Sabeti Wain Aerospace has its roots in Tehran in the 1960s, with its founders Parviz and Mehrangiz Sabeti. After the Iranian revolution in 1979 and the new Ayatollahs regime Parviz, formerly of the Iranian Airforce, and Mehrangiz, who ran an independent school for young and teenage girls, decided that the only way forward was to start their own business in Tehran. This was in the form of a company specialising in the manufacture of Ladies and Children's clothes, and accessories such as soft furnishings and baby clothes.
Persecuted by the Ayatollah for their Bahá’í Faith, their factory was forced to close after only 2 years, further persecution was to follow as Parviz and Mehrangiz were accused of running a cell of Bahá’í activists plotting against the regime. Their factory was ransacked, their sewing machines were confiscated,all their money was taken, their house keys were taken and the house was sealed to prevent them from living there. With no money and nowhere to live they were forced to take refuge where they could, knowing that those that helped them were putting themselves in danger. Not only had they lost everything but they came under increased scrutiny by the revolutionary guard, meaning they could not communicate with anyone outside Iran or with their children in the UK, their mail was being intercepted and their phones were tapped.
In the summer of 1982, Parvis and Mehrangiz had been given a date for their court hearing and fearing being send to prison or execution went into hiding for 2 months, staying with a man who was responsible for helping many members of the Bahá’í Faith to leave the country and seek refuge. Backed by the money still owed to them by customers Parviz and Mehrangiz made plans to leave the country and find freedom in Pakistan.
After catching a bus to Zahedan and a long motorcycle journey they crossed the Pakistan boarder, spending their first night of freedom in a tent similar to those used by local tribesmen. Their onward travel took them to Karachi, where they were able to call their children Paymen and Mahnoush, who were studying in the UK, to let them know they had fled Iran and the escaped the Ayatollahs regime.
Parviz and Mehrangiz stayed in Karachi for six months. At the time it was home to thousands of refugees with poor living conditions,considerable overcrowding and serious health risks. While in Karachi, Parviz and Mehrangiz helped to provide food for many refugees who had left Iran. Many of those were were young people on their own who were singled out and refused access to education due to their religious beliefs. Many fled Iran to avoid conscription into the armed forces to go to war against Iraq. The persecution was highlighted in the entire national Bahá’í council being executed, the second council elected met the same fate, family members were told if they wanted the bodies to be released for burial they would need to pay for the bullets that killed them.
Having left Iran, Parvis and Mehrangiz's priority now was to try and get to the UK to be with their children. After their first attempt was unsuccessful due to refugee quotas, their daughter Mahnoush wrote to her local MP, Ray Whitney,appealing for help in their bid to get the immigration authorised to allow her parents to stay in the UK.
Parvis and Mehrangiz were given permission to settle in the UK in 1982, and later that year the British Embassy supplied them with the travel documents they needed to catch a plane to London.
Sabeti in the UK
In 1983 Parviz and Mehrangiz, along with Paymen and Mahnoush founded their new company P&M Sabeti Ltd, operating out of a small 300sq ft rented unit in Grafton Street, High Wycombe, with 5 sewing machines. All four family members worked hard, putting in long hours supported by their first 5 employees to produce children's clothes, much as they had done in Iran.
The move into aircraft seating came through a fascinating series of chance encounters and business connections. Mahnoush met Nick Wain at Wycombe College and later married him in 1983. He studied a BA in furniture design at Leeds University, and came to Wycombe to complete an MA, as it was only one of two colleges in the country offering the course. Nick was a keen canoeist, winning the British National Slalom title four times between 1975 & 1979, and was a member of the three-man British team that won the world championship in 1981. This activity involved lots of traveling by plane, coach or minibus, so comfortable travel became an issue. His experience taught him that there was a considerable room for improvement in seating design, and inspired by his discomfort, Nick chose this subject for his college project. At the center of his project was a revolutionary design for coach seating that was not only more compact and used less foam, but was considerably lighter and was molded for better comfort. This design was later adopted by airlines and became known as the space generator seat.
Nick was offered a job with Flight Equipment and Engineering Ltd ( FEEL) after the director saw his project at the end of term exhibition at the Wycombe College. FEEL was a prominent supplier of seats to airlines with considerable influence on the industry, with their own in house seat cover manufacturing facility, they also outsources work to two other companies. Nick approached the head of the upholstery department and suggested that P&M Sabeti Ltd should be given a trial due to their high quality workmanship, dedication to customer service and meeting production deadlines. P&M Sabeti Ltd produced a sample for FEEL, the workmanship was so incredible they did not know what was the sample and what has been supplied by FEEL.
Within a short space of time P&M Sabeti Ltd was producing all the seat covers for FEEL, one of the critical factors of the company winning this contract was new government legislation enforcing stricter standards on flammability could be met reliably, where as the existing suppliers couldn't be relied upon to do so consistently. The relationship between FEEL and P&M Sabeti Ltd ceased 10 years later with FEEL being taken over by BE Aerospace in 1993 and all seat cover manufacture was moved to Northern Ireland and the USA.
The loss of their single main customer meant that for the first time the company had to promote itself and actively seek work building up a client base from scratch. Luckily they had already made valuable business contacts including airlines and seating suppliers that had been customers for FEEL.
Nick wain joined the board in 1993, and P&M Sabeti Ltd was re branded Sabeti Aerospace. With an already established reputation as a proven quality manufacturer,the company could now capitalise on Nicks design expertise and work with its customers to meet evolving demands. The enhanced expertise has delivered new design solutions across a broad customer base, including work for airline operators direct as well as other seat vendors.
The Company Today
Today Sabeti Wain Aerospace has over 350 staff, including cutters and machinists, design development, quality control and administration. The payroll includes 2 of the 5 employees who joined the company when it was set up in 1983, although now only working part time.
Parvis and Mehrangiz retired in 2007, but remain on the board of directors and continue to act in an advisory role.
Sabeti Wain Aerospace has opened facility's in two continents, serving Airlines, Seat Vendors and Manufacturers across the world. They have become renowned for their innovative and bespoke laminated dress covers, working together with operators towards a more integrated design solution that will make their interiors really stand out, giving them a head start in attracting passenger business.
Family values have always played an important part in how Sabeti Wain operates, and now the third generation is getting involved in the ongoing growth and development of the company. Sama, Max and Adib have all been involved in the company from a very young age, Sama now being involved in the development process and managing the Leighton Buzzard branch.
The work force at Sabeti Wain Aerospace's Head Office in High Wycombe is very ethically diverse with members of staff originating from Pakistan, India, Poland, China, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Venezuela, Iran, Zimbabwe and Vietnam. A wide variety of faiths, nationalities and backgrounds all of whom work together and learn from each other have created a strong Sabeti Wain team, this is gratifying for the directors to see especially when set against aspects of their family history.
Sabeti Wain Aerospace has not only found success in the face of adversity, but diversified and expanded to become a leading manufacturer in its industry sector.