritika Shamdasani sets the new standard in South Asian American fashion | Culture & Leisure


Ritika Shamdasani, a young entrepreneur and a class of 2023 Park Scholar on top of that, is revitalizing black tie fashion by providing apparel to an underrepresented sector of the U.S. apparel industry: South Asian formal wear.

Enter Sani, a South Asian formal wear brand that sells pieces such as anarkalisa floor-length suit with a long frock-style top and fitted bottom, and saris, a garment usually draped over one shoulder and wrapped around the waist. According to Shamdasani, “Sani is a South Asian-inspired fashion brand, and our designs are rooted in culture but fused with the perspectives of first-generation South Asian Americans.”

Shamdasani, a second-year fashion and textile management student, started Sani designs in 2017 with her sister, Niki, over a self-proclaimed need for quality South Asian clothing for an Indian wedding.

“The process of shopping for an Indian wedding was like finding a diamond in the rough,” Shamdasani said, explaining how she traveled hundreds of miles through major US cities just to find the right person. “When we…started talking to our friends, we were like, ‘Are we missing something here? Or is it really hard to access these cultural garments?’

It became clear that no, they lacked nothing. There is no South Asian formal wear company that is accessible, affordable, and sustainable in the same way as brands such as Madewell or Reformation. Buyers have to travel very far for a lehenga or dhoti, sometimes to use it once and never again. Shamdasani seeks to change this dynamic.

“The more we dug into it, the more we realized that first- and second-generation South Asian Americans in the United States were settling for poor experience and designs,” Shamdasani said.

According to Shamdasani, Sani focuses on lehengas, anarkalis and trouser styles. The duo want their pieces to be multifunctional and can be worn for both an Indian wedding and a Western gala.

The clothing and accessories available on their website certainly caters to a wider audience, but they stay true to their original purpose of offering clothing with a strong South Asian influence that appeals to their target audience. Earlier this year, they reached an even wider audience and broke a major barrier by becoming the first South Asian brand on Rent the tracka popular subscription fashion service that allows customers to rent designer clothes at a much lower price.

“It’s a fun story,” Shamdasani said. “We had no idea we were launching on Rent the Runway so soon. I was in a course at the College of Textiles. I walked out of my classroom and saw my phone exploding with notifications.

Sani had embarked on Rent the Runway much earlier than expected, throwing her and her sister’s plans off balance. Despite her quick start, Shamdasani said she still looks back on the experience with admiration.

“It was such an amazing experience, and I feel like it was such an inflection point for Sani,” she said. “That moment really took us from this small North Carolina-based brand to this US-based brand that people in California and New York knew.”

Sani’s success has grown relatively rapidly since 2017. In the three years since, they’ve expanded into 10 different clothing categories, gained thousands of Instagram followers, and garnered national attention from people like Business Intern and BNC News.

“Success is 90% hard work, and we put a lot of effort into making Sani who she is today,” Shamdasani said of her company’s sudden popularity. “We have seen our hard work pay off.”

Given their recent triumphs, Sani has no shortage of launches planned for the coming months, Shamdasani said.

“We are launching two new product categories; one will be here in mid-September and the other in late September,” Shamdasani said. “We’re really excited because it’s not formal wear, so it’s completely different from what we’ve been doing. It still maintains the same Sani values, and it’s made for special moments.

Becoming a successful businesswoman before her 21st birthday is an impressive feat, and Shamdasani said she was grateful for the opportunities she had. She urges anyone with a passion or an idea to step forward because you never know who will have the connections to help you.

“For me personally, I’m constantly thinking, ‘What if this? What if this?’, but in the end, you never know what’s going to happen,” Shamdasani said. “So you might as well put yourself there- Low Tell the world about your idea.


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