Indus Thread: Making Desi Fashion a Whole Lot Easier and Affordable

[Designer Sanober Azfar | Photography by KBridals (Kashif Rashid Photography)]

by Sheena Pradhan

The following post is brought to you by our sponsor Indus Threads—a high-end South Asian designer wear rental company.

Your cousin’s wedding is this weekend. It’s your fifth South Asian wedding this season. You’ve already worn three of your favorite lehengas and two of your favorite saris. You don’t want to pull out any of your old clothes that everyone in your family already saw last year, but you really can’t afford to spend more money on a new lehenga.

Every South Asian woman can relate to this. Good quality Indian clothes are hard to find and so expensive! Not only do you end up spending hundreds of dollars for a pretty garment, but having your clothes tailored properly can empty your wallet.

Your solution now exists. There is a new online boutique, just like Rent the Runway, except for South Asian clothes, called Indus Threads. Indus Threads specializes in renting high-end South Asian designer pieces.

[Read Related: Renting High-End South Asian Designer Wear is Now Possible With Indus Threads]

Founder of Indus Threads, Sumaira Nabeel, did not always work in fashion. She has a CPA and an MBA and worked as a consultant for 15 years before starting Indus Threads.

SN

She said she always had an interest in fashion and tried incorporate trends into her personal and professional wardrobe. A year ago, Nabeel realized she wanted more from life than living deadline to deadline for work. After some travels, set was set to follow her heart to start a fashion brand. She saw a deficit in the Indian fashion market for accessibility to high-quality South Asian clothes in the United States.

“Last year, I chaired a school auction and picked Bollywood as the theme… that was when I realized how hard it is to access quality desi clothes in the U.S.”

Nabeel said she was inspired to make high-end designer South Asian clothes accessible to a wider range of consumers. A lot of South Asian clothes are uncomfortable to wear. Although the fabrics are luxurious, the make is not always flattering. This frustration with the South Asian fashion market inspired Nabeel to be picky with the cut and construction of the pieces she carries. This also influenced her decision to exclusively carry high-end designers.

She says even the up and coming designers that Indus Threads features are superstars when it comes to making quality pieces.

IT2[Designer Wardha Saleem | Photography by Tapu Javeri]

In an effort to attract designers, she said she has done a lot of educating on the “collaborative consumption business model” or the sharing economy. Some other brands that follow this business model are Uber, AirBnB, and Rent the Runway. The renting business structure gives clients the opportunity to try clothes from different designers without having to commit to a purchase.

Indus Threads carries all different types of South Asian garments, by Pakistani and Indian fashion designers. These include saris, shalwar suits, anarkalis, and lehengas.

Nabeel said she tries to pull pieces that appeal to different sensibilities, from traditional to contemporary and alternative styles. She hopes clients will find something they love, while also getting exposed to styles that they might not have known existed in the realm of South Asian fashion.

IT3[Designer Nadia Farooqui | Photography by KBridals (Kashif Rashid Photography)]

Indus Threads has had success reaching women of all ethnicities and demographics, not just South Asian women, in the United States and Canada. Clients come in needing South Asian wear for events or are looking to repurpose South Asian clothes for non-South Asian occasions.

Nabeel said her greatest success so far is her extremely satisfied customers.

“Indus Threads has received positive feedback from clients because they are glad to see a service like this exists. Clients love the idea of wearing something new for each South Asian occasion, in an economic and closet space saving way.”

As for the future, Nabeel said she sees Indus Threads changing the way people wear South Asian clothes in North America. She wants people to realize they no longer need to stock up on a second wardrobe to look good for South Asian events.

IT4[Designer Sabyasachi| Photography by Jennifer Townhill Photography]


IDIndus Threads, by Sumaira Nabeel, is a South Asian designer wear rental company. A California-based fashion start-up with a technology soul, the company hopes to provide access to high-end South Asian design experiences, in both ethnic and western wear, without the burden of ownership. All orders can be shipped anywhere in the U.S., and a stylist is available at all times for fashion-related advice. Own your style, rent our clothes.

 


Sheena Pradhan is a 27-year-old actress, model, writer, stylist, nutritionist, fashion blogger, content creator, and self-proclaimed branding expert. She always thought she would be a buyer for a big fashion brand, but in her winding journey, she has fallen in love with acting and modeling, which she does full-time. Follow her personal journey on her blog, Tuline Tulip.

By Sheena Pradhan

Sheena Pradhan is a digital marketing consultant, former F&B entrepreneur, model, and writer. Sheena got her start in pageants and … Read more ›

3 Tips on how to Rock Viva Magenta, the Pantone Color for 2023

The results are in — the Pantone Color for 2023 is here — and it looks like Viva Magenta will be ruling runways, the streets, and (even) your wardrobes.

Viva Magenta is a deep shade of red, and Pantone describes it:

Brave and fearless.

It’s meant to be celebratory, and joyous, and encourage experimentation. If you were thinking of toning it down a notch with your wardrobe in 2023, it’s time to think again. It can really be your time to shine in something bright and colorful!

 

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But, for anyone who’s used to wearing neutrals, Viva Magenta can be daunting.

How do you incorporate this vibrant hue into your everyday looks?

Where can you find just the right pieces?

How do you rock the color without going overboard?

Well, popular South Asian designers and maestros of color are here to answer all your questions.

[Read Related: Decoding Dopamine Dressing This Summer]

Aprajit Toor, Arpita Mehta, and Rahul Khanna break it down for you — what to wear, how to pair, and everything in between. Their takes on the Pantone Color for 2023 are simple but they’ll help you make a bold statement anywhere you go!

Take a look at what they have to say.

Rahul Khanna of Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna:

Viva Magenta is a color that suits all skin tones. It’s a color for all occasions; women and men can both wear this color with [the] right styling. Cocktail saris, jumpsuits, and reception gowns are some great options for women whereas, for men, the color has started picking up a lot lately. Men have started experimenting with their looks and we as designers have more options for men as well. Recently, we made a custom-made silk velvet fit for Ranveer Singh in the same color. Apart from your everyday clothing, Viva Magenta is also going to be the ruling shade for the upcoming wedding season.

Arpita Mehta:

The best way to do Viva Magenta in your everyday wardrobe is to go top to bottom in [it]. Be it in co-ord sets or a kaftan or any comfortable outfit. It’s such a bold & beautiful color that it looks the best when it’s self on self rather than teaming it up or breaking it with another color.

Aprajita Toor:

Viva Magenta is a very powerful and empowering color that descends from the red family. It is an animated red that encourages experimentation and self-expression without restraint; an electrifying shade [that] challenges boundaries. One can easily incorporate this color by picking a statement footwear, bag, or jewelry in Viva Magenta which can be paired with neutral or monotone colored outfits.

And there you have it — three ways you can easily take a vibrant hue and turn it into something you can wear every day. Take cues from these top designers on how to wear the Pantone Color of the year and get started! We’d love to see how you style Viva Magenta!

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 ›

Hand Embroidery: South Asia’s Not-so-Famous Contribution to Global Fashion

hand embroidery

South Asian fashion is nearly always associated with color, glitz, and ornate designs. From embellished bridal wear, weighing as much as the bride herself, to brightly colored sarees, Indian craft and hand embroidery is hard to miss — except when it’s showing up in non-Indian clothing.

Did you know that Jennifer Lopez’s famous green, jungle-print Versace dress from the 2000 Grammy Awards was hand-embroidered in India? Or that top luxury brands, including Gucci, Dior, and Saint Laurent, have quietly outsourced much of their embroidery to South Asia for over three decades now? As brands cross borders to connect and innovate through fashion, South Asia has come to the forefront of global fashion as the go-to region for hand embroidery. In 2019, India’s embroidery exports exceeded $230 million, which was a 500 percent increase from the 1990s. This isn’t simply because of the affordable labor and extra cushion for the bottom line — it’s a testament to the unmatched skill of South Asian artisans.

[Read Related: Honouring Tradition and Embracing my Heritage Through Ethnic Wear]

South Asian artisans, also known as ‘karigars,’ are the unnamed force behind a designer’s vision. They often reside in rural parts of the Subcontinent and have gathered skill, creativity, and knowledge over generations. During my travels this year, for the launch of my fashion brand Chaa Latte, I witnessed artisans train from as young as seven years old, mastering embroidery techniques by the time they’re in their teens. Crouched over a table in a dimly-lit room, these artisans work tirelessly to adorn yards of fabric with beautiful beads and sequins, or weave glistening gold yarn into silk and cotton with sometimes nothing more than their memory to guide the motif. Some of them have little to no education and have never stepped outside of their village. Yet, hand them thread and a needle and they are among the best embroiderers in the world.

 

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Is Indian hand embroidery as prolific as French lace? I would argue yes, and maybe even more, but without the fame. Established brands and their collections have stood on the craft of these rural artisans for decades but have rarely given credit. Only few Western designers, such as Dries Van Noten and Isabel Marant, proudly celebrate their relationship with Indian craftspeople. Perhaps because of this nearly silent partnership, a label that says “Made in India” or “Made in Bangladesh” does not equate to beautiful, luxurious work — rather, the complete opposite. Fast fashion may be one output, but the true strength of South Asia lies in centuries of incredibly intricate, slow, and artisanal processes.

In a Times of India article, David Abraham of Abraham & Thakore — a well-regarded Indian label — eloquently says that we must recognize the fact that India is one of the very few countries left that can still produce small lot, labor intensive, highly-skilled craft and textiles.

He adds, “And that is the true luxury in a world of growing mass consumerism and an antidote to the very real threats of environmental pollution, global warming and a growing understanding that we need to buy less, pay more for fashion that is more timeless, classic and responsible.”

South Asia’s fashion identity is at a crossroads, and it’s up to designers, especially the younger generation, to build brands that showcase the luxury and painstaking craft of South Asian embroidery, weaving, and the various other hand techniques mastered over centuries. I launched my fashion brand, Chaa Latte, late last year because I believe the true beauty of South Asian fashion is in the subtle, intricate craft and this simply isn’t accessible to North Americans in a way that fits their lifestyle seamlessly. I was set on designing modern pieces for people of all backgrounds, who have a love for art in the form of fashion and have an eye for unique detail.

 

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My first collection encompasses some of my favorite techniques and textiles from India and Bangladesh, including mirror work and silk handloom sarees. The detailing is balanced with simple silhouettes and a neutral color palette. I am now working on my second collection, which will be released in Spring/Summer of 2023. 

Like me, many young designers are tapping into their unique heritage to draw inspiration and bring attention to the Western world. I had the pleasure of speaking to two fellow South Asian designers who are making a mark on the US fashion industry, while highlighting their love for South Asian craft. When asked about the role of traditional textiles and techniques in their work, Niharika of Tega Collective responds:

With each collection our designs are co-created with a specific indigenous community highlighting their traditional colors, patterns and natural symbols. Every region in the world has incredible biodiversity so we focus on championing native fibers in South Asia like Khadi (indigenous cotton) and Eri (peace) silk originating from Assam, India.

[Read Related: Celebrity Designer Sanjay Garg Gives Us the Inside Scoop on Everything Handlooms and the Sari]

In a separate conversation with designer Sana Khan Patel, from Aara by Sana, she tells us how she was inspired to start her line:

When a family wedding took me back to my hometown of Lahore, Pakistan, after a long 18 years, I was blown away by the level of skill I saw in the gullys (streets) of Lahore. From fabric dyeing to intricate beading to the quality of tailoring, they did it all so effortlessly and with so much pride. I quickly realized that the artisans simply want to create art but unfortunately, in most cases they are overworked, underpaid and treated extremely poorly. I immediately knew that I wanted to work with and learn from these OG’s as much as I wanted to put them in a position of providing for their families.

It’s the hope that this recognition from up-and-coming brands, like Chaa Latte, will shed light into how much South Asia is truly lending to global luxury fashion and the rich history that makes these art forms unique to our countries.

 

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For more information on Chaa Latte, please visit our website and follow our journey on Instagram.

Feature Image: Hannah Schweiss Photography

By Promiti Prosun

Promiti Prosun is the Bengali Canadian designer and founder of fashion brand, Chaa Latte. Though most of her career was … 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.

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 ›