If you are active on social media, you’ve probably noticed a surge of A-list celebrities rocking new styles of jaw-dropping furs and jackets from the celebrity coat boutique, Daniels Leather in New York City. The owner, Nadeem Waheed, has groomed the hottest brand on the market boasting the most unique creations. Nas, Tekashi 6ix9ine, Cardi B, DJ Khaled, Diddy, Fabolous and countless others rely on the ‘King of Orchard Street’ to create custom items on call.
The Source sat down with the infamous Nadeem to discuss business acumen, social media strategy—and giving back to the community. While he enjoys whipping up a last minute collection of furs for the likes of Diddy and his sons the self-proclaimed hip-hop head really enjoy’s building friendships with his everyday consumers and the joy he feels from giving back to the community.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got started in the retail business?
I originally came here from Pakistan. I came here to get my degree in civil engineering and I came here to get my Masters. I got my Masters in Environmental Engineering and probably just ran into this thing by chance more than anything else. In Pakistan there’s a lot of good lead leather companies some of them were my friends and they said let me send you some of my jackets, let’s see what you can do. I was working on a $62 million project at that time. I had a lot of construction workers and I brought like 100 jackets and sold them on the site in three days in Camden, NJ of all the places. We were working on a water treatment plant there that’s where we sold them.
What made you leave the engineering world behind and begin to build your retail empire full-time?
You can say that business was in my blood because my dad was a businessman— he’s now retired. I use to run his stores even while I was studying, so I have that basic acumen even though it was a different field, once you learn how to run one business you can apply that same thing to all the other businesses.
How did you build relationships with so many celebrities in the entertainment business?
I’ve always had celebrities come into the store, it wasn’t through a reference or something, Orchard street is famous for leather, so even when we were just doing regular business, even at that time I remember, Neyo, Luke Longley…Bernard Hopkins was a regular he would come every year, whenever he would win a big fight, he would come and spend money. There were a lot of other people that would come too but they were never a part of our social media strategy. So we would have their picture near our counter. Then Mr. Footwork, he was chasing me for awhile and he wanted to expose the brand and I would tell him no I’m not interested, but he was relentless so I finally gave in and decided to go that route and from there it began.
Can you tell us a little about the recent giveaways you’ve been doing with the community?
Yes this is my own personal thing. I feel that wherever Daniels Leathers is at this point, it is all because of this community. They are primarily our customers, our merchandise is geared towards the hip-hop community and I’ve always wanted to give back, I’ve been doing this, but not on this large-scale. So now because we are growing, any opportunity I have, I find any excuse to do it. Now I’ve just started 10 jackets every day that I’m going to do now until Christmas. It’s just so much fun, this is the time of giving, this year we are almost approaching about 1000 jackets so I’m hoping next year I can do 1500 jackets.
Tell us about your recent collaboration with Cardi B and how they came about?
Yes we gave away about 400 to 500 jackets with Cardi B alone, there’s no greater joy than giving. Remember when Hurricane Sandy came? At that time one of my friends suggested maybe we should do something, she asked me do you have any coats? A lot of times we have situations where the style changes, they may not be the same compared to what’s happening now, so I had about a 150 jackets but I was embarrassed to take them with me, so we put them in the car and set up a table. In five minutes they were all gone. Then I realized, what I may have thought was outdated ,to others it was something special. Whatever we carry is quality. The style can change but our coats are still relevant because the skins are good. So I came back and I made one more trip. That’s how I got the taste of giving.
What would you like to see as a result of giving away to various communities?
I think when you do something good it’s kind of contagious. It makes other people want to get involved. Even though sometimes I’m uncomfortable when I mention that I’m doing this, even if I could have 5% of the people reading the posts, I encouraged them to get into the spirit. When I’m doing what I’m doing than I can preach it at the same time. So even though I’m not always happy to mention it, I figure I could have someone else want to do the same thing and join me. It’s not always about giving money or jackets, you can volunteer work, you can volunteer your hours, you can do anything. Is not just about money because if I didn’t have money I would probably volunteer to clean the street somewhere or whatever is needed. The charity comes in every form, it’s not just about who has money can do it, that’s not true.
Your name is everywhere were you surprised at how rapidly your following grew on Instagram?
I’m amazed at how it happens but it happens. I still don’t know how it happens because we have no advertising or anything. It’s pure grassroots and word-of-mouth. Whoever comes here it doesn’t matter who it is they just fall in love with it. They think of it as their store and they are the ones that bring more people in. Literally I see people fighting I knew him before you did, (laughs) I recently did a giveaway with Lala Anthony, “Lala’s Wonderland”, we do that every year.
What separates Daniels Leather from their competitors?
I think it’s a combination of two things, the store represents the owners feelings more than anything else, whoever comes here is mine for the next 30 years. Him, his daughter, his son….The experience is such an amazing experience. They are so comfortable when they come and the way that they’re treated. So that’s first, customer service and of course our forward thinking in terms of designs and experimenting.
What advice would you give a new business owner?
Whatever little gesture you can do, especially for our community, there are so many people that are in need, whatever we can do for them do it, it can start with just one and you will be blessed in so many ways.
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