How One Jewelry Brand is Determined to Bring the Jewels of our Motherland Across North America

Amy Devan

The following post is brought to you by — a jewelry brand based in Canada customizing accessories for your special day and beyond. Founded by Malinda and her high school sweetheart-turned-husband Hardip Chohan, Malinda guides the creative direction of Banglez with her discerning eye for design, while Hardip’s attention to craftsmanship and service ensures every customer finds their perfect pieces.

Jewelry unifies us from generation to generation, across continental borders and has the power to make us feel confident and beautiful all at once. More so, one’s identity is directly tied jewelry — especially South Asian jewels — where each stone tells stories passed down from great grandmothers to mothers to daughters and every sparkle speaks true to its value and love for our culture and heritage.


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From handpicking little treasures in the narrow streets of our motherland to ordering jewels online hoping they ship safely to international borders, we partnered with Canadian-based jewelry company to highlight a homegrown brand that has ties to our motherland but handcrafts its pieces on their home turf. We collaborated with a few bloggers to showcase Banglez jewelry shine through with their personal styles and hyphenated identities.

Amy Devan, style curator and fashion designer

What makes you a desi-American?

Like many, I am one of only a few first generation American-born Indians in my family — I can count all of us on one hand. And though at times I would feel an internal cultural tug-of-war as a child, I was always proud of this dual identity and never felt I needed to quiet any part of ME.

I’m so grateful to my parents for instilling that sense of pride in me. I remember my mom telling me as a young girl to exude confidence when someone asked, ‘so what are you?’ She would tell me that through a strong, confident answer, an infectious passion for being both American and desi was bound to shine through. And she was right.

At what age did you understand your hyphenated identity was your strength, not your weakness?

I always saw it as a strength and celebrated both sides of this dual identity with pride, but what I struggled with as a child was more about where I ‘fit’ between these two parts of me that made me whole. How could I be equally Indian with a very American name like Amy that wasn’t short for something “Punjabi-sounding?” How could I be equally American when my parents would put up Christmas lights outside of our house every Diwali? I loved my hyphenated identity, truly loved it — but I wondered how I’d keep up both sides equally.

It wasn’t until I went to college at Drexel, a university with more desis and more hyphenated identities like me than I had ever known, where I realized I could absolutely be both American and Indian and feel like I ‘fit’ within both realms. Perhaps it was the idea of finally being around others just like myself that helped me to understand I have the power to make society and the world around me get to know both my desi side and my American side. So really, I never had to ‘fit’ in one bucket or the other – rather I have the power to make the world fit me! 

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How does your hyphenated identity translate into your everyday life?

This hyphenated identity has a strong, but a subtle imprint on my everyday life. Though my lifestyle is ‘American,’ I suppose, my subconscious and my heart always reminds me I’m desi. I begin my day with a pooja, never let my feet touch anything educational, love eating achar with everything (even non-Indian food), and greet every desi uncle or aunty with namaste. Those little reminders bring me such happiness.

Tell us about the look you chose to do for this campaign. What makes it unique to your personal style, background, and identity?

As a designer and creative myself, my brand and personal aesthetic aim to blur the lines between east and west in a subtle but fluid way, as if one is becoming the other. I love the juxtaposition of classic, sophisticated clean lines of western design with the warm, Earth-tones and intriguing elegance of our rich South Asian culture. That wonderful mix is what defines me, my style, my identity.

I chose to use poetry and the words on a page as part of this campaign. The written (or spoken) word, regardless of language, is universal. It has this ability to make one dream, imagine, and feel a multitude of emotions. To me, that’s incredibly unifying and seamlessly ties my two worlds together.

Lisha Rajput, student and content creator

Lisha Rajput

What makes you a desi-American?

Experience. I am a product of my experiences and the journey of self-identity. Although I was born in India, I cannot identify as being 100 percent desi, my upbringing simply will not allow me. I have spent two months in India, 11 years in Bermuda and 10 years in America. I have indulged my journey of self-understanding in two different enclaves that reward me with diverse cultural, societal and individualistic experiences, influencing me, defining me, making my identity, not uniform but a mosaic of two cultures. This has not always been as picturesque as it may sound on the surface.

Being Indian and American became an identity tug-of-war in which one just HAD to be secondary. Americanization was simply associated with a lack of belonging and I, a part of the second-generation youth, felt culturally inadequate and incomplete. This created a polarizing effect in my own identity. I have always had respect for both dichotomies between American and Indian culture but struggling to balance values and traditions taught at home and other practices that are more conducive to American culture became emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting. Being Indian soon enough became a performance, a performance in which I felt ignorant, culturally powerless with no room to cultivate new traditions that reflect my self-understanding of my self-made identity.

Being American made me apprehensive to outwardly project my Indian culture and heritage. It often happens that American desis are too desi for Americans and too American for desis. But when I stopped sacrificing and confining my individuality in this notion of single-identity and allowed myself to be a product of my own narrative and experience, having a dual-identity was normalized. To adopt this idea of American AND desi instead of American OR desi, regardless of situation, place, and company, is what makes me desi-American. 

At what age did you understand your hyphenated identity was your strength, not your weakness?

I was 12. I was an ambassador for my middle school and one day I was assigned was to help out during Parent-Teacher conferences in which my job was to simply to direct and help parents navigate their way through the school. One student’s mother was meeting with a teacher and did not understand English. They needed someone who spoke Hindi and could translate. At that moment my dual-identity became my strength. The ability to connect people through the mediums of language, fashion, food, elements that are often seen as differences that divide us, is perhaps the greatest power dual-identities bring.

Countries often have a cultural, linguistic, or religious gap, but my dual-identity has allowed me to bridge between these gaps to bring cultures together and normalize their coexistence. To be included in, understand and relate to dialogues that are   conducive to both desi culture and American culture has a sense of pride to it, the fact I always have something to say, something to connect to, something to teach, something to learn adds to my growth as a being and as a representation of desi-Americans.

How does your hyphenated identity translate into your everyday life?

If I could encapsulate my identity into one word, I couldn’t. It’s Indo-Western, it’s desi-American, it’s hyphenated. This hyphenation is not silent, it is loud and clear and unapologetically reflected in my self. I currently live in New York and lead the class New Yorker lifestyle. New Yorkers go places, but I am not going anywhere without my culture. Whether it be wearing jumkas and a graphic tee, or a bindi with a crop top, or pairing a dupatta with jeans and a kurta I have always tried blending my identity in my fashion.

But why stop there? I’ve even created my own language, Hindlish, Hindi and English, my sentences start with one and end with the other because I just love living the best of both duniyaas. That leads me to the token of music, I can feel all emotions in two languages whether that be through American Pop or Bollywood music and as a  result my Spotify playlist becomes a kaleidoscope with both genres. Not a day has gone by in which I was either only American or only desi, I simply cannot avoid being both, simultaneously, unapologetically, contently.  

Tell us about the look you chose to do for this campaign. What makes it unique to your personal style, background, and identity?

Growing up I have always heard my parents say, ‘never forget your roots.’ That is exactly what my identity is, its roots that have grown and intertwined themselves with other branches of my identity. Despite living out of India for the majority of my life I have always tried finding outlets that would connect me to my culture and remind me of my roots. I always get asked the questions, “How do you find such desi-esque locations in America?” I wanted to put emphasis on the notion that one can be desi AND American at the same time, which means that I don’t have to be in India to be Indian. For this shoot, I used the medium of architecture, in which a glimpse of Indian design can be found in modern American architecture. I also used the element of nature to place emphasis on one’s origin, roots and becoming one with it which is why I am almost becoming “one with nature” or why my dupatta may be found to be tangled with leaves. Lastly, I wanted to use the medium of fashion, clothing that I have bought from America and given it an Indo-American twist, and showing it could be as simple as pairing a crop top with a dupatta. I also complimented my outfits with jewelry sold right in the western hemisphere that made my outfit speak for itself, let my identity speak for itself and allowed me to be just as much Indian as I would be in India, in America.

Seema Hari, solutions engineer and content creator

Seema Hari

What makes you a desi-American?

I have always felt like a nomad. I was born and raised in India and then moved to China for work after I graduated and then moved to America seven years ago. I always felt like an outcast in India because of my appearance. But when I moved out of India and started getting questions about my roots, I felt like the best way to answer that was “Indian.” I feel Indian because I deeply understand and identify with Indian culture and philosophy. But I have never believed in Hindu supremacy or Hindu nationalism, which is the divisive plague that has gripped India now. I find that very difficult to identify with. I have always believed that Hinduism is a set of philosophies, fundamentally unrestricted and intentionally open to interpretation, by design. And that is I what I find most beautiful about India: it has always been the land of the seekers, open to all and deriving its strength from diversity.

But the Hindu supremacy rhetoric under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is so strong now, that when I am in India I am always losing my mind and complaining about the hatred being peddled under the guise of Hindutva and nationalism. So when I visit India, my friends joke that I am an American now, because I am always talking about freedom of speech and complaining about the anti-muslim and anti-Pakistan rhetoric. 

But in America, I feel like an outsider too, because people immediately identify me as an immigrant and are always curious about my nationality. So I have realized that I don’t actually belong anywhere in particular, so I belong everywhere. I am, and always will be a nomad.

At what age did you understand your hyphenated identity was your strength, not your weakness?

When I moved to China, I realized that I was all alone in this massive world, but not lonely. I could connect with people in a completely different culture who didn’t even speak the same language as me. The friends I made there, treated me like family, bringing me traditional Chinese medicine and soup when I got sick, cheering me up when I was slammed at work, and always encouraging me to be my unique self by appreciating everything about me and asking for nothing in return. That made me believe that you can create a family anywhere. People who share the same values as you will become your tribe and no artificial boundaries matter.   

Seema Hari

How does your hyphenated identity translate into your everyday life?

I think it has made me more open and empathetic. Your nationality doesn’t matter to me. Your values do. It doesn’t matter which country you are from, if you need help, I will help you in any way I can. If you are spreading love and creativity in the world, regardless of your cultural background, I will love you and respect you. Similarly, if you are Indian but you are spreading hate, profiting from discrimination and abusing human rights, I will never be able to respect you even though we share the same “nationality.”

Tell us about the look you chose to do for this campaign. What makes it unique to your personal style, background, and identity?

I love the ocean. I think the ocean represents the openness that I crave for and identify with. The way land could have been before we started fighting over property, creating artificial borders and fighting wars over them. I think there might be a genetic connection to it too because my ancestors were fishermen. And so when I saw the pieces were blue and green like the ocean, I really wanted to create something by the ocean. I spoke to one of my favorite photographers, Pavithra, about the pieces and she suggested shooting by ocean too without knowing about my plan. We wanted to shoot in a saree to embody the flow at the beach: the breeze, the waves. She picked up this gorgeous fabric to go with the sunrise hues at the beach, and it all came together beautifully. 

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

Ace Designer Anita Dongre Goes Vegan

Making conscious decisions can, and should, go hand in hand with wearing fashionable pieces of clothing. Fortunately, South Asian fashion is making huge strides in the sustainable fashion department, and ace fashion designer Anita Dongre is at the forefront of this change; she’s so dedicated to making environmentally friendly choices in her collections.

Brown Girl Magazine has previously had the honor of featuring her Grassroots Collection; today, we sat down with Dongre to chat about her new vegan luxury line.


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Her love for animals is parallel to her love for fashion and she does not sacrifice one or the other. From handcrafted purses to belts, the new collection is made of recycled materials and leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

[Read Related: ‘A New York Minute’: Brown Girls Get Real About Their Roots with Anita Dongre Grassroot’s Collection]

What inspired you to “go vegan” both personally and product-wise?

I have always loved animals. When I was 13 my best friend talked me into being vegetarian and there was no looking back – Sangita and I continued to work together and since then we have both also turned vegan. When I started my business, I wanted the brand to be an extension of my personal philosophies so being a vegan brand was a forgone conclusion. My personal philosophy is to live a mindful life with kindness. This philosophy extends to respecting all life [so] we have chosen not to use leather for our line of accessories. For years I have wanted to create a vegan line of accessories that was high on quality, fashion, and kindness, and technology has only recently caught up with that desire.


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Why is now a good time to launch accessories?

Women have always expressed themselves through what they wear. In today’s time, carrying a bag that reflects their core personality is the default, and yet until recently, there hasn’t been a leather replacement that is cruelty-free and kind to the environment. With material sciences finally having the answer it was imperative to design an accessory line that women, like myself who care both about fashion and a world of kindness, could carry with pride.


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What material is used in this new line? Why did you choose it?

With MIRUM® we found a partner who creates this beautiful, plastic-free material that mimics the touch, feel, and age of leather without cruelty. The line also features bags made out of recycled glass beads. We’re careful about delivering high quality [products] and both these materials deliver to that benchmark while being plastic-free.


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How many pieces does this new line have and what is the importance of the animal symbols of each?

This collection is inspired by nature, my eternal muse. The Swan mini grab bag draws from a swan’s graceful silhouettes; the birds of a feather cross body bag borrow bird motifs that you see across my collections; the haathi belt uses my favorite — the Indian elephant, [which] is a symbol of strength and humility — every piece in this line of accessories is an elegant statement in conscious luxury living. The Anita Dongre brand has stood for elegance, timeless classics, and sustainability. We have always stood for handcrafted luxury while being mindful of the purpose it serves. These same principles extend into this collection of conscious, plastic-free, vegan accessories. While the shapes of these bags are distinctive, they are also functional – a design approach that extends across all Anita Dongre products.


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How to promote sustainability in India versus let’s say New York City:

India’s lived culture is based on the practice of sustainability. From clothes that would be passed down to siblings and then cousins to eating seasonal fruits and vegetables, our practices until recently have always defaulted to conscious consumption. It’s exciting to see the rest of the world adapt to that way of living and [it’s] a good reminder for us Indians to go back to the way we were raised.

Anita Dongre allows her consumers to choose ethically-sourced pieces while letting them embrace sustainability as a part of luxury fashion. Soon enough, such cruelty-free products will be synonymous with India’s (and the world’s) top fashion couture brands. This is definitely not a step, but a huge leap forward.

Photos in the featured image are courtesy of Anita Dongre.

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By Shezda Afrin

Shezda Afrin is an aspiring physician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of four, it was quite normal of her … Read more ›

South Asian Creators Claim Their Space at the Cannes Film Festival

Ever since we can recall, the Cannes Film Festival has been a merger of movies and glamour. On one side, there are hand-picked films — ready to premiere and make their mark in the world of entertainment — and on the other, audiences and paparazzi alike are served epic moments in fashion.

The festival, aimed to preview upcoming films from all over the world, invites a wide variety of guests that span the film fraternity, of course, but more recently, has opened its doors to many digital content creators, including renowned South Asian creatives.

With a more vast guest list comes a more recent debate: Cannes is a film festival and not a fashion showcase. Kickstarting the debate this year was none other than ace Bollywood director, Nandita Das, who in an Instagram post shared:

Sometimes people seem to forget that it is a festival of films and not of clothes!

In short, Das wants Cannes’ narrative to continue to focus on films.

[Read Related: Cannes Film Festival 2022: Red Carpet Representation at its Finest]

But of course, there’s been a paradigm shift in the guest list over the last few years; this shift has allowed talents from various industries — including lifestyle content creators, entrepreneurs, etc., who showcase their work in fashion and beauty like fine masterstrokes — to walk the carpet and represent their craft, making space for others in their industry.

Influential names like Dolly Singh, Kaushal, Diipa Buller-Khosla, and Shivani Bafna — all of whom made a raging impact on the red carpet this year — weigh in on the significance of representing South Asian artists/influencers on the red carpet, and how they feel they’ve been part of this paradigm shift at Cannes Film Festival.

Diipa Buller-Khosla

I believe that each step we take at events like Cannes sends a powerful message of diversity, cultural richness, and artistic excellence. Representation matters, and the presence of South Asian creators on the red carpet at Cannes helps broaden the narrative of beauty, talent, and creativity. It allows us to showcase our unique perspectives, narratives, and contributions, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive industry. By actively participating and making our presence felt, we help create more opportunities and spaces for South Asian creators, encouraging others to share their stories with the world.


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Since 2015, the first time I walked the red carpet, till this year I have always been invited by L’Oreal Paris, one of the main sponsors of the event. It has always been such an honor to be invited to the festival through the makeup brand that I have been using for almost two decades, and, before my social media career began. Personally, I feel a sense of acknowledgment from such a prestigious brand, and its head office teams that sponsor Cannes Film Festival, and value the work I have done and continue to do as a South Asian content creator within the beauty space. Makeup, hair, and beauty will always play a big role within the film industry and it’s something I have always created my content around which is why I am proud to attend.


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Dolly Singh

This is a proud moment not just for me but also [for] my peers and the entire content creator ecosystem given that we have reached such new global stages and presence. Of course, as you said, such film festivals, once considered as an exclusive hub for a congregation of the finest acting talents have, in the last few years, opened their arms to more people from the entertainment industry.

This is not just a sudden phenomenon with a burst of Indian creators at the festival this year but there is increased participation from non-film and non-South Asian celebrities across various spectrums from different sides of the world. Along with the many filmmakers, actors, producers, etc I also met some amazing influencers and entrepreneurs from other sides of the world. It’s amazing to represent India and celebrate and champion the advent of the digital ecosphere on such a prominent platform.

The confluence of actors and creators signified the amalgamation of traditional cinema and new-age digital influence, highlighting the transformative power of creative expression and how festivals like Cannes have become more forthcoming and progressive in their approach.

Cannes, like any other prominent festival, boasts of a red carpet that is synonymous with fashion and glitz, and I wanted to use this opportunity to represent all the amazing Indian fashion designers on the carpet besides, of course, attending the screenings. As someone who is just not an influencer but also an actress, I thoroughly enjoyed all the red-carpet screenings and meeting like-minded film talent from around the world at the event. At some point in the future, I would like to be attending Cannes for a film I’ve featured in.


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Shivani Bafna

Creators are often placed into boxes of where they belong and the rooms they can be a part of. Being on the red carpet dismantles the ideology that there’s a cap on how far we, as creators and as a South Asian community, can go and what we can achieve.

The Cannes Film Festival has always been viewed as the epitome of a glamorous event — everyone who attends looks like they’re living their best lives. I used the platform to share an authentic message of what the experience felt like for me. To represent all of us who doubt our potential, experience imposter syndrome, and are nervous to find their place, yet continue to push through to achieve their dreams!

As the first Indian American influencer to walk at Cannes, I hope I can inspire young women to confidently ask, ‘Why not me?’


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There’s no doubt that the Cannes Film Festival is centered around films, and continues to be a unique space for the global film fraternity to bring their art and showcase their aptitude. But, creators like Bafna, Singh, Buller-Khosla, and Kaushal — a special shoutout to Raja Kumari for being instrumental in paving the way as well — have their own set of responsibilities to fulfill upon their invitation to the prestigious event. Their will to represent their South Asian identities, celebrate their industries, and continue to hold space for their peers makes their presence at Cannes more than just clothes.

All images in the featured photo are from the influencers’ Instagram feeds.

By Sandeep Panesar

Sandeep Panesar is an editor, and freelance writer, based out of Toronto. She enjoys everything from the holiday season to … Read more ›

‘BollyWed’: Toronto’s First-Ever South Asian Bridal Series is Here!

For the Singh family, Chandan Fashion has always been bigger than simply a bridal showroom. Located in the heart of Gerrard Street, a bustling Little India in Toronto, the bright blue and pink building can be spotted from a distance. Over the years, Chandan has garnered attention from customers from all over North America, even as far as California and Virginia.

For Chandan and Roop, who work alongside “Mom and Dad,” Chandan Fashion is a family business and a way to showcase the beauty of South Asian culture while playing a helping hand in allowing every bride and groom to feel special on their big day. Chandan is their legacy and one they hope to be able to showcase the beauty and intricacies of throwing that “big Indian wedding” on their new CBC show, “BollyWed.”

“BollyWed” follows this tight-knit family through the joys and difficulties of running a multigenerational business. Throughout the variety of clients, discussions of new generation business practices versus old generation, many lehengas, and plenty of laughs, this is one whirlwind journey through the marriage industry.

Brown Girl had the opportunity to interview Chandan and Roop Singh, who were incredibly down-to-earth and a joy to speak to. Here is the interview down below!

What was the inspiration for opening Chandan?

Chandan: My mom and dad started the vision back in 1984 — they started the business. I have a store in India that was started by my grandfather which my father worked in as well, so it is kind of multi-generational of being within this industry of clothing and fashion. My father had a dream of starting what his father did in India, in Canada. While visiting friends in Toronto, my father knew that the Gerrard Indian Bazaar was the right place for them to start, it was the largest Indian market in the Northern America area. He rented a space for two years a couple of doors down from where Chandan originated and then in 1986 we had the opportunity to purchase the corner unit and grow it from one floor to two, to now a four-floor showroom.

Roop: And it should be noted that 1986 is also the year that Chandan was born, hence the name of the store. Chandan Fashion.

Many cities have their own versions of Little India. What was it like growing up/operating in Gerrard Street East? What do you think makes Gerrard Street unique?

Roop: It is funny you say that because even now when we have people traveling to Toronto, checking out Gerrard Street is on their itinerary. So we get a lot of clientele that are visiting from out of town whether it be visiting for the day or weekend. Some of them will sometimes get a hotel nearby for about a week and do their entire wedding family shopping with us.

Chandan has literally grown up in Gerrard Street, but I grew up in Toronto as well. I spent a good chunk of my own childhood in Little India on Gerrard Street. Growing up in the 90s, it was the only Indian bazaar in the greater Toronto area, so anyone who wanted to meet members of their community, have really good South Asian food, shop for upcoming events, or celebrate Diwali or Holi, this is where [they’d] go. This is where my mom would take me on the weekends and I remember popping into Chandan Fashion when my mom needed an outfit. In that way, our childhoods are connected over Little India and I feel like a lot of first-generation kids will sympathize with me, when we wanted to feel a little bit at home, that is where we would go.

How did you get the “BollyWed” opportunity on CBC? What is it like working with your family? What roles do you all play in the business? How do we get to see this in the show?

Roop: It has been quite a journey. It wasn’t necessarily such a drastic transition because already the family was very close-knit in the sense that they are working day in and day out. We do our social media together and our buying together, go to fashion shows. So naturally things we were already doing as a family were just translated to the TV. That is what I love the most about the show, it is just an authentic following of what we do on a daily basis as a family and as a business. It has been a great experience and something that we are super grateful for. It was actually seven years in the making and I’ll let Chandan tell you how “BollyWed” came to be.

Chandan: It started out in 2014. I was at a wedding show and I was approached by the executive producer, Prajeeth and we shot a shizzle. He had an idea of a wedding show with a family narrative and I had been watching ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ extensively. I knew that there was this really interesting market and this fascination with South Asian outfits and bridalwear given that it was so colorful and the beadwork was so ornate. There was a lot more interesting subject matter, especially if we tie that into a seven-day-long wedding and you tie that into multiple events and families. That is more prevalent in South Asian culture: what the mother-in-law thinks, what the mother thinks. But five to six years went by and we got 22 rejections over that period by almost every network imaginable. I was always excited that we were getting rejected because I knew that eventually, we would get a yes. Eventually at the end of 2021, around the end of the COVID era, the production company reached out asking if we were still interested in the show. I said it was never a question of ‘if,’ it was a question of ‘when.’ From the get-go, I knew that this show would be picked up, I knew it would be a success. In March 2022 we got greenlit. We had this amazing journey of seven months of continuous filming. It has been an amazing journey to be able to represent South Asians on television in a way that has not been done before. I like lighthearted programming and I am glad that we were able to influence the show because of our lives and make it a lighthearted family show that people can watch. But we still get to have important discussions.

Roop: I love that Chandan mentioned this. We get to showcase a lot of pivotal subjects in today’s society. For example, we made sure that inclusivity was showcased across all 10 episodes and that is something that I give credit to our directors and producers, they did a wonderful job showcasing how inclusive not just us as a business, but as a brand and as a family we are. These are values that have been instilled in us, that when somebody crosses your threshold and comes into your store, it doesn’t matter what their background is, their color, or their orientation, that is irrelevant. It is something that we don’t factor in, we just consider that this is the patron, the client. There is no judgment — not in our store, not in our family. And I love that we were able to share that on a big screen for everyone to see. That was one reason why it was so important to do this, but the other reason has a lot to do with Chandan and his childhood.

Chandan: So for me, I was born and raised in Toronto. I went to a very small school where I was the only South Asian for a long time in that school. I was the only Punjabi kid, the only kid with a turban, and eventually the only one with a beard, so I noticeably stood out compared to all my peers. My father with his best intentions sent me to a really small school, a private school, that he could not afford to pay for. Where at times the check would bounce every month, but he had a very strong belief that if he provided me a quality education [so] I would keep something really dear to him —keeping the belief in religion — I wouldn’t cut my hair, I wouldn’t cut my beard, I wouldn’t conform to society. He wanted to give me the best chance to succeed as is, [but] the unfortunate truth was I was bullied, I was picked on. I wouldn’t tell him, but people would grab my jurra, my turban, and my hair. And as a kid I would just let it go because you do not want to go home and tattle to your parents, but also because I knew how sensitive of a topic it was to my dad. And I think that my experience would have been different if people didn’t ask me every month, ‘How long is your hair? What do you keep under that?’ All these questions made me feel really uncomfortable, but the other kids also asked because they had never seen anyone like me. If I had grown up with a show like this, I would not have felt so alone, such a strong desire to belong. This is one of the reasons I really believed in the show, I really wanted to have representation. Even if there is just one other kid who watches this show and grows up in a suburb where there aren’t many South Asian kids; if he is able to turn the TV on and see my dad with such a thick accent — English isn’t his first language — but he still owns it so confidently. Or they see a guy like me with a turban and a beard and see that frankly he still has such a hot wife.

Roop: But beyond that, this gentleman with a turban and thick accent, they are such normal people. They love takeout, they like to play tennis, and they could be your neighbor. Other than their outward appearance, they are very much like you, very similar.

Your support in styling Priyanka for their drag performance was inspiring and refreshing to see. How do you change your styles/designs to foster inclusivity?

Roop: I think that goes back to what I was saying about how Mom and Dad have fostered this universal approach to our clientele. We do not look beyond their needs. I think it is also important to note that some people had thought that we had Priyanka come onto the show to make it more interesting, but their relationship with the store spans over the past five to seven years.

Chandan: Twenty years. Priyanka and their family have been shopping at the store for the past 20 years since they were kids. When Priyanka started exploring the world of drag, they came and said they needed a costume that they would be designing. It also wasn’t even any of my peers or me that made that connection with Priyanka, it was actually my dad, the older generation. He said, ‘Don’t worry beta.’ He actually corrected himself and said, ‘Beti, we will be there for you.’ And he got them a really nice sari and lehenga which they converted into a costume that won the first season.

Roop: And Priyanka put their own spin on it and created something amazing. Only because we were the designers of those pieces could we tell that that is a piece from our lehenga. They did such a fabulous job with it.

Chandan: I think we sometimes think of the older generation, like our parents, as being more conservative, but I think that it is a one-sided narrative. Not all of the older generation is as conservative as we think. And my dad just took it as a paying customer is a paying customer. It doesn’t matter what their orientation or beliefs are, and that just naturally unfolded into the story that we are sharing. He did not treat it as a big deal.


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For our readers currently planning their weddings, do you have any pieces of advice on how to balance all the heavy details of wedding planning without losing sight of why they are doing it for?

Roop: One thing for the bride and groom is not to lose sight of themselves in all of this. I’ve been there and done that. You plan this extravagant seven-day affair, you have all these people flying out to your wedding, and you feel this really heavy responsibility to make sure that all these guests are taking time out of their lives to celebrate your union. And like myself — and I am guilty of this, which is why I want to tell my fellow brides — [you] tend to make it less about [yourself] and more about everyone else who is attending. And yes, of course, everyone is important and I owe them respect for joining us. But remember what you want in the heart of heart, if you want a small wedding, go for a small wedding. If you want a big wedding, go for a big wedding. If you want the seven-tiered cake, go for it, if you just want cupcakes, go for that. At the end of the day don’t forget what makes you happy. Don’t lose sight of it, just be authentic to yourself.

Chandan: Oftentimes in the wedding industry, people are really looked down upon. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, you are spending so much for this wedding!’ Or, ‘You are obsessing over these details!’ If it is important to you, it is okay. I would not let judgment get in the way of doing what you want whether it be a small intimate 20-person wedding or a having a 1000-person wedding. This is your moment. The biggest thing I hear is, ‘Oh, it is only for an hour.’ But, if you have a photographer, nothing is for an hour. It is for a lifetime. Those moments last a lifetime. If it is something that you hold near and dear to you, you will cherish it. I wish people would stay true to themselves.

Roop: Yeah, agreed. Be mindful of what sparks joy in you and let that be your compass. The most important piece of advice though: At every function please request that your caterer create a to-go container of the meal at the event for you and your partner to enjoy after because often, and it is so sad to hear this, the bride and groom will eat last at their own event or not at all. And you spend all these months planning [an] extravagant menu and then you don’t even get to eat your own wedding cake. Hah! That happened to us!

Do you have any future plans that you feel excited about sharing with Chandan?

Chandan: Yeah! I would say concrete plans are in the pipeline. In the first episode of ‘BollyWed’ [you] see that we come to the realization that there is just not enough space and we would love to expand into another space.

Roop: And this is where you get a lot of the new generation, old generation beliefs. Because mom and dad believe that the family should stay very close-knit and together to run the one location. And Chandan has the belief that [the] true success of a business is when it is scalable, and has multiple locations nationally, globally even. In Episode 10 you get a conclusion, but we will let the readers watch it for themselves!

You can now watch the inaugural season of CBC’s “BollyWed” on CBC TV every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST or stream it for free on CBC Gem! And that’s not all from the Chandan Fashion team! They’ll soon be featured in an Instagram LIVE chat with Brown Girl Magazine, so stay tuned!

By Vashali Jain

Vashali Jain is a medical student at Virginia Commonwealth University. In her spare time, she likes to experiment in the … Read more ›