Najat Alkandari is a Kuwaiti, wife, mother of four, has almost 30 years under her belt in a banking career, a sports enthusiast and a now, also a fashion entrepreneur. Is there anything she doesn’t do?
Like many women with a deep passion for all things fashion, she set out to launch her very own luxury shoe label, NJ Symphony – which currently boasts four designs, inspired by four strong, female personalities.
Inspired by women that she already knows, Najat started her own shoe label in pursuit of heels that were stylish, functional and comfortable. With just four designs in her debut collection, Alkandari paves the way as an inspiration to Arab women, proving that they really can have it all! AboutHer.com caught up with the shoe designer herself to find out where it all began…
Tell us a little about the brand NJ Symphony, where did it all start for you?
I own a large closet full of shoes, and over the years have become known for my beautiful collection. Every single shoe is special to me and holds a treasured memory. I organize them properly; I love each pair deeply. Through this love, I have developed a deep interest in design and thought about how each shoe could be enhanced. This is something that speared me onto start my own line of luxury footwear.
What inspired you to start your own line of shoes?
I waited for the right moment to start. I’m an artist, I love art, I love drawing, I love analyzing people and their personalities. Every time I design, I do a lot of research on the latest trends and styles. I find styles that don’t match our taste and I turn them into something that fits. I wear heels because I love heels, no matter what the brand is - but after wearing a pair for couple of hours, the pain starts, and this is what drove me to challenge myself to create something that is comfortable. I did research at the best schools in Italy. I found the Arsutoria School in Milan that specializes in teaching how to design shoes and bags. Although I felt it could be too much for me being a mother with full time job, I realized that is never too late to pursue your passion. My family and friends encouraged me as they could see my passion. I studied and graduated as a footwear designer and then began designing my first collection.
Tell us a little about your debut collection…
The collection currently consists of just four signature designs. My first collection’s consists of four black heels; I also call it the black edition, as I love this rich color. Each design represented a woman that I knew in my life. I wanted to translate each of their personalities with a design:
The first design is named DANA. She’s the rich luxury woman who wears heels, and sits with her chin high up.
BIBI: she’s the confident lady who walks in heels and knows people are watching.
WARDA: she’s a Kuwaiti artist who paints in white and black.
EMME: a classy woman who wants who is restrained and wants to be free and see the world because her life “knocked her down”.
How would you describe the NJ Symphony woman?
She is a woman of confidence. I am inspired by her femininity, her posture, her self-assurance and how she faces life. She’s a work of art.
What is it about shoe design and the idea of always having the perfect shoe, you love the most?
I love how a pair of shoes can transform your mood and give you a newfound confidence.
Female empowerment is something NJ Symphony holds dear, how do you, as an Arab female entrepreneur, use your brand and position to empower other women?
At NJ Symphony, we believe in empowering women one step at a time. Our designs aim to support strong, independent women by giving them the confidence to walk into their most important occasions with comfort and unique style.
What challenges would you say you face as a business woman in this region, and how do you overcome them?
My country encourages women as much as they encourage men. Women have the space to follow their dreams and passion, as long they are determined enough. I’m a banker but also have passion of a different kind. When the time was right, my family and friends encouraged me – not even my work stood in my way to accomplish my dream. I organized my time and planned the future. I managed to create a balance between my job and my personal passion. I encouraged myself to not make excuses but to stay motivated and accomplish my dream. My advice would be to have a clear mission and put together a well thought out plan. Every woman has the power to succeed, if you love something and work hard, you’ll accomplish it.
Who have been the women in your life that have inspired you?
I’ve been inspired by many women in my life and some of whom have become my muse for my designs.
Whats next for NJ Symphony?
I’m working on an artistic piece that talks about the “swan girl”; she’s extremely elegant in her walk, smile and look. She’s very delicate. The final name will be chosen soon. It consists of one heel design, which is glittery, and another flat piece that incorporates feathers.