This month join Social Diary as we get to know the brains behind Nishat Linen. In an industry dominated by men, Naz Mansha is has broken many barriers and stereotypes.
- It’s a known fact that you belong to a successful industrial family. Was being a successful businesswoman something you always wanted and aspired for?
No, at least not consciously but perhaps the environment I grew up in was such that it sowed those seeds in me. I cannot say that it was my ambition, but it was something that just happened.
- How has your journey been so far? Please tell us a little bit about it.
It has been incredible because it has been continuously evolving. The fact that it started from nothing to what it is today, is very rewarding and satisfying.
- Nishat Linen is considered to be your brain child. Where did the idea come from?
Realistically speaking, an idea is not like a lightbulb going on in one’s head. I did not have a moment of ‘Eureka!’ like the Greek scholar, Archimedes. For me, certain events, circumstances, and the right timing dictated my path. Once my children were old enough, and keeping in mind that my husband was (and still is) a workaholic, I realized that if I continued to stay at home doing nothing, I was not too far from turning into a nagging wife. The last thing I wanted to do was have my husband come home late in the evening and get into arguments with him about neglecting me and not giving me enough time. Therefore, in order to retain my sanity, I knew I needed to find something meaningful outside my home and get involved in a role other than that of a mother and a wife.
I wanted to do something that required a big commitment, so that I would not be tempted to back out if one day I found myself feeling bored. That’s what really got me into this line of work.
- How did you actually start Nishat Linen then?
It all began in 1989 when a home furnishing stitching factory was set up for export purposes. In order for those products to meet the demand in the market for home furnishing, local outlets were set up all over Pakistan by the name of Nishat Linen. Initially, I was only involved in home furnishing. That part of the business is still ongoing; however, I have now shifted it out of my domain. That, indeed, was like a lightbulb going on in my head: it occurred to me that I had all the processes in place to weave a fabric, and the means and resources at my disposal to print it, so why not do something for the local market. This was a tricky situation because Nishat as a group had until then never been in the local market and that served as a huge motivation for me.
- You are a successful businesswoman, wife and mother. How do you balance these somewhat competing roles? Working women in Pakistan are often criticized for neglecting their household responsibilities. Do you agree that this is the case?
Absolutely not. All women multitask; men do not. That is one fact that people fail to highlight but we play a multitude of roles in our daily lives. Being organized is the key to successfully balancing one’s personal and professional life. If one is working, they automatically have time slots for everything.
On a Sunday, I feel that I do nothing the whole day because there is nothing much to do. On my weekdays, my days tend to be much more productive. Therefore, I believe that one can get more done by simply following a schedule.
- What is the key to Nishat Linen’s phenomenal success in Pakistan?
The key to success is again something that you cannot just tap into. Anyone who is doing anything, in any field, wishes to be successful. I believe success is a combination of a number of factors including luck, hard work, and a personal interest in, or a passion for, whatever it is that one is doing. However, there are no hard and fast rules that one can adhere to in their quest for success. Sometimes, even hard work does not pay off. In my opinion, luck plays a key role.
- Working women were a novelty when you started working. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience when you started out?
In 1989, when I started working at the factory, I was the only woman there and this entire area used to be in the middle of nowhere. But I made sure that I was never daunted by the prospect of being the sole working woman. From the moment I started, I made sure that I projected confidence in myself and my ability to become a successful professional working woman. My behavior with the all-male staff back then reflected this and I never had any issues. Me working was definitely a novelty for the male staff for a while; however, it quickly became normal for them. We now have a mixed staff working side by side at my factory and I make it a point to ensure that all the members of my staff, male or female, feel safe.
- What are some of your key responsibilities as the CEO for Nishat Linen? How involved are you in the designing aspect of the NL campaigns and collections?
More or less everything passes under my eye. I like to approve it. However, I do want everybody, especially the designers, to work independently. While I do ask them to show me their designs, I also give them the leeway to design freely. If there is something that I don’t like or would prefer changed, of course I tell them. So, they do have that space but I like to keep an eye on them.
- What makes Nishat Linen so different from other brands? How do you feel about NL’s latest campaign “For All Of You”, in particular?
Honestly, I love it because this is what my brand Nishat Linen is all about. It is not a couture brand; it is not an exclusive brand; it is an inclusive brand that is for you, for your mother, for your grandmother, etc. It is not age driven or age oriented whatsoever.
- In its latest campaign, NL has tried to focus on inclusiveness and all notions of beauty that defy Pakistani beauty norms. What are your thoughts about this campaign?
What I’d like to say is, get real because we are not all models. Look around at what’s happening in the West. They’re using a plethora of colored models and actors. Moreover, they are also promoting models, who have various skin diseases like vitiligo. It is important to realize that there are all kinds of different nations, people, shapes, sizes, faces, and that is the reality. Then why is it that we continue to want to live in a hazy dreamland. We like to follow in the footsteps of the West in terms of fashion, clothes, habits, etc., so why don’t we also adopt their attitudes towards these things?
These standardized Pakistani beauty norms are what this campaign was meant to defy. Everyone is beautiful in their own way and it is about time that we acknowledge that.
- Do you think that social media has exacerbated the situation and distorted the notion of ‘beauty’?
Yes, I’m not a big fan of social media. While it does have its advantages, its misuse is what really bothers me. It is really very sad. If we kept using it for the right reasons, it would have been great. I am very against it, be it Instagram, Facebook, etc. At least in Pakistan, it is used badly and negatively.
- The lawn market is expanding at an unbelievable pace. What strategy do you follow to ensure that your brand is on the cutting edge of things, leading and innovating, instead of following and reacting?
We do try to lead. All we can do is try, but what I can say with assurance is that no other brand is giving the quality fabric that Nishat Linen is giving primarily because we are completely integrated. Obviously it is not necessary that everyone likes everything and that will always be the case; however, regarding the quality of fabric, I think we have an edge on that.
- If you could give one piece of advice to someone, who is just starting out in the fashion world or the media industry, what would it be?
Any path that you are setting out on in life, make sure you love it. Let’s take the example of lawn. Do not do it because all the Joneses are doing it or because all of them have a boutique in their garage and you have nothing else to do. In today’s world, research has become convenient and easy. Try to do something a little different. I would really advise no more clothes in any form. Do not become one of the thousands of fish swimming in a pond. You should set out on a path that is slightly different. You could perhaps become consultants in this field because we do not have them here or start training women to stitch or embroider something. Don’t start a darzi khana please. That is done and dusted. My advice would be that, given family permission and all, everybody must work. Make good use of your time; it gives you so much satisfaction.