Classic, comfy and practical, ballet flats are an essential for every wardrobe. While they will always be a classic, the typical Western ones can sometimes be a little bland when worn with traditional South Asian clothes. This is where Fatima Nadia comes in, with her store Needle Bee, which offers a wide selection of comfy, blinged out juttis for the shoe lovers. Needle Bee began as a small entrepreneurial venture around November, 2016 and Nadia has been the sole proprietor of the business. She sat down with Avenue T this month, to discuss the ins and outs of footwear manufacturing.
When asked about her motivation to become a footwear designer, Nadia informed, “I think it was deep-seated in me since I was young. Over the years, I had seen my mother wait in anticipation for the Dhaka International Trade Fair to buy her favourite piece of footwear – juttis. Back in the day, there weren't many options when it came to ethnic footwear for women in Bangladesh. So, we had to resort to buying what was available. Neither were the finishing of these shoes done well, nor were they comfortable.”
Since then, Nadia has always imagined introducing the type of footwear, which would cater to all the Bangladeshi women. Having been born and raised in a business family, entrepreneurship is something that comes very naturally for Nadia. Her mother's love for juttis and the realization that our country was still behind on the footwear sector drove Nadia to start her own venture.
“I wouldn't say it was easy when I first started off. Setting off in a world of entrepreneurship and investing all my savings, solely based on my passion, did not sit well with my family. The concept of entrepreneurship was quite a challenge, especially because I am also pursuing to be a lawyer. I imagine the thought of your child lingering from her education, to begin chasing a dream, which has no substantial base, must be scary for all parents. Fortunately in the age of women empowerment the whole situation had been less intense. And so, I commenced Needle Bee as a pilot project,” said Nadia, while discussing her journey and the obstacles she had to overcome in order to start her own venture.
The beginning was a little bumpy as opening a production unit required considerable time. Nadia decided to outsource from neighbouring Asian countries instead. Building the credence with shoe manufacturers had been a drawn-out process, but once they became attuned, Nadia’s dreams began to take shape. “I'll admit that I was weeping for joy when I saw my designs materialize when I received the first shipment of the juttis. It was moving to see the response of the consumers to my first collection and share the same love I possessed for the footwear,” she conceded.
Within a short period of time, Nadia gained people’s love and her family’s trust. The success of the first collection not only helped fund her following endeavours, but also gave her a much needed confidence.
Talking about the most important factors to keep in mind while designing juttis, Nadia went on to say, “To begin with, I like to determine the upcoming trends when designing each of the collections. Once I have that set, I explore shops and buy fabrics, trims and materials in small quantities, whenever I travel. This eliminates any compromise with the quality of my shoes. While travelling, I also get to see different patterns and motifs, which allows me to visualize how I want my designs to turn out. I also keep in mind the factor of my culture within my juttis. I draw inspiration from contemporary, western designs but also incorporate a desi vibe to it.”
For Nadia, it has never been about keeping high profit margins. “I've always wanted to be able to grow the love for juttis among the mass through the quality and affordability of my line,” she says.
Needle Bee is quite focused on blending ethnicity with glamour so that every woman out there can wear a little bit of her culture even when she is rocking a western outfit. The primary concern when it came to juttis was that they leave your feet in agony, but Nadia has always resolute about not compromising with the comfort of her clients. Their juttis are made of pure leather and have double padded soles so that even when one’s feeling low, they can give you a little boost. That’s exactly how Needle Bee connected to its audience, because all the juttis here are handcrafted with sheer love!
We asked Nadia about people’s response to the juttis that she designs, in the age of heels and stilettos, and the young entrepreneur replied, “I was overwhelmed by the response for juttis in Bangladesh. Heels and stilettos may give women a boost in height, but the way I saw my clients carry the juttis spoke volumes for how far our nation had come in terms of fashion. It was humbling to see how eagerly Bangladeshi women wanted to connect to their roots and wear something that is modern and represented their culture at the same time.”
With Eid-ul-Fitr right around the corner, Needle Bee came up with a bunch of trendy designs for all the jutti lovers out there.
Summer arrived earlier than we all anticipated this year and Nadia realized how sore and irritated one's feet would get from the scorching heat. Keeping in mind the comfort of their beloved clients, Needle Bee introduced a new line of shoes to make their lazy summer days better.
Their newest addition, the Kolhapuri-styled summer sandals are a perfect blend of comfort and style. A pair of these sassy and lightweight sandals will not only spruce up one’s summer outfits, but will also leave blister-free feet at the end of a long day.
“The response to our first few designs had been absolutely fantastic. Right after Eid, we're planning on dropping more designs with more colour variations,” informed Nadia. While footwear is what got the ball rolling for Needle Bee, they have bigger projects underway. So keep your eyes peeled for what's about to come!
To check out Needle Bee’s latest collection, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/needlebeee/.