Meet The Staff: Pia Chakrabarti

by Pia Chakrabarti 

Hi, I’m Pia. In Bengali (and several other Indian languages), my name means ‘lover’.

I love people – a day spent in absence of someone familiar feels like an eternity to me. I’m originally from Texas, now living in the nation’s capital, Washington DC. I am thankful for technology, because of which hundreds of miles seems seconds away. I do it all to keep in touch with my friends and family; text, email, Gtalk, Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, etc.

I am a lover of places – if I could, I would go all around the world to see the sights, learn about the customs, experience the different cuisines. Living expenses aside, I spend most of my money on travel. Some day, I know the obligations that come along in life will make it more difficult for me to roam freely but until then I want to explore as much as I can!

I am a lover of the performing arts – I have been involved in theater, dance, and music since I can remember. Performing has always been just a hobby, taking a backseat to my real job (or studying), but it has always been a rewarding experience. As a singer, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to learn many styles of music and collaborate with musicians of diverse backgrounds.

I am a lover of food and I want to share my love for it with Brown Girl Magazine. There is virtually nothing I won’t try and with age my personal list of “yucky foods” gets shorter as I learn to appreciate the different textures, smells, and flavors.

And truly, above it all, I am a lover of love. As much as I try to remind myself to stop being a sap, Bollywood has me convinced that love is as endless and giving in real life as it is on the big screen. What’s the harm in seeing the glass as half full?

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 ›

Tilted Lotus: A Brand Rooted in Culture, Compassion, and Style

Tilted Lotus

When she was young, Preeti Gore, the founder of the clothing brand Tilted Lotus, always looked up to her dad’s “natural sketching” talent. His motivation led her to explore her creative side, whether it was experimenting with art or taking up sitar lessons. Regardless of that fact, she pursued a career in science and became a Physical therapist, following her gut instinct.

[Read Related: Hand Embroidery: South Asia’s Not-so-Famous Contribution to Global Fashion]

Stepping into the world of fashion, alongside being a PT, Gore talks to Brown Girl Magazine about her brand Tilted Lotus in depth.

Why “Tilted Lotus?” What is the significance of the name?

‘Lotus’ symbolizes the national flower of India, my birthplace and the land that has shaped me into the person I am today. It represents the roots from which I originate. On the other hand, ‘Tilted’ signifies the distinctive identity I developed while living in Western countries. With my experiences spanning four different nations — India, the UK, Canada, and the US — I’ve had the privilege of embracing the unique qualities of each culture. This odyssey has enriched my life tremendously, and Tilted Lotus is how I offer this special part of me to a diverse American market.

 

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How did the transition to the world of textiles and design occur?

Despite never being pressured by my parents, I convinced myself that pursuing a career in science was the ‘right’ path, and thus became a physical therapist. My first job in the US was at Houston Methodist Hospital, located in the prestigious Texas Medical Center. Driven by my passion to help others, I am dedicated to this profession and have no intention of quitting. Relocating to the UK, and Canada, and eventually settling in the US presented numerous challenges, and every time I felt shattered, defeated, or alone, I somehow found the strength to push forward. My parents, despite limited resources, supported my dreams wholeheartedly, encouraging independence and the pursuit of my passions. My husband — who I affectionately call my “Sheldon” (a nod to The Big Bang Theory) — played a pivotal role in persuading me to embrace my creative instincts. I am grateful to have him as both a strong supporter and a staunch feminist.

Two years ago, I took the first step toward launching Tilted Lotus. I enrolled in the entrepreneurship program at The Wharton School and pursued a course on starting a fashion line. I was focused on finding the right supply chain and developing a solid business strategy, but the real test came when I had to work tirelessly in the ICU during the COVID wave, back-to-back nights and days, all at the same time. Through ups and downs, failures, and victories, I finally launched Tilted Lotus in December 2022.

India to the UK…then now to the US! Did the need to stay rooted in your culture strengthen? If so, how did that help you envision Tilted Lotus?

From my childhood days, I’ve held onto my personal values like a compass guiding my way. During my experiences living in different countries, I noticed [I was] slowly losing myself, losing what truly makes me, me. But my love for my culture grew stronger, and I found ways to preserve it. As I wore clothing that reflected my identity and initiated conversations about culture and heritage, I discovered that these markers not only distinguish us but also bring us closer together. People are often eager to learn and experience different cultures, which inspired me to create Tilted Lotus, offering a glimpse of me to others.

 

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How do you aim to combine South Asian elements with contemporary designs?

The design process for creating an outfit involves a multitude of elements. Our primary objective is to take a traditional Indian art form, put a Tilted Lotus twist on it, and incorporate it into contemporary, everyday silhouettes that are both adaptable and effortless to wear. Our latest collection, Jungle Glam, embodies this unique concept flawlessly.

Who is your target audience? And, how do your pieces help express themselves?

We cater to a diverse and inclusive audience, embracing individuals of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities. While our current selection includes unisex options, our plans involve expanding more into the realm of unisex clothing. Our aim is for our garments to transcend traditional gender norms, welcoming everyone into our fashion community, regardless of their background.

Our target demographic consists of individuals who revel in dressing eclectically, and fearlessly expressing their unique selves. Our garments become a canvas for personal stories, silently representing who they are. They complement individual styles and can be effortlessly combined with other pieces, adding a touch of boldness and confidence.

One adjective to describe your clothing line.

Expressive.

How do you want people to feel when wearing your clothes?

Our ultimate goal is for them to exude confidence, radiate happiness, and proudly embrace their true selves when they don our clothing. We want them to feel empowered, ready to conquer the world, and unapologetically display their unique style and individuality.

 

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You mention one of your brand values is compassion. Can you tell us a little about your vision to help your non-profit partner: Three Little Pitties Rescue?

We take great pride in being a strong corporate sponsor for the Three Little Pitties Rescue, an extraordinary non-profit 501c3 organization that goes above and beyond to rescue dogs and cats in dire situations, primarily in the Houston, Texas area. Their unwavering dedication has resulted in the rescue and salvation of over 11,000 animals in recent years, and we are honored to contribute to their cause.

As avid animal lovers, our affiliation with Three Little Pitties Rescue began long before the inception of Tilted Lotus. We have closely collaborated with them, witnessing firsthand their remarkable achievements and tremendous growth over the past few years. Their progress has been fuelled by sheer honesty, selflessness, and unrelenting hard work.

One thing that sets Three Little Pitties Rescue apart is their absolute commitment to ensuring that every donation they receive is put to its intended purpose. They maintain the highest standards of transparency and accountability, ensuring that funds are used solely for the betterment of the rescued animals. There is no room for misuse or misappropriation.

Through our partnership with Three Little Pitties Rescue, we have witnessed the profound impact they have on the lives of animals in need. We are privileged to be part of their journey and contribute to their noble mission. Together, we strive to make a lasting difference and create a better world for our furry friends.

 

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What can we expect next?

We are set to rock the Runway show at New York Fashion Week this fall with Runway 7 productions at Sony Hall, New York. We will be unveiling an all new collection.

Stylish, sustainable silhouettes with love. Tilted Lotus is synonymous with wearing your culture with pride. With prints that bring you back to traditional Indian art, the collections have pieces that you can wear to your next big event or even pair with your everyday jeans and a tee.

[Read Related:KiRu: The Indian Streetwear Brand Reshaping Fashion’s Gender Rules]

And, after an incredible showcase at Austin Fashion Week, the Slow Fashion Festival, and two successful pop-up events at Renegade Craft and Austin Fashion Week, the team is thrilled about what lies ahead this year! Their calendars are full, and they couldn’t be more grateful to everyone that showered them with love and welcomed them with open arms.

Here are some exciting upcoming events Titled Lotus has planned, and they’d be delighted to have you join them in person!

  • New York Fashion Week: Runway 7, Sony Hall, September 9, New York
  • In Todo Pop-up Shop: November 4-5, Los Angeles, California

You can continue to be part of their journey by following them on their official Instagram account, here.

The featured image is courtesy of Tilted Lotus.

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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 ›

‘About the Author’ – A Short Story

In celebration of Kirthana Ramisetthi’s second novel “Advika and the Hollywood Wives,” BGM literary editor Nimarta Narang is publishing this short story by the acclaimed author. This piece chronicles the evolution of a writer’s life through their ever-changing author’s bio. In the details, from the change in last name to the new address, we observe how Gigi grows into Genevieve and the life events that make her into the writer she becomes. 

“My Picnic,” published in the Oakwood Elementary Storytime Scrapbook

Gigi Maguire loves strawberries, “Smurfs,” and being a first grader. Her favorite word is ‘hooray.’ This is her first short story. 

“Sunshine Day,” published in Oakwood Elementary KidTale

Gigi Maguire is a fifth grader in Ms. Troll’s class. She loves writing stories more than anything in the whole world, except for peanut butter. 

“What Rhymes with Witch?,” published in BeezKneez.com

Gigi Maguire is a high school junior living in the Bay Area. Her favorite writers are Sylvia Plath and J.K. Rowling. If she can’t attend Hogwarts, she’ll settle for Sarah Lawrence or NYU.

“On Her 21st Birthday,” published in LitEnds

Gigi Laurene Maguire is a writer and recent graduate from Sarah Lawrence College. Her favorite writers are Sylvia Plath, Alice Munro, and Mahatma Gandhi. She is making her big move to New York City in the fall.

“Valentine’s Day in a Can,” published in Writerly

Gigi Laurene Maguire is a freelance writer who loves the written word, Ireland in springtime, and “La Vie En Rose.” She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

“Unspoken Ballads of Literal Heartbreak,” published in Weau Dunque Review

Gigi Laurene Maguire is an assistant editor at ScienceLife.com. Her work has appeared in Writerly and is forthcoming in Pancake House and Schooner’s Weekly. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey. 

“The Mistress of Self-Loathing,” published in Story Day 

Gigi L. Maguire is the editor-in-chief of Small Business Weekly. Her work has appeared Writerly, Story Day, Pancake House, and Schooner’s Weekly. She’s currently working on a novel about witches. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her tabby cat Sabrina. 

“The Distance in Your Eyes,” published in The Canton Review

Gigi L. Maguire is a freelance writer and digital marketing specialist. Her work has appeared in Writerly, Story Day, and is forthcoming in Idaho Centennial. She’s working on a novel and a short story collection. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

“Auspicious,” published in BookWorks 

Genevieve L. Maguire’s work appears or will appear in The Canton Review, Mark’s End, Bishop Quarterly, and Idaho Centennial. A second runner-up for the Imelda Granteaux Award for Fiction, she is writing a novel and a memoir. Genevieve lives in Brooklyn. 

“Meditate, Mediate,” published in Ripcord

Genevieve L. Maguire’s fiction appears or will appear in BookWorks, The Canton Review, Berkeley Standard, and elsewhere. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she is an MFA candidate at New York University. She lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and their two cats.

“Chaat & Chew,” published in The Carnegie Review

Genevieve L. Maguire’s fiction appears in Ploughshares, Ripcord, The Cambridge Review, and elsewhere. She received her master’s in creative writing from New York University. Her short story “Meditate, Mediate” has been optioned by Academy Award nominee Janet De La Mer’s production company, Femme! Productions. She lives in Brooklyn with her fiancé, their three cats, and a non-singing canary.

“Urdhva Hastasana Under a Banyan Tree” published in The Paris Review

Genevieve Maguire-Mehta’s fiction has been hailed as “breathtakingly lyrical” by Margaret Atwood. She is the recipient of the Whiting Prize for Short Fiction and an Ivy Fellow. Her fiction has appeared in The Carnegie Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband Manoj in Park Slope, Brooklyn. 

“Reaching New (Jackson) Heights,” performed by Lana Del Rey on NPR’s “Shorts” series

Genevieve Maguire-Mehta’s fiction has been hailed as “effervescent” by Alice Munro and “breathtakingly lyrical” by Margaret Atwood. She is the recipient of the Whiting Prize for Short Fiction and an Ivy Fellow. Her work appears or has appeared in The Paris Review, Elle, The Carnegie Review, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband in Park Slope, Brooklyn with their feisty menagerie of animals.

“The Bhagavad Gina,” published in The New Yorker

Genevieve Maguire-Mehta is the recipient of the Whiting Prize of Short Fiction and is a McClennen Arts Colony scholar. Her work appears or has appeared in The Paris Review, Elle, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel. She lives with her husband and daughter in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“When Two Becomes None,” published in American Quarterly 

Genevieve Maguire’s writing has received dozens of accolades, most recently the Luciana Vowel Prize for Female Fiction. Praised by Alice Munro as “effervescent,” her work has appeared in more than twenty publications, including The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. She lives with her daughter Priyanka in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path,” published by Capricorn Rising Press

Genevieve Maguire is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in more than thirty publications, including The New Yorker and The Paris Review. She lives with her daughter in a 100-year-old farmhouse in Woodstock, New York. “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path” is her first novel. Visit her website at genevievemagauthor.com.

“Hairy Arms and Coconut Oil,” published in MotherReader

Genevieve Maguire Dunblatt is a novelist, homeopath, and part-time yoga instructor. She has seen her critically-acclaimed short stories published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband Benji and daughter Priyanka in Jacksonville, Florida.  

“Priya Pinker’s Mother Gets a Life,” published by Capricorn Rising Press

Genevieve M. Dunblatt is the author of two novels, including “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path.” An aura reader, faith healer, and yoga instructor, she has seen her critically-acclaimed short stories published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit genevieveauthormag.com to learn more about her writing, and genevieveauthormag.com/hearthappy for her wellness services. 

“Comma, Coma,” published in Read-A-Day Journal

Genevieve Maguire is the author of “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path” and “Priya Pinker’s Mother Gets a Life.” She has seen her critically-acclaimed short stories published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Alice Munro has called her writing “effervescent.” She lives in Jacksonville, Florida.  

“Next Stop New York,” published in The Lunar Reader

Genevieve Maguire is the author of “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path” and “Priya Pinker’s Mother Gets a Life.” She lives in New Jersey.  

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By Kirthana Ramisetti

Kirthana Ramisetti is the author of Dava Shastri’s Last Day, a Good Morning America Book Club selection which is in … Read more ›

Kirin Sinha on Illumix, Entrepreneurship and Women in Technology

Kirin Sinha, founder and CEO of Illumix, has been in the entertainment-tech space for almost a decade. She grew up with an interest in technical spaces (math) as well as creative and artistic pursuits — specifically dance — and wanted to bring both together.

Enter Illumix, a company born out of her passion for both tech and the arts.

[Read Related: Shark Tank’s Krystal Persaud of Grouphug Solar is Breaking Barriers for Women of Color in Technology]

Sinha has set out to help foster creativity but in a tech-forward way that will make a huge impact, and she knew that a tech company is what will help her drive the change she’s looking for.

I believe that the most impactful companies in the past several decades have been tech companies, the ones that can make a huge impact. I wanted to be part of that for the future and redefine who the voices are that are creating this next layer of technology. For me, that was the passion around women in tech, other voices being heard in the tech space, and how they can shape what the future looks like.

Here’s the in-depth conversation that we had with Sinha:

Let’s talk about Illumix. How did it come to be?

I started ideating Illumix in 2015/2016 and then the company was officially formed in 2017. We are a tech infrastructure focusing on bringing together the digital and physical worlds; an augmented reality platform that lets anybody easily create augmented reality content, without having to invest the time, and money building out the technology themselves. So it’s really about how can we make this form of content accessible to brands and companies around the world.

For those who don’t know, what is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality (AR) is bringing the digital and physical worlds together. It’s when there is a digital layer on top of your real world. So, you see something through the lens of a camera but it’s not actually there. The most common example is Pokémon Go.

How have you seen the tech space/business grow over the last decade with social media and its immense popularity?

The growth of social media really gave a lot of power back to the consumer. It really became about user-generated content, and even more recently, it’s become more about personalized content — what you see on your TikTok feed is probably dramatically different from what I see on mine. I think that has really led to the core underlying trend here, which is, that content is more personalized, it’s more interactive, or immersive, and those two pieces take us to the next logical step: augmented reality.

One of the things [AR] does is it allows our content to be even more interactive and immersive than what we see on a 2D screen. It also allows things to become much more about you. For example, in e-commerce, it’s very different to see a 2D image of a model wearing something that may not at all correlate to you versus actually seeing what that product would look like on you as you’re making a purchase decision.

Being able to take all these different components and bringing them into your world, I think, is very powerful and is the foundational trend that’s driven, at least most recently, in social media.

You’re all about the tech, entertainment, and lifestyle spaces! How do all three of these industries play a role in your day-to-day?

I really found my passion for tech and media in 2016. I always knew I was passionate about technology; I always knew I had a creative component. I always thought I was going to be a professor. But when I first started to explore entertainment as a real industry or field that I was interested in, it completely lit me up. I think it was such an interesting time around then, when you saw these big traditional tech companies — like Apple and Netflix — moving into more of a media space. So, that intersection was fascinating to me and it was the perfect blend that I was really excited and passionate about. That’s when I knew that my career was going to be about media and technology.

The lifestyle component is something that I think a lot about because as an entrepreneur, you give 100% of yourself to your company. It always trumps everything in your life and that’s very difficult. It requires a lot of sacrifices, and it can be very grueling, but it’s also long-term; it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You have to think, ‘If I want to be running this company 10 years from now, how can I make it sustainable for me when it takes so much of me?’ So I think that’s where I became really focused around lifestyle pieces and what you can do day-to-day to help drive your success; how you can create habits, discipline, and lifestyle choices that give you the ability to show up 100% every day, but still maintain that for a long period of time.

It’s something that I’ve been experimenting with for years. I feel like I’ve treated myself like a scientific experiment since I was in high school. I’ve tried all sorts of sleeping schedules and diets — I’ve done everything in highly regimented ways and I think that’s given me decades of information on what’s effective and what works for me.

What have you learned throughout your journey of starting Illumix?

There are many things! There were two avenues that I had to grow the most in: perseverance and my relationship with rejection. I think that in most traditional jobs, you might see ‘no’ or see some elements of rejection, but as a founder, a huge part of your job is just to take rejection. It’s to fundraise, it’s to tell your stories, it’s to try to sell and be rejected in every way. I think [knowing] to not be demotivated by that, and actually treating that as motivation to keep going, realizing that no ‘no’ is a no forever, it’s a ‘no’ right now, is important.

That reframing has been really important and I feel every entrepreneur will have moments when they think everything is going down. I think being able to get used to that churn and the volatility that can be there, and always maintaining a level of certainty and vision in where you’re going, is incredibly important.

For me, it’s not about the work and the sacrifice — I was actually quite well-suited for that — it’s the emotional component of feeling like everything is on your shoulders, you have this responsibility to your employees and investors, to reach certain outcomes. You just have to keep going. You have to reframe your attitude towards ‘no’ in such a profound way.

You mentioned earlier that you want to create a space for women in the tech industry and for their voices to be heard. Have you found that there has been this upwards trajectory for women and their careers in the tech space?

This is 100% a male-dominated industry even today. The number of [female] entrepreneurs has been declining and I think that one of the things that always stood out to me was that there are not a lot of women who are starting their own companies, so that’s already an important space to continue to grow. Further, there are not a lot of women who have technical backgrounds, and who are starting technology companies. Of that pool, you see a lot of consumer-focused brands, but it’s not technology companies, and that’s a whole different ball game to some level. It’s a different set of investors [and] more of a tech focus automatically means it’s more male-dominated.

I would love to see more women pursuing companies that are not gender-specific. It is important for women to serve other women because we have an understanding, but there’s no reason why only men should be running technology companies of the next decade. To my point earlier, the largest and most impactful companies will be technology companies, and that is an opportunity for minorities and women to have a voice and really shape the future in a way that’s huge and far-reaching.

For me to be growing up, and being in the space, and really not seeing a lot of other women [in this industry], I didn’t have that mentor figure for me who could help figure things out, and at some point, I decided this is what I want to do and this is the version of the world I feel passionate about, and want to live in. I’m just going to go and do it and hopefully bring a lot of other women up alongside me. Even if it’s not me in the end, I feel like I made an impact and cleared the way for us.

Advice you’d like to give anyone looking to start a tech company?

The most important thing going in is what is your vision of the world? Not your product, not anything specific to you, but if you can answer the question, ‘in 10 years the world will look like, X,’ and you know your reason for WHY we get there, that’s where the big impact is, in terms of the ways we shift how we operate. If you know that, and that’s your north star, and that’s what you believe in, then there’s always flexibility in how you get there.

What are your thoughts on being a South Asian, female entrepreneur?

I definitely want to say something about the expectations around being a South Asian woman in business. I think in general for women, at least I felt this for South Asian women, there are expectations on balancing family and career and which pieces ultimately come first. And that is always a line I’m trying to dance around because family is the most important thing to me, and I will always be there for my family first, but at the same time, you do need that level of dedication and willingness to give yourself over entirely to your company. I think solving for that balance, and this is part of why I’m so passionate about those lifestyle pieces, and figuring out a way for that to be sustainable for me in the long run, is a big motivation behind why I do that kind of content.

It’s not just a pure optimization game, it’s about figuring out what types of work, moments and crises, and opportunities I decide are at the top of my list and worth me setting that time [out], and what types of family things have to be at the top of my list always. I experiment with that in so many different ways — i.e. no meeting days where I can really just think about the company but also spend more time with family.

Figuring out what those balances are, in being successful in both day-to-day, is one of the most challenging things I go through. The reality is that you never feel great about either. You never feel like you crushed it on both sides. It’s more about stepping outside of the ‘everyday’ and thinking on a wider scale. Like, this year, how do I fill that balance plate?

What’s next for Illumix?

We have historically been, in the majority, in the entertainment-tech field. As an infrastructure play, this year will be about us expanding into new verticals. So for us, commerce is one of the biggest verticals to expand into; we might look at other forms of entertainment like sports or music. So it will really be about creating new use cases and creating new verticals that can leverage Illumix to create their own stories or express content in a new way.

[Read Related: In Conversation With Neha Samdaria Founder and CEO of Aam: A New Type of Fashion Label]

Sinha’s Illumix has made great strides in the entertainment-tech world since its inception. It was also part of the Disney Accelerator Program with which the team had the chance to work with an incredibly talented and creative set of individuals. It’s only up from here!

Stay tuned for an Instagram LIVE session with Sinha in the near future! Watch our IG for more!

Featured Image Courtesy: Kirin Sinha. 

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 ›