What Brought Her Fame

A North Texas alumni & designer shares her success story

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Shirin Askari is a Fashion Designer and UNT alum with a passion like none other. She started designing from a very young age, and has since been a contestant on Project Runway. More recently, she began her own collection called “ASKARI.” Her collections are sold online and in over 175 boutiques, and focus on designing for women of all body types at an affordable price.

What path led you to become the successful designer you are now?

When I was about to graduate from UNT, I had broken my knee, so I had to spend my last few months of college on crutches. By the end of the year, I had wanted to go to Italy, but I had to cancel my trip because of my injury, so I ended up just at home searching online for jobs. One of my professors actually e-mailed me about auditions for Project Runway. I hadn’t planned on auditioning, but I really had nothing better to do. I turned in a video, and got on the show a few months after graduation! After that, I decided to move to New York for a while to “strike while the iron was hot”, and learn everything I didn’t learn in school. I went back to Dallas to launch my first collection, and that’s really how it all started. After doing a higher-end line for about five years, I decided to do what I really wanted, which was to make women’s clothing at a better price point.

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Resort 2016 Show at the Indigo Angency Showroom

Was there ever a time you doubted working in the fashion industry?

Of course! Anyone who has been in the fashion industry knows that it can be brutal and defeating. You have to work so hard. It’s 2% glamorous and 98% hard work, and it’s a really hard business because it’s so subjective. You have to grow a very thick skin. You need to really love it, or else you’ll just be miserable.

What are some ways you find inspiration for new collections?

It really depends on the season. A lot of times I’m inspired by art, and architecture. I go to museums and take inspiration for my prints. I like my prints to be abstract, and like paintings – what you’re wearing is a piece of art.

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Askari in the studio with her team planning next season’s launch

How would you describe your target consumer?

Women that are the ages between 25 and 45 is usually our target customer, but it is a very broad range of customers because I have such a broad range of styles that fit many body shapes. There are pieces that work for an 18 year old, and pieces that work for a 60 year old. It makes a contemporary statement at a more moderate price point.

What type of traits do you think a person must have to be successful in the fashion industry?

You would need to be an extremely hard worker who goes above and beyond what you’re asked to do, because you have to be open and willing to learn all the aspects of the industry.

What advice would you give to a UNT student who hasn’t found success in the fashion industry yet, but wants to?

Don’t be afraid to learn all the aspects of the industry. Explore the industry and be willing to work hard to learn everything you can. Maybe you’ll fall in love with something else! Maybe you’ll find your place in a different part of the industry that you never thought you wanted to do. You’ll never know until you try. Most people when they graduate from school want to go from A-Z, but it doesn’t work that way. Just enjoy the journey and learn as much as you can!

What would you say was the turning point for your career?

When I was finally able to launch the line I’m doing now it was a really proud moment for me because I had spent so much time wanting to do it, and everything is made locally, and at the price-point I wanted. It was a huge step for me, but all the little successes that got me there almost mean more because they are what made me the person I am today.

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Pictured (from Right to Left): Shirin, Her Business partner, David, and Davids wife who is a breast cancer surviror. In October, Askari donated a percentage of all her orders to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The Indigo Agency showroom held a “Pink Party” to help bring awareness and fundraise even more for the cause.

 

How do you hope to move forward with “Askari”?

Our goal for this next year is to expand our number of accounts. We just got a rep in Atlanta, so we’re broadening to that territory, and we now also have a rep in L.A. It’s exciting because we sell so differently in different regions.

Shirin Askari and the “ASKARI” collection are expanding rapidly to more regions and consumers, and rightfully so. It was an honor to be able to talk with her more in depth about the success she’s had in the fashion industry, and about her beautiful collections. It will be exciting to see what her future brings, and watch her journey unfold as she continues to make UNT proud!

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See Shirin Askari’s collection at askaricollection.com. And follow her on social media @askaricollection.

Words by Reilly Farris

Edit by Carolina Gonzalez and Taylar Gomez

Photos from Shirin Askari

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10 Questions with Subrina

From Intern to Full-time this Alum took NYC by Storm

Every month NuView will be asking a UNT alum 10 questions about what its like living and working in the “real world.” As the starter of NuView we thought it would be appropriate to have is Subrina Hossain as our first alum!

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First day of Subrina’s Ross internship, now turning into a full-time job

UNT Fashion Merchandising Alum,  Former Merchandising Inc. President  of ‘14-’15, AND founder of NuView, Subrina Hossain answered the top 10 questions our writers had about her working at Ross as a Junior Accessories buyer and moving to New York City.

  1. Is being a buyer for handbags completely different from apparel, or are the trends and research generally the same? In other words, how easy is it to expand from buying in apparel to doing something like accessories or cosmetics?

You’ll find that most retailers will move buyers from area to area, so that they can be versatile and adaptable because a good buyer can buy anything. The necessary skill set to be a buyer is the same regardless of what area you buy, you just have to learn the ins and outs of another business using those same skills. I interned in the juniors dresses department but now I’m in junior handbags. I had to learn an entirely new business, what the vendors are like, what my price points are, what kinds of trends my customer likes, but I still use the same negotiation and relationship building skills and I still go competitive shopping and study my customer.

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Posing with Girl Boss, Sophia Amaruso at the Nasty Galaxy Book signing

  1. When starting with a new company, whether it be an internship or a new job position, what is the biggest challenge you have to overcome, and what tactics do you have for becoming comfortable in a new professional setting?

My biggest challenge has always been self-doubt. There was always a little voice in my head that tried to convince me that I’d fail, maybe I wouldn’t fit in with the company culture, maybe I wouldn’t understand the job, maybe my coworkers wouldn’t like me, maybe maybe maybe. Maybe take all of that negative energy and use it as motivation to prove your own self wrong. I recently went to Sophia Amaruso’s Nasty Galaxy book signing. If you don’t know, she’s the founder of NastyGal and author of a book I’m sure we all have on our night stands, Girl Boss. An audience member asked Sophia how she overcomes self doubt and with a little laugh she said “you don’t, you manage it. Remind yourself why you’re worth it.”

  1. What classes or experiences from UNT have helped most in your current role at Ross?

It wasn’t until the retail math class that I actually became a fan of math.  Buyers use retail math on a daily basis in the office and during appointments with vendors. We also design a lot of our own handbags so the product development class comes in handy. Experience wise, Merchandising Inc. (if I haven’t said it enough) really helped prepare me for my role because I enhanced my soft skills such as networking, leadership skills, and time management, amongst others.

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Subrina with  Ross accessories team

  1. What advice do you have for someone looking to become a buyer? How should they prepare?

Don’t just do the one internship you have to for your degree; take part in as many internships and job shadowings that you can because you will learn something new in all of them and add to your tool-box of skills. Having any sort of sales and customer service experience is also important. A lot of people overlook sales floor experience but having in-store experience helps you put the pieces together better when you get to the corporate side. I interned in stores for Marshalls and Ross; without those experiences I wouldn’t have gotten such a good understanding of the off-price customer. Take on roles and projects that challenge you, if you are comfortable you’re not growing.

5. What are your least and most favorite aspects of your job? One of the best things about buying is that one day is not the same as the next and this keeps things exciting and new. The spontaneity of the job and likely possibility that your outlook calendar will change at least five times in the day keeps you on your toes and forces you to be adaptable. I also love that buying is a combination of fashion and business. It’s the best of both worlds. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there’s not one thing I don’t like about it. Some days are tougher than others, maybe something didn’t go my way or I didn’t get a deal I wanted but the good thing is there’s always tomorrow.

  1. For someone looking to move to NYC, what can be expected? Do you have any advice on how to ease the transition of acclimating to life in New York?

I experienced a lot of change in my life all at the same time; I interned as an ASM (assistant store manager) at Ross that summer, officially graduated ten weeks later, then packed my bags and moved to New York two weeks after that, and started my job two days after I moved. I expected everything to quickly fall into place at the same time. I learned the difficult way that life doesn’t work like that. New York City is known to be exciting and fun, but it’s also overwhelming and scary. The most important and helpful thing you can do is give yourself time to adjust. Once you’re here, you’re in for life. I had very high expectations of myself and what my life would be like, but Friends is just a scripted tv show and unplanned adventure is so much more thrilling. Living in New York is like buying, in the sense that not one day is like another and life is always spontaneous and exciting. Embrace this chaos with open arms.

  1. What is something that you learned from being in Merchandising Inc that still helps you today?

Merchandising Inc. helped me get out of my introverted shell and turned me into a people person.  In this industry, you have to be outgoing and charismatic. Building and maintaining relationships is one of the most important aspects of this job. I have to know how to schmooze with vendors and keep positive relationships with them, because ultimately that will help me get the deals and goods I want, while also keeping the vendors happy because it should be a mutually beneficial partnership.

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Subrina’s desk through the lens of snapchat

  1. Name something that you always keep on your desk at work?

A baby succulent and pictures of my family and friends.  

  1. If you had to go to do everything all over again, what would you do differently?

I wish I had spent less time being anxious and more time enjoying the time I was in.

  1. In your experience, what are some attributes of individuals who are most successful?

Employers want passionate people and they can read whether or not you have passion or simply interest in the first five minutes of an interview. If you’re just interested in this industry, it’s not enough; you wouldn’t spend your life with someone you’re only interested in, but someone you are passionate about. That’s how you should feel about your career. Passion fuels your fire because you wake up every morning looking forward to your job. You spend years of your life fighting to land your dream job but just because you have it doesn’t mean you should stop fighting for your career; never lose that fire.

Words by Subrina Hussain and NV Career Editors & Writers

Edit by Maia Wilson

Photos from Subrina Hussain