FASHION FUSION: DISSATISFIED WITH EXISTING OPTIONS, TWO ENTERPRISING FAYETTEVILLE SISTERS CREATE DRESSES THAT MELD INDIAN AND AMERICAN TASTES.

Author:Pressler, Alyssa
 
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When sisters Niki and Ritika Shamdasani shopped for dresses to wear to a friend's wedding two summers ago, they noticed there was a lack of styles that married Indian and American cultures. They searched in New York City, Atlanta and Charlotte for modern Indian clothing. They also called their grandmother in India, who couldn't find a dress that fit the bill for less than $ 1,000.

"Nothing was hitting that sweet spot," Niki says. "We talked to others around us thinking maybe we were missing something, a store or brand in the U.S. that would make this easy, and we couldn't find it. Everybody was frustrated with the shopping experience and products."

That's why the sisters started their own clothing brand, Sani Designs, in October 2017 with a leadership team that included a high school student: Ritika, 18, graduated in May from Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville and is attending N.C. State University this fall.

Serving as the creative director and lead designer helped her find her passion. "I've learned more of what I enjoy, and I think that's something really valuable going into college," Ritika says. "I never thought I'd be a fashion design major, but after starting Sani, I learned what I liked."

Meanwhile, Niki, a UNC Chapel Hill grad, left a venture-capital industry job in New York City a year ago to become Sani's full-time CEO. She's 25.

Niki and Ritika are co-founders while their mother, Sapna, provides a second opinion on everything from clothing to website design. Their father, Deepak, owns a small textile business and has answered questions along the way.

The hard work is paying off. A $10,000 NC IDEA foundation MICRO grant in June 2018 helped pay for a fashion show in Raleigh to promote Sani's brand recognition among the region's large Indian population. According to the UNC Carolina Population Center, more than half of the state's 330,000 Asian residents live in Wake...

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