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Fashion Interview

I have been often called out for being too partial towards women: Shirin Mann, Needledust

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“I have been often called out for being too partial towards women, But someone’s gotta do it. I have an all-women design, communication, and client services, team. I feel that women bring balance, culture, discipline, and also a joy to their workspace. Women are naturally more dynamic and holistic in their approach to work and we celebrate and treasure that at Needledust,” Shirin Mann affirms and attributes her success to hard work, inventiveness, and her team spirit.

And we at High on Persona feel immensely proud to celebrate the spirit of womanhood with women who are self-made and self-inspired and Shirin Mann perfectly fits the bill. She has reinvented the extinct tradition and craft of Punjabi ‘Juttis’, which amidst the competition with modern contemporary fashion footwear brands was fading with the passage of time. Furthermore, she has also given an all-new feel and silhouette to the form by making it a global fashion staple. In a freewheeling conversation with Shirin, we asked her a few soft and significant questions pertaining to Girl Power at work, success mantra, and issues that concern women in 2021. 

Here are excerpts of the interview:

Q. What does Women’s day mean to you and what is your idea of spending a perfect women’s day and how much do you celebrate the spirit of the day?
Although women should be celebrated all year round, it’s wonderful and important to mark a day in the calendar that reminds you to celebrate women, their achievements, leadership, sacrifices, and also their unconditional love. My ideal way would be to spend it with my girlfriends over a meal or just hanging out, having beautiful conversations, all day! My girls come from varied walks of life, varied professional and personal spaces and it’s just a reminder to celebrate each of us and our lives.

Q. Who is your favorite idol and why?
I would really like to say, my Mother! It could sound cliche, but it’s just truly who I strive to be. Taking on hardships with a tough heart, celebrating the good times by dancing all night long, continuing to be ambitious, and working hard even in her 50’s. Accomplishing newer milestones even today. Like I always tell her ‘Mom If I could work half as hard as you, I’d be doing twice better’.

Q. Burning questions that you would want to raise on women’s day for women?
There are some notions that we often hear around us and I think we should have open, fearless conversations about them. Like- ‘Now it’s your age to get married; ‘You want to start a new venture, do it after you get married because you don’t know who or where will you get married’. ‘Change your work timings, because when have a family too, so you have to be home for those duties’ and so on. We are conditioned to think these conversations are ok, but they really aren’t and trickle down to generations and further reducing the pace of change towards gender equality.

Q. Any orthodox traditions or stereotypes that you would like to break?
I think largely girl’s parents feel really apprehensive in even accepting gifts from their daughters, but when it comes to sons no-one bats an eyelid. This should change. Also, it would be great if we weren’t conditioned to think that women have to move homes, cities, jobs on the basis of their partners. This is a phenomenon worldwide, not just in our country. Surely things are changing, but we still have a long way to go in accepting that women’s place of work or choice of homes should carry equal weight.

Q. What kind of roadblocks did you face while starting out in the field of footwear?
I remember talking about this earlier at a women’s forum. When I started out and went out for meetings, even though I was the owner of my company, I wasn’t perceived as the decision-maker. Even if my male counterpart was not the authority, the conversations and eye contact flowed with him. It made me not go into external business meetings. But I changed that, pushed myself to be heard.

Q. How do you deal with hateful comments on social media?
I get them really often! And in the most awful language. I won’t say it doesn’t bother me, of course, it gets me upset. But I’ve learned to develop a defense mechanism of gradually and literally blocking them out- mentally and on social media.

Q. How do you try to maintain a work-life balance?
It gets challenging because I love what I do. And more so now, because I’m launching another project too. But it’s really important to switch off. I try my best to leave the office at 7, work out 4 times a week and just spend my evenings and dinners with my family. At this point, I’ve learned to find joy in my work and keep the people close to me even closer.

Q. A message you would want to share with upcoming women entrepreneurs?
Don’t let any external factors take away your dream to create. Let your passion alone be your driving force. Because no-one is going to celebrate you if you don’t first celebrate yourself.

Q. How do you plan to empower women in your field through your work?
I have been often called out for being too partial towards women. But someone’s gotta do it. I have an all-women design, communication, and client services, team. I feel like women bring balance, culture, discipline, and also joy to their workspace. Women are naturally more dynamic and holistic in their approach to work and we celebrate and treasure that at Needledust. 

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Divya Khanna is the youngest member of the team, with a background in political science. She has joined High on persona print magazine in order to gain hands-on experience in various aspects of editorial coordination as associate editor of the magazine and news site. She has a penchant for writing and enjoys meeting new people and interviewing celebrities. She has a passion for writing, she has an eye for details, loves traveling, and a quick learner. She comes from the Mecca of Indian Journalism, Delhi.
Email: [email protected]