Women in Business: Shireena, House Of Sheens

"I am an optimistic, enjoy-every-minute-of-your-life kinda girl!"

Beautiful, smart and sexy as hell – we speak to Shireena Shroff Manchharam, the brains behind House of Sheens, a bag boutique based in Singapore focused on designing the most beautiful, timeless bags with a slight edge made predominantly of python skin.

A scroll through her IG feed and you’d be hard pressed to reconcile the fact that this poised and polished mum of two sources the skins and gets right in there, sitting with craftsmen to ensure the quality and workmanship of her bags. Shireena prides herself on offering outstanding style and quality to her customers – every House of Sheens bag is a labour of love.

Intrigued by this superwoman, we catch up with her recently to get better acquainted and we were not disappointed!

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Introduce us to your business?

I started my brand in 2012 with just a small idea of selling beautiful python skin bags to my family and friends. It started to grow, and we began designing with students from MDIS School of Fashion & Design, and now we currently work with Raffles College.

By 2015 we had a permanent showroom in Amoy Street, and our mission still remains to design small, limited edition collections, either in collaboration with another brand, or by ourselves to capture a meaning, a feeling and transforming that into design.

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How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

We visit Indonesia every other month or so, and through that process I became aware of the beautiful quality of python skins that were available in the market.

I have a love for handbags (doesn’t every woman? ;)) so I put the two together and starting selling from my house to friends and family. I even traveled to Milan to see the skins they had in Italy, but to be honest, the majority come from Indonesia anyways so working with my craftsman there was the simplest way for me to maintain control of my business.

What was your mission at the outset?

My mission was to always keep the bags and accessories simple. I wanted classic designs that were timeless, but had a slight edge or flair depending on the collection.

Because I work predominantly with python skin, I am aware of the ethics that arise with this, and do not have plans to mass produce. I do not want my business to grow in that way. We have moved into leather, and there are plans in the future to move in vegan leather.

Hence the mission is always small, limited piece collections with meaning and quality behind it.

What was your biggest challenge and what inspired you to carry on in spite of it?

One of my biggest challenges, in the initial stages of the business was trying to find the right craftsman to work with. I had to work with several craftsman and many times would be completely let down by the quality of the product.

That would cause tremendous amount of time sitting with these guys, on the floor of their workshops and seeing how they were making the bags. I don’t rely on a middle man, I work directly with these craftsman to build a relationship, and that took time and effort.

It is definitely a work in progress and I still at moments struggle with this, and feel like it might not be worth all the time and effort, but I always find another way to solve the issue and keep going.

I don’t believe in perfection, I see flaws and value them, in myself, in life and also in my business. This just keeps me working and finding things to constantly improve and work at.

When did you consider yourself a success?

Gosh, honestly I don’t think I am a success yet. I am a work in progress and will always be.

The moment I feel like I really am a success I might get bored and start something else! I guess the better question is when I felt a sense of achievement and that would be when students of MDIS School of fashion and Design won a competition to design a leather collection – we transformed four girls designs into reality, the leather was sourced from Milan and we unveiled the collection with a fashion show at the Scarlet Hotel rooftop.

It took such grit and effort, but it was so rewarding to see these students designs come to life, and I was proud to be able to do that for them. 

Working with young people is really a passion for me and I continue to want to give back by roping in these talented students to design and come up with ideas.

What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you’ve go to?

One of the secrets has to be that I envision what I want and I am also very organised. I believe in doing what you want today, right now, in the moment, and not push it off till tomorrow.

I have a to-do list every single day, and I make sure each thing is done by the end of the day. The other thing that I do is that I think/envision what I want very clearly, and then decide how to go about it.

Even when I started a business, I would envision what I would “look like” at work. What was I selling, how I was selling, who I was working with, and it sort of takes form in my mind. I even do this with new collections, or even how I want my house to look.

I find it very helpful to create a bigger picture and then I list out the steps and just tackle it one by one.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Don’t put off what you want for tomorrow. Life is short, and you don’t know what tomorrow has in store for you. Whatever you want to achieve can be done now, so don’t waste time and energy waiting for the “perfect moment”. 

That moment can be now if you make it happen.

How do you organise your time between work and family?

Again, because I am quite organised I manage my time well, and always make it a point to be home once my kids are home from school, and always eat dinner with them and put them to bed.

Once they are asleep its either my time to get back to some work, or time for myself. I also have a supportive husband, and help at home to watch my kids when I do get a little busy.

What keeps you awake at night?

My to-do lists!! I literally plan my days by the hour – it’s a little nuts. Only when I have a full on day does that sometime stress me out, but usually I sleep like a baby 😉

Tips to banish mum guilt?

No one should make you feel guilty, if you yourself feel it, try and make some changes, but if you feel empowered by being a CEO mom, or a stay at home mom then you will be the best mother to your children – and your children will look up to you no matter what.

So tell us about YOU.

I am an optimistic, enjoy-every-minute-of-your-life kinda girl! I really don’t get stressed out or upset very often. I am grateful every day for what I have and every night before sleeping my kids and I talk about three things we are each grateful for.

My favourite moment of the day is…

Getting into bed at the end of the day with an awesome book a face mask.

My one indulgence is …

I have a few… uni, oysters, and pepperoni pizza.

What book are you reading right now?

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK. I’m almost done – it’s become my bible!

What is your go to outfit?

Jeans, top, and a cape jacket.

5 things you can’t live without.

My family, sushi, sun and blue sky, sparkling water (silly I know) my SkinInc device.

How many kids do you have and how old are they now?

I have two kids, Lara is eight and Arian is five.

What’s the one thing you LOVE doing as a family?

We love, love, love traveling and eating and trying new food. We are a foodie-obsessed family and so are my little ones.

The best family vacation destination and why?

In terms of a destination I can’t pick just one, but it has to be when we are just the four of us together. We just spent the last week in the south of France and instead of partying in St Tropez, or strolling around Cannes, we confined ourselves to our villa, cooked all day, ate, swam and just hung out with each other.

It was heaven.

Our highlights were going to the butcher, bread and cheese shops, and cooking up a storm! I am so grateful that we can unwind from our busy Singapore lives by just doing mundane things like taking drives, going on walks, swimming and being with our kids.

House of Sheens is a luxury lifestyle bag brand founded in Singapore. Aside from our trademark python leather, empowering motifs, striking colours, and subtle elegance are other salient traits of our products. We keep our collections limited and exclusive, so our customers can be assured that what they have in their hands is unique and distinct.

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