Impact Style speaks to Elnaz Sedighara, the founder of the UK’s first contemporary Iranian online design store that specialises in bespoke Iranian womenswear, accessories and homeware. She speaks to us exclusively about her biggest inspirations and what it really takes to make it in her entrepreneurship journey.
What inspired you to create Iran Sheen?
Going back and forth from Iran and the UK, I was always bringing back special pieces of jewellery and beautiful clothes to wear. Friends and people on the street would often compliment me and ask where I got them from. They would be disappointed at the fact they would have to travel halfway across the world to get them! I soon realised that there was limited access to Iranian designs here in the UK, and with my background in Law and International Relations, I knew I could use my skills to link them together.
I wanted to solve the problem of no access to contemporary Iranian fashion over in the UK, and curate beautiful designs that can be accessible to a wider range of people. The idea of Iran Sheen was so important to me, it was impossible not to try it. I’m honoured to use my voice in the UK to promote young talented Iranian designers, and make their bespoke designs accessible more globally.
For people that are new to the company, how would you describe its aesthetic? What makes it unique?
The unique thing about Iran Sheen is that it is the first UK online store to sell Iranian contemporary designs. The Persian style and designs – particularly carpets – are already very well known in Europe. I wanted to branch out and showcase what Iran offers, such as 250 different types of handicraft.
Iran Sheen is more than just a shopping experience, it’s a cultural journey. Every piece comes with a unique story. We pride ourselves on being stylish, high quality and accessible. All our items are handmade from the best materials, and we guarantee that every item is crafted with love and care.
“My idea was too important to me for me to give up”
What are some of the challenges that you have faced in creating Iran Sheen?
With a background of Law and International Relations, I knew I’d have a tough road ahead of me. Regarding trade with Iran, there wasn’t enough information available in the UK on the means to go about this. I had to use my expertise to pioneer Iranian art and culture to new markets. It required a lot of patience. Each email sent was met by a 2-month waiting period, and the response often vague. However, my idea was too important to me for me to give up. We got there eventually, and could start trading between the two countries.
Another difficulty we faced was to convince people to have ‘Iran’ in the brand name instead of Persia. The names Iran and Persia are often used interchangeably to mean the same country. The renaming of the country from Persia to Iran was proposed by King Reza around a hundred years ago, to bring the unity between the different ethnicities in Iran. Using the term Iran is very important as it represents the unity and modernity which is something that is reflected in my brand. Its contemporary designs meet contemporary Iran by showcasing different types of designs from all regions of the country.
“It is overcoming the obstacles and getting to that next step on a day-to-day basis that makes it all worthwhile.”
What are some of the highlights about working on the company?
There are a lot of things, such as launching the website and finishing the logo, that are highlights, its overcoming the obstacles and getting to that next step on a day-to-day basis that makes it all worthwhile. Just seeing the company come to life is extremely rewarding, it becomes a piece of you. Every time we pass out our business cards and introduce ourselves as Iran Sheen, we know that our main goal, to flagship Iran as place of great style, is progressing.
How would you describe a typical working day for you? What does it consist of?
First thing in the morning, I check and update Iran Sheen’s social media accounts – there are lots of them! These platforms are the most vital tool for engaging with my audience and keeping them in the know about that brand. Packaging products and conversing with designers back in Iran are also on the daily schedule. We’re always working towards creating new collections and finding the best talent. Here at Iran Sheen it is always busy, things never seem to slow down! I usually leave the office around 9pm, but even then, Iran Sheen is still on the go.
“It was also fascinating to meet all these talented designers whose work is world-class but they just needed that exposure”
What steps did you take for the brand to become where it is in its present day?
Like most people, I had an idea but I wasn’t sure where to start. The whole process was a discovery journey for myself, and it was fascinating to find out about the wide range of handicrafts out there in Iran. It was also fascinating to meet all these talented designers whose work is world-class but they just needed that exposure. It’s important to mention that I wasn’t alone in this. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a team of mentors who all specialised in different areas such as marketing, legal advice, and sales. They helped me through the process.
My most important mentor was and still is my father. We had difficult days at Iran Sheen and sometimes the long wait to see the results was hard, but I was lucky to have someone on board being positive and motivational who could see the future and completely believed in me.
“Every item has a unique story which makes them special.”
Name one item from the online store you cannot live without and why?
It’s a difficult question because I love everything! Every item has a unique story which makes them special. However, I will say this – the day I wore the bird of happiness ring was quite a remarkable day.
Where do you see Iran Sheen going in the future? Are there any areas you are hoping to expand to?
We have big and bright plans! I’m always looking to grow the company and make it even better. Right now, we’re concentrating on womenswear and home accessories, but we soon hope to expand to menswear and make sure the men are just as stylish as the ladies.
Secondly, we have lots of charities in mind that we are hoping to support in the future. We rely greatly on our gifted craftsmen and talented designers; it’s important to give them the recognition they deserve and support charities who promote valuable skills. Lastly, we hope to transform the online shopping experience to a physical experience with our unique teahouse events. Here the audience can experience all forms of Iranian culture – food, music, literature – and of course, see our beautiful items in the flesh.
“Passion is necessary but not enough”
What advice would you give to another young entrepreneur who is looking to enter the world of fashion?
My most important advice would be: details matter! Spend time and effort on all the little bits; they’re just as important as the big ideas.
Also, passion is necessary but not enough. There are going to be difficult days so try to surround yourself with people who boost your energy and inspire you. Start your journey and stick to good quality, perfection doesn’t happen overnight but keep working at it and don’t give up. What keeps me going is being curious to discover more of Iran culture, seeing what else I can offer to my audience and how Iran Sheen can grow.
Image Credit: Elnaz Sedighara