For Nina, curation is innate—something that runs in her blood. It’s also entwined with how she buys—a key aspect of her business. “I would say that 85 percent of my choices are not connected to my business plan,” she says resolutely. “I’ve never bought anything just because I thought it would be easy to sell.” At Nilufar, it’s not so much that budgets are thrown out the window, it’s more that they never existed to begin with. Nina’s business strategy—based on gut feeling—yielded her little profit for a long time. But, she explains, as she smokes a cigarette and seats herself back on the Parisi couch, “I want people to follow me. I don’t want to follow them.”
Nina was born in Tehran in 1957. Her family migrated from Iran to Milan, where her father set up a business selling Persian carpets. This heritage explains a lot about her mentality, she says. “I feel there’s something genetic that allows me to make decisions. Sometimes, I’m not really conscious of what I’m doing. If I were, I wouldn’t take so many risks,” she confesses wryly. Nina started her career by displaying and, yes, curating some of the carpets from her father’s stock. “My father always asked me: ‘Why do you pick these strange, ugly things that very few people buy?’” When asked if perhaps her father unintentionally taught her what not to do, she laughs voraciously and agrees. Her reflex, she explains, is to follow her passion.
Nina now provides furniture for Miuccia Prada (an old friend) and a whole raft of Milan and Europe’s more moneyed clients. “If I hadn’t focused on an elite market, I would have been bankrupt,” she says with conviction. “My philosophy has always been to buy for only a few people.” Nina’s approach to business is based almost entirely on her own taste, which, luckily for her, presaged a global appreciation for classic contemporary design. What might appear to be a vague attitude to matters of business, a quintessentially artistic trait perhaps, in fact hides a lucid, singular approach that identifies Yashar as a true entrepreneur. “I think the aim of the dealer should be to show the client new things,” she says with a smile, finally conceding to her profession.
This story appeared in The Kinfolk Entrepreneur in 2017.