Qurat Ul Ain Ansari – Where Heritage and Design Collide
Qurat Ul Ain Ansari, Founder & Owner Chapter 13, the eldest child in her family and first girl from her family to go abroad to study, is a MSc International Business & Management from University of Manchester. Being born in a no son family, she wanted to do something that can be a help in expanding her family business in her very own way.
Having grown up in a family with a history of shoe business, it eventually became a passion for her. She wanted to take her family business to greater heights and wanted the work of local artisans and craftsmen to be recognized and be utilized appropriately since most people at that time bought bad quality, inexpensive shoes imported from China and Thailand. The best option for Qurat was to combine the knowledge and expertise gained from her father’s business with the creative outlook of local artisans. Thus, CHAPTER 13 was born. Qurat was soon joined in her venture by her sister Sadia, a graduate in Leather Accessories and Footwear.
CHAPTER 13 was named so due to several reasons. The brand was born in 2013, starting only as a Facebook page, and the Ansari cousins are 13 in number. The sisters also wanted to prove wrong the superstition that the number 13 is unlucky. CHAPTER 13 is absolutely not like any other local shoe store. The venture is basically about theme based, hand-made shoes and bags. Customers can choose to twiddle an already existing design, or they can choose an entirely new design based on their requirements. Several pieces of customized jewelry and frames are also occasionally a part of themed collections. Special care is taken in the design and comfort of CHAPTER 13’s shoes. Qurat believes her brand’s products to be a fused and unique representation of Pakistan and India’s culture, since handicraft is considered to be an expertise specially inherited by us from our forefathers.
“Becoming an Entrepreneur means there is no going back. Once you are into business, you have to do it by hook or crock. Unlike the job, here you are the Boss and is solely responsible to take the business through all the stages of struggle. I don’t take it as a set-back because I have actually started enjoying it. I know all the hard work I am putting in is for my own Business and will eventually going to benefit me and my country. Being the lady boss is actually fun.”
CHAPTER 13 is basically about theme-based shoes. This was another new concept introduced in the local shoes industry. Street Fashion is mostly flats therefore they started with shoes like: Sandals, Chappals, Loafers, Flats, Khussas, Kohatis, Peshwaris and Slip ons. They make bags with few collections and introduced Truck Art Jewelry boxes, jewelry and frames with their first ever theme.
“All are purely hand made. Take the example of our “Reviving Truck Art” theme. The Truck Art sticker work is complete done with hand requiring a lot attention and time. Later the art piece reaches the work shop where the pattern making, upper folding, bottom fixing and finishing is done with hand making it a piece of art.”
Local Fashion industry specifically clothes had been making strides in Pakistan for quite some time. Market facet is not exploited in Shoe industry. Shoe industry was neglected due to two main reasons: Saturation of low priced imported shoes and emphasis on bulk production. Customs made orders are made for clothes only. CHAPTER 13 grabbed the unaccounted market and manifested it through the expertise of local market.
In term of their selection of themes; the first ever was Reviving Truck Art. Other themes include World Military, Soothing Hues of Victorian Era, Celebrating 13 months of CHAPTER 13 in Saieen style(Movember), Truck Art Reloaded, Metallics and Nudes, Baroque and Ghulab Diaries.
“I focus on themes never been used in shoe industry to maintain the exclusivity. It gives me more margin to play with the theme, material, patterns and shoe styles.”
She believes that being a strong headed female born in a developing country like Pakistan was the biggest hurdle which she overcame the day she stepped in UK for her Post Graduate. Upon her return her financer was confused about investing in her business. Not that they were doubting her capabilities or intelligence, it was purely based on gender. She believes that she is luckiest to have the coolest and most supportive father. It is because of his trust that she managed to come this far.
“They say there is a woman behind every successful man, I would like to add to this by saying that there is strong and open minded man’s support behind a successful woman.”
CHAPTER 13 will turn 3 this December and they have come long way. Qurat has been proactive in learning and taking it to the next level. She was won numerous accolades and achievements including Best Entrepreneur Runner Up 2016 by BRITISH COUNCIL, Top 25 Lahore Start up Cup by TiE Islamabad and USA Embassy, Top 12 Lahore Start up Cup by TiE Islamabad and USA Embassy and recently passed the World Bank Women Entrepreneur Training held at GCU under the name of Women X. Currently she is working on Limited Edition for Chapter 13`s third years celebration.
Once a very close friend of her said: “Kia kar lo gi itna parh k, aakhir mein tou kitchen mein hi jana hai sab larkiyoon ki tarah”. It is something that still pinches her that how men of her society thinks and are not open to accept working woman or woman getting a higher degree than a B.A. Qurat doesn’t consider myself as an independent woman as she believes it is practically not possible in our society. The women are somehow directly or indirectly dependent on men.
“I am happy to have the opportunity to explore my dream, run my own business and have my father’s trust and family’s support throughout the journey.”